I knew.You knew when you walked in, a table with a view of the river but next to a party of about thirty raucous wrinklies celebrating the anniversary of boredom. Enormous waves of sound hit me as I studied the menu, knowing my life, my future happiness depended on it. The atmosphere sank into one, bringing back memories of England in the early eighties, that dread feeling of bad overpriced food that was everyones destiny in the pre-thatcher/blair era, those grim years when London dining was stingy and provincial. Hopelessness overwhelmed me, what to choose when the only option is death, but I rallied myself to go for a plate of whitebait and a steak. The whitebait, a thousand fishy souls arrived, with a little container of pink mayonaisse for dipping. Have crunched a hundred little tastless undersalted battered bodies I again became dispirited, flooded with ennui for warm nights eating fresh fried fish in small Italian towns. A bottle of pinot grigio arrived, £14 for a bottle of wine to drink in a pub!, alas even the mighty become mean under duress.
But the deluge, the tempest, was not upon us yet. Two of my companions had ordered smoked haddock with a poached egg and some other menu frivolity. A foolish choice I had thought, but said nothing, it doesn't do to warn of doom. What arrived! A fishcake with a scotch egg balanced on top. Amazing misdescription and prestidigitation. Aghast, alack, etc. And it was too salty. Thw waitress was called and it had to be impressed upon her what an unpleasant plot had been hatched agaisnt us innocent diners. Eventually one was removed from the bill, and both were taken away, with only the egg really punctured. My steak was tough, with a sauce from a bad mitteleuropean hotel, and a gloomy mushroom dancing on its charcoal surface. But to give some credit it was correctly cooked rare. The chips were of the oven chip variety, a sure sign that all is woe. A friend had sausage and mash, I didn't taste, yet even from a distance the bangers looked more like small frozen Walls, than your best organic skins of chunky pig protein. The ladies took dessert to cheer themselves. And we grumbled, circled erroneous items, and saw the manager, and cut the service charge, and paid twenty a piece. Just like the bad old days, before Nelson beat the frenchies, and we realised they had better food.