Perhaps if enough young people can be compelled to study this book - the young people who say ‘Dig in!
’ and dispense with comfort, thinking it means formality - then we can get rid of ‘brutalist surfaces that rebound with clatter’, and bring back carpets, drapes, soft lighting from silk-lined lampshades, starched napkins ‘and enough glittering silverware to render you blind’.
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He must get up at dawn to heat the curling tongs, as each silver strand is immaculately primped and crimped.
It is a veritable sight to be seen, and is on public view twice daily in the capital’s eateries - as he says, ‘lunch and dinner in restaurants are the nearest I ever get to practising any kind of religion’.
If he is against the concept of fast-food (‘what’s the hurry?
’); if he longs for the return of Edwardian grandeur (‘towering Corinthian columns, glossy marble, gleaming mirrors and heavily swagged curtains and pelmets’); if he deplores badly behaved, yelling children (‘a Happy Meal in Mc Donald’s, that’s where the little blighters should bloody well be’) - then this is because Connolly knows that the art of eating is the art of being civilised. Lunch was at one on the dot, ‘and we ask you to be punctual’.
He is old enough to recall how bad restaurants in Britain used to be on purpose. At 3pm sharp the bar shut - I once had a glass of brandy snatched from my hand.
Yet it is still like this in the provinces, I can report.
In London, however, particularly in Connolly’s own favourite haunts Sheekey’s or The Wolseley, restaurants are open all day, for brunch, drunch (‘a fusion of lunch and dinner’) or tunch (lunch and tea). Wonderful clarets on sale in the off-licence for £30 are ‘only’ £50 in the Wine List.
I wonder what the word is for a luncheon that lasts so long, you stagger from the table and it is the next day already? You can see why I ended up in Queer Street, with my pancreas in a pot of formaldehyde. Connolly is no snob - he simply loathes mobs and uncouthness.
He has no objection to Berni Inns and the Angus and Aberdeen steakhouses - ‘traditionally styled and family-orientated; the big and much-anticipated weekend slap-up feed’, which always included Black Forest Gateau and Irish Coffee.
Indeed, such establishments have a nostalgic, retro atmosphere.
Connolly also loves traditional breakfasts in East End greasy-spoons, if any can be found that haven’t had a make-over.