No. of Recommendations: 75
Quick review of the day for a bit of perspective, and then I’ll get to the point.

Went to the National this afternoon to see a new Mike Leigh play. I’d booked it months ago, before it even had a title.

“It’s called ‘Grief’, said the missus as we took our seats. Oh great, I thought to myself. Two hours of the Jeremy Vine show, but it was actually very very good.

Anyway, came out just before 5.00pm to see people massed along the riverbank. Turns out there’s a firework display because of the Lord Mayor’s Show. So we join the ranks and see the display. Spectacular stuff, particularly as it is not ruined by blaring music some twelve year old event organiser thinks is essential to keep the masses entertained. Perhaps someone has broken the news to the kid that fireworks actually make some noise and it’s nice to be able to hear it.

As we are by the South Bank we decide to have cocktails in The Skylon at The Festival Hall

We manage to get a seat by the bar and enjoy the most spectacular view of the South Bank. Cocktails £25 for two, but worth it because:

1) The Skylon Bar is the most fantastic looking bar


2) The missus paid

So it’s now about 6.15pm, and if anyone is still reading this, you will be pleased to know that I am now getting to the point of my story.

We walk along the embankment looking for a prospect for supper, and it’s all, ALL bloody chains. Prezzo, Ask, Yo sushi, Feng Sushi (oh ha ha), giraffe, Livebait, Starbucks, Café Nero, Costa, Chez Gerard, Black & Blue, Pret, Café Rouge, Browns, blah di blah di blah. They are all full, crazy busy, noisy, brash, expensive, derivative and basically pretty bloody awful. I’ve eaten in a few, and I know.

The whole country is being taken over by chains, whose food tastes like it has been manufactured in a central processing plant in Middlesbrough and pumped through underground ducting to emerge as uniform slurry in various local distribution outlets, otherwise known as a “Restaurant”. They are all, in everything but name, like MacDonalds, and I believe some are actually OWNED by MacDonalds

So we are walking along The Cut, where the New Vic is, and come across this place

and we’re instantly back in the fifties. No, not a fifties lookalike, but The Fifties. No retrospective nostalgia. This is the real thing. Original décor. The place looks like it has been untouched for 60 years. About 2/3 full, no blaring music, no cutting edge lighting solutions, just people having an Italian meal. The waiters are not twenty something Lithuanians, but, shock horror, ITALIAN, and to a man, they are all old, bald, slightly sweaty geezers, with their beerguts hanging out of their black waistcoats.

“Can we book a table?” we say to the nearest sweaty geezer


“About 7.30”


We tell him, and dismisses us with a perfunctory “Ok, Ok”

We go for a drink and return at 7.30. “We booked a table”

“Yes. Table for three.”

“ Just the two of us.”

He shrugs and points to a table. A shrug! I would rather have a genuine shrug than a false smile any day of the week. This chap has never been on a Customer Relations Training course for a restaurant chain and believe me, is much the better for it.

The place mats are oblong purple plastic, vintage 1955. The menus come in purple plastic covers. Classic. The food is just plain Italian food. No provenance. No long descriptions of how “our world famous meatballs were prepared by rolling them on the inner thighs of Umbrian Nuns.” Just Prawn Cocktail. Saltimbocca. Veal Parmigianino. That’s all you want isn’t it? Just tell me what the hell you’ve got.


Ye Gods

I was in a poncy Spanish Restaurant earlier in the year, and they had a leaflet to accompany the menu that had SEVEN PAGES dedicated to the provenance of salt.

Marketing. Ye Gods again. Marketing is the act of raising expectations to such a level that you are always disappointed.

Anyway, I look at the starters. Egg mayonnaise. Egg Mayonnaise! I hadn’t seen egg mayonnaise on a menu for what…three hundred years?

So I go for that and the missus goes for prawn cocktail. And we get just that. A hardboiled egg covered in mayonnaise, with a very nice, fresh green salad, and prawns covered in pink Marie Rose sauce. Lovely.

Then I have what is described on the menu as “veal escalope with a mushroom, cream and sherry sauce”. And I get a nicely cooked escalope of veal, covered with a sauce made of mushrooms, cream and sherry. Exactly what it said. Completely unpretentious. Clearly freshly cooked and absolutely delicious. How hard is that to do? Why do so many restaurants nowadays have to embellish everything?

Everything has to be designed to within an inch of its life: the lighting, the décor, the bar, the seats, the menu, the bloody table mats. The customer is treated like a three year old with the attention span of a goldfish. Unless we are entertained and distracted for every second of the time we are in their chain, we will get bored and go next door.

It is as if they are suffering from a collective inferiority complex.

Anyway, we had coffee, which was extremely good despite not being covered in whipped cream, hundreds and thousands, cocoa powder sprinkled in the shape of the Trevi Fountain, caramel sauce, marshmallows and a fried egg, paid the very reasonable bill, and left, saying goodbye to the staff as we exited.

No one took a blind bit of notice


We shall return
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