Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Battleship Potemkin

I don't like giving bad reviews. I feel horrible about it. Most of the time, I enjoy gigs, plays and restaurants, because I'm pretty easily pleased. The rest of the time, I just don't talk about them. However, this week I actually managed to have a restaurant experience so bad that I feel the need to write about it as a warning - as well as the mutiny we did, for my first time ever, stage at the restaurant. I doubt the Soviets would have approved of this as much as of the actual uprising.

It all started so well, at Potemkin, a Russian restaurant in Clerkenwell, to celebrate a friend's birthday. The promise of 108 different types of vodka was alluring, and indeed proved to be true:

Does that vodka menu look a bit odd to you? We were told that all their prices had gone up (in a recession? with a VAT cut?) and that a couple of the menus had been marked up with the new prices, but not all. Those of us without writing all over the menus would have to consult with others, or, er, guess what price we'd be charged. I'm not sure that's legal under Trading Standards. Possibly a sign of things to come.

In essence, to make your party of a dozen celebrants happy enough to spend lots of money in your establishment, I would recommend that you, dear restaurant owner, do not:

  • Agree a set menu over the phone when making the reservation then decide that only "a few" of us could actually have it;
  • Take half an hour to come and take our order;
  • Take another forty five minutes on top of that to bring our first drinks (if we hadn't seen the menu we would have lost faith in there being any vodka at all by this point, let alone 140 kinds);
  • Take even longer than that to bring our starters, whilst other tables around us arrived, ordered and pretty much got through three courses;
  • Ignore our repeated reminders that we had a set time to leave (which we delayed once for your convenience when it became clear even the starters weren't going to make it by then);
  • Despite our order being made first, sell out a main course dish to all the other tables so suddenly there was none left for us, especially if you only bother to mention this and ask for alternative choices about ten minutes before we really, really had to leave, thus demonstrating that the mains weren't even in the oven yet; and/or (but definitely not and)
  • Be extremely surly all the way through.
We left. It was just too frustrating for words. Many jokes were made by us about queuing and the stereotypical food shortages... Anyway, we walked out, which I've never done before. It was a shame, because the starters were actually very good, but we had no hope whatsoever of getting the rest of our meal in time to do anything else that night, and we weren't even getting drunk in the process.

We ended up in, horrors, Kentucky Fried Chicken. I don't think I'd been in one before. Actually, it wasn't too bad because the thing I ate bore some resemblance to an actual piece of chicken (although most certainly not free range) and certainly more edible than my place mat and cutlery at Potemkin. Best of all, it was in my hands about thirty seconds after I'd ordered. Magic! Demons!

Thus actually fed, where was this place we were in such a hurry to get to? Karaoke! More particularly, Karaoke Box by Smithfield Market. This was awesome fun. I'm a terrible singer but I do know the words to an awful lot of songs, and I'm a complete exhibitionist who always wanted to be a rock star. Even stone-cold sober, it's difficult to get me to give up the microphone to save the eardrums of everybody else. Luckily Karaoke Box rent you your own private room to do this in so as not to inflict the likes of me on the rest of the punters (and additional benefits of your own computer with 8,000 and waitress service). Here's our gang giving it large to Dancing Queen in our little room:

I had the dignity to sit that one out because I absolutely hate bloody Abba. What did I sing? Well, I rocked Depeche Mode's awesome Personal Jesus. That's a good one to chant along to, if you know the song well enough to avoid coming in at the wrong place.

We had a group mosh to Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit, just like in my teenage clubbing days. At least I was wearing flat boots for all that hardcore bouncing.

But the highlight of the night? The cod-Welsh singalong to Goldie Lookin' Chain's Your Mother's Got A Penis, which almost caused me to wet myself with laughter.

"Don't come back in huur!" As the owners of Potemkin might say, and we won't.

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