Solitary Diner: Down By The Thames
Not being in the habit of drawing the curtains at night I often enjoy the dawn coming tip-toeing in at whatever time is natural to that part of the world in which I live; today in London, the sunlight streamed in at about 9.30am. and I felt so bucked up, I resolved to see how this wonderful, bright English sun might hit the river, down by the Thames.
But first breakfast – Clarence Court Burford Brown boiled eggs and some Irish soda bread, coffee from Aldi – their Parthenon.
So then, to South Bank! But first to my favourite watering hole, Gordon’s Wine Bar in Villiers Street. (Well, it’s on the way!) If you ever want to see what heaven would be like under the ground, this is the place. It’s an underground wine bar, candle-lit and v romantic – even at mid day – and there were couples there this morning! I spoke briefly to Victor, top barman – he’s been serving wine here for 125 years he said and I said I had been coming to the place for 125 years – it was that kind of tomb conversation which can take place here, during which he made me a fabulous Bucks Fizz – mixing Anna de Codorniu Cava and Freshly Squeezed.
So it was in good spirits that I skipped up the stairs to the bridge that crosses the Thames from Villiers Street, the bridge from which you get a direct view of St. Paul’s or at least should; in fact, even in today’s heavenly winter sunlight, I could hardly but notice how ugly, architects had made the horizon – bad enough that the view to St Paul’s is obscured, but worse is that all round the great cathedral, trashy modern buildings have been allowed to spring up with no sense of symmetry or proper planning, an ugly capital and capitalist mess.
It kind of took away from the sunlight and the sunshine happiness I had first felt this morning replacing those so positive feelings with – well – disappointment and an encroaching sense of the reality of the world around me. But cheer-up, there’s always lunch!
So toward my luncheon destination, but to get there, having to pass along the vulgarity of the new South Bank which on a day like today more and more resembles a trashy day out in Blackpool than a centre of metropolitan culture and especially past the NFT river frontage – Burgers and Chips and Today’s Special: Sausage & Mash £13.95 for which there was a queue of noisy families. What has this got to do with classic cinema?
So on to the wonderful Shakespeare’s Globe, surely a place of sanctity? No, again The Swan restaurant is overrun with holiday families and fractious queues.
So, round the corner and into New Globe Street and to the tucked away TAS Pide Turkish restaurant, an oasis of calm, plenty of space for diners, white table cloths on the tables and – (Ye Gods!) – cloth napkins. So for me, a three course meal is served, calmly and courteously; for me, today, from the set menu (£11.95 three courses!) Zeytinyagli Patlican (a cold aubergine starter) followed by Papaz Yahnisi (a chick pea and chicken dish served with fragrant rice) and for sweet, some sweet oranges dipped in coconut and cream. The house wines (white and red) from Anatolia (the setting actually of Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida) were elegant and full bodied, as indeed Helen might well have been; the white from the Narince grape, the red from a locally grown (and blended?) Shiraz. Then the obligatory Turkish coffee now offered with half sugar – a movement of time and fashion, indeed!
So out to the river again and the sun still silver, I, to the tube and from London Bridge to home. Arriving home to North London, darkness falls all too soon; I enter the house-entrance to my flat – on the mat, envelopes; I pick them up and place them on the communal shelf; strangely they became in that instant, like a falling deck of cards; the names and address of people who live here, in the same house as me; people I hardly know nor speak to.
Not drawing the curtains, I later see the whole of darkness fall and within it and withstanding it – London street lights and a Turkish moon.
Solitary Diner London , Jan 2nd 2015