Dad, you can't let her go out looking like 'that', said Bill.
She's wearing a 'skirt', said Bob in shocked tones.
And fishnet tights, added Bill.
You've got to get her to wear something more suitable - no-body wears
fishnet tights to a football match.
And indeed the child was right. I hadn't realised that the Fishnets theme
of the restaurant at Stamford Bridge was nautical rather than it being
a shrine to alternative hosiery. Ah well, I live and learn. Next time
I'll just wear Bob's No 16 Chelsea shirt with Di Matteo emblazoned across
the back and merge in - though with the whole stadium wearing polyester
and all that self-generating static, you'd wonder that the supporters
don't spontaneously ignite.
When I arrived at the restaurant, my companion - the season ticket holder
- was not propping up the bar with the other punters, and though I'm used
to walking into crowded rooms by myself I was rather intimidated by the
sea of blue shirts and male faces. At times like these the bathroom is
a haven for lone women. It's almost worthy of a double page spread in
National Geographic to find the place totally empty, while a conga-length
queue snakes out of the men's, and circles around the foyer. I'll bet
there isn't a chap handing out towels and eau de cologne in that bathroom.
Normally Fishnets, one of the several restaurants in the Chelsea Village
complex, apes the formula of places such as Livebait, where you chose
a fish, decide how you want it cooked and what kind of sauce you want
on the side. You can start with oysters, mussels, sardines or the like
and finish with a straightforward ice cream/chocolate mousse type dessert.
However on match nights - in order to cope with the sudden surge of supporters
who have to be in, served and out on the stands before kick off - there's
a much shorter, set menu with even a steak thrown in for the red blooded
blokes who find fish too frilly.
There are a couple of pretend portholes and some goal nets draped over
the ceiling pipes, but otherwise it looks like a classy cafeteria in a
country where men are men and women elsewhere. I reapplied my lipstick
until it was safe to assume my season ticket holder had pitched up, then
after he'd admired the fishnets - at legs level - we sank into one of
the booths. We decided to save time and skip the starters - a choice between
tomato and basil soup, smoked salmon or marinated duck - and go straight
to the main course. I had fish and chips - which at the risk of sounding
like Captain Bird's Eye was a nicely cooked, though small, fillet of cod
in a light crispy batter. The chips were, well - chips - chunky, a bit
on the blonde side but plentiful enough to serve two. There was also a
ramekin containing a modest portion of mushy peas, and another of Tartare
sauce buried underneath the chips, giving the plate a rather overcrowded
My companion had a lovely roast fillet of cod, falling in fat, glistening
flakes, and served with a very meagre Provencal sauce - if by Provencal
they mean a few chopped onions and tomatoes. You could also have gnocchi
with a three cheese sauce and shaved parmesan, though I'm guessing this
was the girlie option - only women or the truly butch would be brave enough
to pull off pasta in this crowd.
Pudding was either a dull lemon tart, or a stolid chocolate terrine with
a sloppy gingernut base. Or you could have had cheese. The preference
seemed to be for bottled beer - or pints. We had wine - hell - lipstick,
Prada, man with a season ticket - why stop short of the ludicrous now?
Of course this is all foreplay. The real fun starts afterwards, in the
stadium. Acres of swaying bodies waving banners and bad language the like
of which I haven't heard outside my car. Then all the away supporters
took off their shirts which was interesting enough to get me through the
first half hour.
You're supposed to be watching the game, Marion, said my companion.
There's forty five minutes each side, he informed me earnestly, and at
half time they change and aim for the other goal.
Well I knew 'that' much, I protested as four grinning men turned to smile
patronisingly at me. Rather a relief, as one of the condescending had
his head almost between my knees every time he leant back in excitement.
That's why you really shouldn't wear a skirt to a football match.
However, I didn't know that when your team scored you were supposed to
jump up and cheer - but happily, my thighs were wedged so tightly to the
men on either side that they pulled me up with them.
We won. It was fantastic. By the end of the evening I discovered that
I had quite the ear for music and could join in with all the songs. And
I also learned that no matter what he does, the referee is always a banker.
Ftse or footsie, there's an awful lot of them about.
Chelsea Village, Fulham Road, London, SW6 1HS
Tel: 020 7565 1400