Magazine article The Spectator

Food Friendly and Ghostlike

Magazine article The Spectator

Food Friendly and Ghostlike

Article excerpt

Kaspar's Seafood Bar and Grill is named for superstition, snobbery and avarice. At a dinner at the Savoy in 1898 there were 13 guests at dinner, and the host, a South African mining magnate called Woolf Joel, was shot dead a few weeks later in Johannesburg. This was doubtless sad for his family, but not so sad that the Savoy, which was the first luxury hotel of the modern age, with en-suite bathrooms and an en-suite musical theatre, could not make a story out of it; this story stinks of the biblical beginnings of marketing. The hotel henceforth provided a flunkey to eat with guests when they numbered 13, should they be haunted by triskaidekaphobia; but the guests didn't like a flunkey, which was too like a chicken that spoke.

(Didn't the Savoy know that hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia is by far the smarter anxiety? ) They preferred a two-foot-high sculpture of a cat called Kaspar, which was placed on a chair to make 14; as I have said before in this column, the rich can be very odd, as can be the flunkeys who try to anticipate their needs. (At this crossroads, most of the world's insanity is made).

Kaspar, who now lives in the Savoy's lobby, doesn't even look particularly dinner-party friendly;

I doubt he could stall Death. He looks like a steering wheel impaled by a cat and he seethes with passive aggression.

Now Kaspar has his own restaurant at the back of the Savoy, beyond that weird tea-room where hedge-funders look like they are being attacked and eaten by chintz;

I expect to see a pair of pin-striped legs hanging out of a sofa, limply wobbling, trying to get back to where the money lives. Kaspar's looks like every other new restaurant opening in London this decade;

it looks like a tassel that has fallen off the Weimar Republic, and been preserved and dry-cleaned. How do restaurant designers know the essential smell of the age? …

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