Taxi Noir: Behind the Silk Curtain
It’s fair to say that food plays a central role in my life. My working day is planned around meal times, and when I’m not working, I’m either eating or preparing to eat.
I could never bring myself to spend £400 to stay the night at a top hotel, but in recent years I became curious as to what goes on behind the silk curtains and tinted glass of London’s more upmarket restaurants. I started to visit a few as a paying customer, and on special occasions my wife and I started to come into London more and experiment with different places: not Michelin-star places as we don’t care for that poncy stuff: just nice, comfortable places, with nice comfortable food.
We like to visit our favourite London restaurant, Rules, every year or two. It’s grand, and traditional; but extremely comfortable and friendly. I’ve been twice to Langhan’s and love the place. The Wolseley and The Ivy too.
One of the last upmarket London restaurants I went to was the Savoy Grill. Just walking into the hotel lobby is intimidating. You know you’re being watched, and you fear that at any moment you’re going to be challenged as not being a fit and proper person.
Turn left and you’re into the restaurant. It’s big and serious – the poshest place we’ve been to so far. The fact that I use words like “posh” probably indicates that I was not born into this world of grandness, though it is one I could get used to with practice! Anyway, there’s nothing wrong with feeling intimidated in a restaurant as it adds to the feeling of occasion. So long as it’s reasonably friendly, bring on the formality, my man! And it was friendly. Our waiter had a Yorkshire accent, if you please. Before my Sheffield-born missus could enter into a conversation about meat pies, black pudding, and other northern delicacies, our man had produced the menus.
Selecting the food isn’t too difficult, as anything heavy on greenery is rejected immediately. Wine is a bit of a minefield though, as it’s here that you could be exposed as a philistine who doesn’t know the difference between a Claret and a Bordeaux. Our waiter said he’d get the sommelier to talk to us. Never mind the sommelier, mate, fetch me the wine waiter! This sounded serious. Would we be interviewed under caution? Would we be outed as philistines and shown the door; our names circulated on a blacklist of all the top restaurants of London? What if we ordered a bottle of Blue Nun – would blokes in checked trousers give us a kicking around the back by the bins?
No, it was fine. The French sommelier talked through our options, and we made a good choice with his help. The food was great too, and it was a wonderful experience. I’m more a Lamb & Flag man really, but The Savoy’s American Bar makes a nice venue for a special occasion if you like that sort of thing.
Ideally, I’d like to give up work and concentrate on eating full time. The project is on hold under the present climate, so I’ll mostly be in Wetherspoons eating burgers – with just the occasional visit to the Hotel de Posh to look forward to on high days and holidays. Maybe at Christmas?
Kensington & Chelsea Town Hall – Imperial Hotel
San Lorenzo – Denzil Road