Thank God for that. I’m back. The happy clappy nonsense that I have recently been spouting was but a blip in my otherwise horribilis visage. I am still very much enjoying life blah blah blah, but it is for me at least, comforting to know that I can still conjure up the fury at a moments notice.

Like last night when I took a girl out for dinner.

I dressed up all smart (Jeans and a suit jacket, like Mr Jeremy Clarkson, ladies- HELLO!) and had a shave- (tsk), put my nice shiny brown wedding shoes on and even a bit of that new deodorant stuff . Hot to trot and ready for action.

I know what you’re thinking. You are thinking, ‘Oooh that lucky cow!’ That’s what. And you’d be right. Except that she could do much better. And probably even pull someone who doesn’t hold up Jeremy Clarkson as the epitome of high fashion. But she had to make do with me, initially upbeat and uncharacteristically chipper, but then as the meal progressed becoming more and more quietly, middle classily, enraged. In an ‘Oh yes, yes, everything is quite lovely thank you so much for asking’, kind of way.

I should have known really. We went the ludicrously named ‘Four 0 Nine’ in Clapham. What do you think its address is? Go on. Have a guess. No? Ok. Well…… Its 409 (geddit!) Clapham Road! Isn’t that brilliant! Its ADDRESS is 409 Clapham Road. And they (the loony jokers) have CALLED IT, Four (in letters) 0 (the digit) Nine (in letters) Pfffftt. Terrific, that’s just terrific isn’t it?

It considers itself London’s best kept secret. Which is fine if you are Milk and Honey and are always packed but a bit stupid if you are always empty and have to whore yourself on the internet with desperate offers of eight courses for a pound and such like. And then when you arive you have to press a buzzer and someone says ‘yesssssss’ and you say ‘Um Hello’ and they say ‘Can I help you’ And you and your companion who might or might not be your girlfriend, because you have had lots of dates and are quite keen, but haven’t had that chat yet, so its slightly awkward to discuss any event that might be happening at any time in the near to medium future unless its taken in the wrong way and you are not sure if you should introduce then to your friends for similar reasons. But secretly you are quite excited by it and dress up like Jeremy Clarkson to impress them, are standing there in the cold saying Yes you can help me. Because this is supposed to be a restaurant and I am standing on the pavement outside having an embarrassing conversation with an electric box. And it’s really really cold because I didn’t wear an overcoat to show how tough I am, and if you don’t let me in I am going to punch you in the goolies.

Then they let you in and you get some truly revolting free canapés. Which is so unbearably depressing, because it is aspiring to pretention which is bad in the first place, but then carried out with such laziness, lack of skill and finesse that my heart sank at the thought of what I might have to actually pay for. A blissful grape something or other cocktail reminded me of that grenadine syrup you get in France, but undiluted so that it coats your mouth with unbearable teeth shuddering claggy sweetness. And the food was just average after that. The foie gras parfait was actually excellent, the mackerel under powered and dull. And we didn’t get any wine until I had nearly finished my starter. My main was hake and was fine, but weirdly citronella like. On the plus side it kept the mozzies away. And here’s when I got really annoyed. The not-quite girlfriend ordered the onglet steak- medium rare. She described it as beef sushi. It was slightly shy of bleu. So obviously, instead of sending it back we had to swap main courses. It just wasn’t very good at all. Every thing from the canapés, to the service, to the food and the cocktails was about thirty percent off target and conversely it is about 30 percent more expensive than it should be.

There were maybe 20 diners there whilst we ate. And there were 4 chefs in the kitchen and 4 front of house staff. How do these places survive? And how, when you are doing 20 covers between 4 chefs can you cook a steak so badly. It makes me furious beyond all belief. I did 40 covers and did all the washing up on Tuesday night because I have margins and labour costs to worry about. And each plate of food was better than the dreary fare that we got last night. And I’m sorry- that’s not meant to sound arrogant, it’s just to illustrate that you and I should get angrier with these mid-range local restaurants that are over-staffed, and thus over-priced. The meal for two with service automatically added (obviously) was a hundred quid. Which, I’m sorry, is a lot of money.For just 2 courses, a couple of cocktails and a bottle of wine. A hundred quid- even including the bloody pointless pimped out on the internet offer. Or to put it another way, more expensive than Polpo, Barrafina or any number of wonderful restaurants that don’t take the bleeding piss.

But we had the chat and, I am pleased to report, all is well.

If you would like to send fan mail or congratulatory cards, my address is three 9 three Upper Richmond Road*. Don’t try and let yourself in though. Or I’ll punch YOU in the goolies.

*this is not (quite) my address. I am not mental. It is just a little joke upon which to wrap up proceedings.

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