The scene: A rainy, mid-week date-night at Hawksmoor Seven Dials with the Accidental Boyfriend just before Christmas. The downstairs bar and restaurant are both stuffed with drinkers and diners; a last minute table reservation was hard to come by. The place rings with chatter and the chinks of tableware and glasses being returned clumsily to the table-tops. Having deposited our heavy overcoats and dripping umbrellas in a vast wardrobe upstairs, we take our seats at a small table along the back wall - one person sat on an endless leather banquette, stretching the length of the place, the other on a chair in the midst of the whirling service.
Wednesday, 15 January 2014
Say what you like about TfL and its bus timetables of complete randomness and mystery. Feel free to bash London Midlands or South East Trains. (Heaven knows I have in the past...) By all means rage against the congestion charge or the fact that after almost a year of traffic lights and general chaos by Warren Street the Euston Road junction is still an epic shambles. But let it never be forgotten that in London it is possible to leave your home and within mere minutes be on your way to a whole other country. I am not speaking of the hilariously tiny and ancient single carriage trains that slowly trundle you out to Wales. I am talking about the lovely, sleek Eurostar - our route to the European mainland, to decent wine and foreign holidays.
Saturday, 4 January 2014
Ok, can London's restauranteurs make a shared new year's resolution? Please can 2014 be the year in which we kill off the 'no reservations' restaurant? Please?! When we first imported this dining format from New York it was sort of novel, and kind of fun. We felt cool dining at the hot new place in town, where we were just as good as every other diner in London and no one (least of all loathesome forward-planners) could sweep past us or get preferential treatment. We were patient enough to waste hours shivering on a pavement, our noses pressed to the glass, or knocking back several over-priced cocktails, watching others eat, when all we actually really wanted was a plateful of food. But now, enough! I am done with all these places - they are not cool and egalitarian; they are pretentious, time-consuming, and some of them, trading on their trendy 'too cool for phone numbers' vibe, have got pretty complaisant and lazy and the food reflects that (ahem, MEATLiquor).
In 2014 I will no longer be a slave to this pretension. If I can't be guaranteed dinner within an hour at 8pm, forget it. I will not be conned by your claims to be above reservations books and door-keeping clipboard nazis, and I will see you, no reservations restaurants, for what you are - canny, money-makers, more interested in your brand's reputation and the queue out the door than feeding the patrons who come to sample your wares. Right. Done.
But I'm going to have to allow myself one, tiny exception - Flat Iron, purveyors of the finest £10 steak in London. To give them their due, Flat Iron will allow you to arrive at their wee Beak Street restaurant on the fringes of Soho, leave you name and number at the door, and then they will call you when your table is ready. They offer a generous overestimation on their waiting time, which can be somewhat heart-stopping for the hungry, but bear with them. You can head downstairs to sample Flat Iron cocktails in the restaurant's own bar, or you can nip round the corner, as we did, to Hix and grab a little something to keep you going for an hour or so while you wait. (For a restaurant that can't seat more than about 25 at any one time however, the existence of 3 members of staff hovering on the door seems like slight overkill, but I digress...)