At the Globe in Hampstead, lifes a drag and then they sing. Well actually they mime, wear wigs, and strut up and down to songs by original artists, but lets not split hairs - gawd, nooo darling, get some conditioner on it. For most of the month the Globe is a perfectly straight restaurant next to Hampsteads Globe theatre, serving perfectly straight food, but every four weeks or so Neil Armishaw, the owner, and the manager, Marc Ruffell (the glamorous one) put on a little cabaret act for appreciative locals.
And appreciate it they do, packing the place on cabaret nights. Initially at least, I found it just a tad bizarre being served a gin and tonic by a six foot man in heels high enough to warrant oxygen dropping out of the overhead compartment, wearing a sequin frock and a pair of uneven bosom. The bosoms did go up and down with worrying variations in altitude, as did the hemlines. I admit that Im with Germaine Greer on the subject of men dressing up as parody women, but PC apart, on the night I didnt know whether to laugh, be insulted or borrow their make up. Have fun, is the answer. My big fear was that I might be mistaken for one of the acts, but my figure is inadequate, and so is my balance. Though my shoe fetish is Imeldaesque, even I couldnt manage those heels.
So with Marc in a pink satin backless gown, complete with a train, straight out of the dressing up box, and Neil in sequins, both literally dancing attendance, we ordered - though a restaurant with camp pretensions where you cant get a vodka martini surely must be in breach of the pink code of conduct. The food: well its a generic modern British restaurant menu - everything in there from a haddock fish cake to duck breast in thai broth (which sounds like white shoes and red tights to me - but what do I know, Im just a girl), baked goats cheese in filo, French onion soup, and a good old rib eye steak for the steak and chips brigade (though paired here with potato dauphinoise).
Ive eaten here before and had very reliable, serviceable food presented always with a warm welcome in the way of restaurants which rely on repeat trade. Cabaret night, possibly, isnt the best indication of the food as, although the chefs arent sashaying around with tassels on their chests, understandably, the focus of the evening is elsewhere. I started with a Cafe Rouge special - honey glazed chicken livers, here with celeriac and potato - the livers nicely cooked though I found the celeriac a bit soggy and tasteless and I cant say I even noticed the potatoes. Ruth, a refugee from another table who had been stood up by Neils mother, joined us for stuffed baby aubergine with wild rice and mozzarella before moving on to mine. Do you want that celeriac? she asked, deftly nicking it from my plate - its amazing how formalities fly out through the frilly blinds when men wear tights. Sue had terrine of poached chicken with puy lentils and proscuito which she said was delicious. Frankly, I dont now how she could tell. By this time we were in full blown Barbara Streisand territory, complete with quivering lips and palsied hand movements. It was like being entertained by an air hostess Diva pointing out the exits. They were miming - we were singing, and for those who dont believe I cant do a mean sing alonga Gay icon routine, show me the microphone.
Next up, during the country and western Every man I love is either, married, gay or dead (tell me about it) we had big hair, the duck (Im saying nothing) and pan fried seabass with fennel and beurre blanc, both of which were perfectly judged, unfussy and easy to eat with your eyes elsewhere.
The hardest thing was slipping away to the bathroom. The Globe is no Madame Jo Jos - its a smallish place, blue walls, red tiled floor, the windows blanked out with yellow paint (for obvious reasons) and the cabaret takes place on a narrow section of the floor, and leaving mid song seems too conspicuous. Upstairs I sneaked past Neil changing on the landing - a post tornado zone of frocks, falsies, bras and hair glue, and was sitting inside quite happily checking my text messages - as you do - when a rap came on the door. Em will you be long the waitress cum dresser called - only Neils going to do his next number and he doesnt want you to miss it. See, friendly service, or what?
I rushed back downstairs, passed Neil waiting in the wings and teetered across the floor just as his intro began. To my horror, and confirming all my worst fears, when I entered the room, the audience applauded. That was the end. Abba followed, confirming a life-long neurosis that I secretly look like the ugly ginger one. Which settles it. Im definitely with Germaine on the drag queen issue. And Im keeping my hair dyed black.