Undeveloped, seedy neighbourhoods are becoming something of a rarity in London. However, there's always Shepherds Bush Green to remind you just how ungentrified it can get.
Here, Bush Rangers still roam with relative freedom throughout their natural habitat. Visible from the centrally locked safety of your car in bumper-to-bumper fume-filled traffic, males are easily identified by their branded sportswear, monster-truck trainers, baseball caps and, at their winter coats, usually black leather jackets. Clusters often form around watering holes such as Walkabout(?), the antipodean theme pub or O'Neill's, home of the Bush theatre, and small herds gather around the Goldhawk Road tube station.
The lesser spotted Bushoiserie, however, shy and timid in the wild, are fleeting creatures, generally female, who often travel alone in Mercedes or Volvo estate cars after delivering their chicks to private schools with smart uniforms and smarter postcodes. Young fledglings are mostly nocturnal, returning late from their new-media jobs, and nesting couples abound, hidden in the blonde-wood, burglar-alarmed terraces nearby. Surely, it's only a matter of time before the street market goes organic and a branch of Muji opens selling a range of utilitarian, off-white saris.
The first sign must be the newly opened Bush Bar and Grill on Goldhawk Road. Darling, Yes - no more pretending that we all live in Chiswick - finally we have our own trendy restaurant. I know, strictly speaking I'm only a wannabe Bushista, living as I do in the next borough along. But we're all sisters under the snakeskin stilettos and we desperately need somewhere to wear them.
The Bush Bar is just such a place. Put together by the same people who own Woody's (where I recently suffered such extreme shoe envy that I've barely recovered my balance) and the founders of the Groucho Club and 192, the pedigree of the Bush Bar is so cool, you need to keep your coat on. People are probably writing novels about it as I speak, with all the witty and engaging characters, already drinking vodka at the bar.
We went on night one when it was already packed with flocks of migratory young things, washed up with their trust funds and/or their rich, young-looking fifty-something husbands. Lots of mwa mwa kissing with the manager, a few pairs of Mui Mui platforms, some Hermes fishnets, one Burberry backpack and a lot of frocks you could have got cheaper at Top Shop. I was with Tim - half my age and embarrassingly pretty, but with eyes only for the young-looking fifty-something husbands, I'm afraid. When he asked where the bathroom was and told to look for the coloured door, there was a distinct risk that he might have chosen the pink one.
Now the Bush is very good food but not fine dining. It's more about cooking with cash when you're hungry and there's nothing in the fridge but some organic baby food, two bottles of champagne and a Nars nail varnish. This doesn't mean expensive, but face it, anything that uses the words restaurant and wine in the same sentence ends up costing you more than staying at home with a salad.
The menu is short without the range of 192, but features dishes like cassoulet, lamp chops and a whole roast poulet noir for two to share There are a few salads and snacky savoury things such as omelettes and pissaladiere, as well as a very reasonable set price lunch.
Tim started with Welsh rarebit - boys food - a big doorstep of bread, the cheese all puffed up and pouting like a Page Three girl. I had dressed crab, simple, fresh and not-mucked about with. We followed with some fish cakes and a grilled lemon sole, the latter scattered with capers, dripping with butter and perfectly cooked. All surprisingly tasty if not surprisingly inventive, a point often missed by many so-called Modern British restaurants. Of the side dishes, the samphire was particularly good.
The restaurant used to be an old dairy and the vast interior incorporates just about every design feature used over the last couple of decades while still retaining a clean simplicity. There are exposed heating ducts, milk-white walls, seventies spotlights, nineties colour-changing lights above the bar, indoor trees and some rather naff fairy lights. An open kitchen is viewed through a narrow letterbox gash that runs along the whole length of one wall, with splashes of primary red vainly trying to warm up the Siberian area, lost at the far end of the room. Outside, you get the feeling that the bouncer is there to keep an eye on the clients double-parked BMWs. If they had a cr¸che for cars, no doubt the customers would dine more easily.
Dessert was a mite paltry. Tim's pear tart was burnt and duller than a Blue Peter Omnibus, while my creme caramel had no wobble was merely two thin slices of cold custard, collapsed on the plate. According to Tim this should be a dirty, salacious, Carry-on cum porn-flick sort of a pudding but alas it was very clean. Very safe. Very un-Shepherds Bush.
And we Bushistas walking on the wild side in our Prada peeptoes do like a bit of rough.