Judging by events in The Living Daylights (1987), Russian defectors have it pretty good when they come over to Britain. Take General Georgi Koskov (Jeroen Krabbé). He’s put up in a large country house, complete with staff to cater for his every whim (although the food is, in Koskov’s view, horrible), there’s the promise of country sports, and he is given – by James Bond (Timothy Dalton) himself – a hamper full of goodies from Harrods.
I say it’s full of goodies, but in fact Koskov pulls out only four items from the cavernous basket. There’s a bottle of Bollinger RD (‘the best!’), foie gras (‘excellent’, according to Bond), caviar (‘peasant food’), and some packaging – already opened, by the look of it – that holds some unidentified food (maybe blinis or crackers to go with the caviar and foie gras).
Even allowing for padding, there must be other items in the hamper. As he presents the bill for the hamper to M, James Bond reveals something very interesting. He says: ‘The brand [of Champagne] on the list was questionable, sir, so I chose something else.’ This statement highlights several points.
First, it must indicate that the list was drawn up by M or his staff, and not Koskov. Bond would not have risked Koskov’s cooperation during the debriefing by switching his (Koskov’s) favourite tipple. Second, it’s a nice nod to the connoisseur Bond, whose expertise in food and wine is unrivalled. Third, it suggests that Bond created a bespoke hamper, filling it with items from Harrods’ food hall displays, rather than buying something ‘off the shelf’, ready-filled.
The last point opens up all sorts of possibilities about what else was in the hamper. We can see what Harrods currently offers from its website. If Bond were opting for a hamper of luxury food items, then we might expect some truffles, which Harrods sells as truffle pieces (£25 a jar) or whole truffles (£65 for a 25g jar). Bond might have included a tin of Turkish coffee as well (sadly, Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee is not available).
If Bond were including items that might be regarded as typically British to welcome Koskov to the country, then the hamper might contain traditional shortbread, a biscuit assortment, cheese crackers, a selection of preserves, marmalade, honey, mustard and, quite possibly, potato crisps, all available in the food hall.
Today, you would have trouble replicating Koskov’s hamper at Harrods precisely. Foie gras is available (£22 for a 75g block of duck foie gras, £27 for the goose), but according to its website, Harrods no longer sells caviar, and Bollinger RD is also unlisted. (Although I have no doubt that Harrods would be only too pleased to order the items if asked.) However, a half-bottle of Bollinger Special Curvée can be obtained (£30), and caviar is available in abundance at Fortnum & Masons (£210 for a 30g tin of Beluga caviar; the Platinum brand is cheaper at £65).
If you have a limited budget, then how about alternative caviars, such as lumpfish or salmon, and fine duck live pâté? These can be found in larger or high-end supermarkets, and cost less than £5.