There are some people, who if they went to the moon, would come back with a t-shirt bearing the slogan Hard Rock Cafˇ Š Sea of Tranquillity, or banality, depending on the destination. After all, it is nothing but a very large, very hard rock. And thereÕs no atmosphere. These are probably the same people who have the matching set of Hard Rock Cafˇ Beijing, Beirut and Buenos Aires t-shirts, and who are queuing, as we speak outside the mother ship on Piccadilly, which is currently celebrating thirty years of being the British burger king.
I admit the themed restaurant; chock full of burger nuts and associated rock memorabilia kind of passes me by. Like rara skirts and flares, they are a bit full of themselves in all the wrong places. But you canÕt deny the popularity of places like Cheers, The Rainforest Cafˇ, the Hard Rock and Planet Hollywood, all catering for the publicÕs unquenchable thirst for overpriced coke and the sort of big screen videos they could see nearly free on MTV or Sky Sport at home. To me, one guitar looks pretty much the same as another after a while and IÕm not willing to queue to see them mounted on the wall. Frankly, it would take Elvis, alive, wearing his leather jacket singing Love me Tender, and offering sexual favours to get me to form a line.
But kids, fans and tourists love it. So off we went with sons and attendant hulking adolescent youths for a burgerfest Š anything to get them out of the sitting room, which had taken on the odour and appearance of a field of buffalo. Think of the wide camera vista of Jurassic ParkÕs grazing apatasauri (?) and youÕve got the idea.
We skipped the queue (look there are times when you want to use what little influence you have as a restaurant critic, and this is one of them) straight into the warm arms of Rita, The Hard RockÕs Ōcultural attachˇÕ who gave us her autograph and repeatedly patted the arms of an extra large sixteen year old who did not appreciate it. Though I did. By this point, I was at the food throwing, chair wielding, give me back my chubby cheeked babies of yesteryear, stage.
Now you know what youÕre getting in the Hard Rock. YouÕve got the diner dˇcor, perky waiting staff, festooned with badges and wide smiles, milk shakes, various forms of cheese topped, grilled meat in a bun, usually cheese topped, with fries on the side and more tomato ketchup than the shoot em ups in Reservoir Dogs.
The kids had variations on their classic gargantuan cheeseburgers, though one child missed the point and had a chicken club sandwich; slapped between slabs of unappetising hard sliced bread. Another, mystifyingly, chose fried fish with a side salad, which he touched about as often as soap. Salads do feature on the menu as do fast, fat food favourites like fajitas, BLTs, nachos and, of course, chicken wings. I plumped, an apt description, for Tennessee Pulled Pork Š billed as a pig sandwich - hickory smoked and shredded before being placed inside a ciabatta bun. Not wonderfully flavourful but Rita assures me that some of their customers adore it and come for nothing else.
Certainly, the two Brontosauri sitting beside us, barely fitting their haunches into the chair, dwarfed by towering sandwiches, were singing along with the Metallica video, and giving it all full throat, complete with head banging. You see, if you get it, you get it big time. And if you donÕt, youÕre drumming your fingers on the check tablecloth praying for pudding which, like the day of judgement, eventually comes to everyone.
Ours took the shape of three hot fudge brownies with enough aerosol cream to feature Bing Crosby singing White Christmas, three molar crushingly hard brownies and a small above ground swimming pool of chocolate sauce that, as always, irritatingly sinks to the bottom of the sundae dish where your spoon canÕt reach. There were no complaints. But, to be honest, there were no words. Adolescent boys donÕt actually say much beyond ŌcoolÕ.
Rita reeled off the names of all the celebrities who have eaten at the Hard Rock over the years, few of which the fifteen year olds had heard off. They thought the Beatles were fictional and that BB King whose guitar hung over our heads, was an air rifle. But everyone was impressed with Jimi HendrixÕs guitar in the memorabilia vault next door, mostly because of his drug overdose death. (Was he in a band, then?) Then at home my daughter appeared in a Burger King hat with a sign pinned to her chest saying ŌMy name is LuLu and IÕll be your waitress todayÕ. Now thatÕs where the £2,500 a term school fees really pay off.
After dessert came the real treat Š the obligatory visit to the gift shop to stock up on merchandised proof that you queued, chowed and shopped. Naturally, I huffed and puffed and blew my cheeks out at the thought of even buying a t-shirt.
No siree, babe. Not me. We all got caps.