I love bookshops. And all Waterstone's on Picadilly really needs for utter perfection is a few beds so that one could just live there. It would be like the utimate Halls of residence in London College of Browsing, but ultimately more luxurious - University College of- The School of Browsing.
I thought I might slip away. Just me, the pink Prada shoes and a couple of credit cards - to while away the evening buying books I'll never read and reading books I'll never buy. I'd have a drink, something to eat and see if a short sighted man would chat me up in the Penguin Classics. That's how I found my husband after all. Well the second one, anyway.
Alas, it rained so I had to leave the Prada shoes behind (not waterproof) and - for reasons that now escape me - take my teenage daughter instead
So we walked, I repeat, walked, up to the fifth floor because the lift didn't seem to be working, only to find the studio bar to be full of fellow students reading newspapers and making their designer waters last a very long time. More importantly, it was somewhat lacking on the food front. The lunch menu sounded rather nice - things like a croque monsieur for £5.50, a plate of charcuterie for £7.50 or a roast beef sandwich for £8. Unfortunately,m the choice in the evening is limited to plates of glorified beer nuts and a couple of dips when I was expecting tapas.
We had a drink - the Teen a non alcoholic Exotic snow which took so long to arive that I think they must have gone to Scandinavia and shaved a glacier. Okay, slight exaggeration, but by the time my Virgin Mary arrived I'm sure she had already given birth to the new messiah. We had a bowl of salted broad beans, some Imam Biyaldi with sicilian flatbread, or toasted pitta by another name and scotch quails eggs with chutney. The imam bayaldi was thin and neither smokey enough - , the scotch eggs well - they weren't bad but not enough to satisfy even the slightest hunger, especially when the Teen, a vegetarian, ate only the egg part and left me with the sausage.
There's a view. Mostly of rooftops and brightly lit office buildings, though Big Ben, bless him, is clearly visible above the chimney pots. Paul THeroux on his walk around Brtian's coast said that we were a nation obsessed by the sea, and that everywhere he went people had their backs turned inwards, gazing at the sea. Had he come to london he could see the rest of us gazing at Big Ben as if we had never seen a gothic clock before. wWe look like we've discovered some bizarre new sect. THis is what they mean by clockwatching.
Still hungry we wandered round for a bit and then tried the restaurant. THe Red Room, in the basement.
It was early and the place almost empty but for two women sitting at the back. he waiter led us right next to them i
as if he feared, being lone women, there would be safety in numbers should a horde of barbarians come racing through the cafe clutching copies of Loaded, and ravage us.
ALl that meant was we sat so close our thighs were almost touching and tried to studiously ignore each other. it was either that or exchange phone numbers and bond.
I was somewhat disgruntled by this stage and not overly cheered when the waiter handed the fifteen year old daughter the wine list. The Set menu offered fishcakes, lamb chops or pasta. Not ground-breaking stuff this - I mean, is there a restaurant in London not serving fish cakes and if so - should they be given some kind of award?. Otherwise one culd have alobster salad, but after six weeks by the sea in RHode Island where lobster salad is the MAerican fish cke we passed. THe rest of the menu was very more alluring, though not perhaps teenage fare and the aubergine caviar - imam biyaldi by another name reappeared. I wanted blood so I had veal liver with roast roots, horseradish and crucifixes from the vegetarian daughter. She had the pasta from the set menu.
My liver was very good. Cooked to perfection with the most delicious roasted vegetables - jerusalme artichokes, carrots, portatos and parsnips. Sadly, the pasta was pretty dire. It tasted like the kind of thing you'd throw together from the ingredients at the back of the fridge for a USnday night supper, but wi=hich is usually wonderful but on occasion, and this was one of them, just not there. You'd think roast peppers, onion, olives and grated ricotta would be divine. It sounded solovely and tasted so bedsit. Student life revisited.
POur new found soul mates at the next table (let me read you the buzz words) had the fishcake which she said had too much potatoe and lamb chops which were okay. THe mayonnaise one of them asked for arrived on our table in a mustard pot and I ignored it, thinking how bizarre mustard with horseradish. THe lamb chop found a hair in hers and we all laughed somewhat ruefully.
One had cheese with the chutney from the Scotch eggs and the other had creme brulee which was fine and no better than anyone who asks for creme brulee deserves. I mena it's not exactly a surprise, nor should it be. We didn't have coffe and we drank only water - but we had already been to the bar upstairs so it was fine, but there's still nothing here to rival the Odeon round the corner which has a view but no books.I.
f. I thought I could just slip them into my handbag anyway -they are so like the ideal trophy wife, pretty, stylish and they don't say much. Unlike the teen.