08 | Nov | 14

Richard Johnson

Isn’t It Romantic?

Street food, when it’s well orchestrated, can deliver on the visceral, urgent excitement. But the romance? Not so much. Not like Le Garrick, where I found myself for lunch yesterday. Tres French. If you drink in Le Garrick alone, friends will soon arrive, and cheeks will be kissed. It’s the kind of place where couples will spontaneously stand up and waltz. But my all time favourite romantic spot — Quaglino’s — has been closed for refurbishment for what seems like an eternity. It reopened last month. And I am beyond excited.

My Quaglino’s story begins on Valentine’s Day. And it shows how men and women are fundamentally different. As far as I’m concerned, Yes and No are perfectly acceptable answers to almost every question. Beer is as interesting as handbags. And Saturday = football. It’s like the full moon or the changing of the tides. But women don’t respect those differences. I own a total of three pairs of shoes. So what makes my wife think I can possibly choose the right ones for her outfit? On the most romantic night of the year, we ended up having a row.

My wife wanted more ‘romance’ in our relationship. “Like this……….”, she said, reaching for the remote control and turning on the video. I sat and watched James Bond seducing Agent Ivanova in A View To A Kill, pouring champagne down her as he turned up the stereo in the spa. “The bubbles!” giggled Ivanova. “They tickle my…Tchaikovsky!” I don’t have a spa, so I wasn’t in a position to try tickling her Tchaikovsky. But I decided to polish up my act, and take her to Quaglino’s.

The bar at Quaglino’s looked down on to the restaurant’s 338 seats. It is like a massive movie set, with the customers and waiters playing out some sort of food fantasy. It’s one of London’s largest eateries, and reminds me of the bustling brasseries of Paris. The grand, sweeping staircase is your five seconds of fame, and everyone (from the dot-com millionaires to the second-hand car dealers) looks up from their chairs and banquettes as you glide down to dinner. It’s exactly the right place to drink too much champagne.

We combined champagne with oysters. Casanova ate 50 oysters every morning. And they always make me feel like honouring ten women. Carpe noctem, if you get my drift. As long as I suck on a Rennie afterwards to get rid of my acid stomach. According to Norman Lewis, in “Aphrodisiacs I Have Known”, it’s all in my mind. A group of male pearl-divers on the island of Kamaran get most of their nourishment from oysters – but have very low sex drives. Next time those fellahs are in London, I’m taking them to Quaglino’s. Once I’ve saved up for the table reservation….