Magazine article The Spectator

Towards the End of Gordon

Magazine article The Spectator

Towards the End of Gordon

Article excerpt

The Union Street Cafe is in a dismal, dingy part of London; dismal dingy Southwark. Southwark, in fact, is almost charismatically dingy, a land of despairing streets and brick arches and railway tracks heading suicidally for southern suburbs.

Even the churches (small, brown, bricked, almost bricked-up) look apologetic, as if they know they have failed.

But it is here, on the junction of Union Street and Great Suffolk Street, that Gordon Ramsay, the second most charismatic of the original celebrity chefs - after Marco Pierre White, now selling stock cubes to old ladies with his swiftly receding sexual charisma - has built his new restaurant.

It is his tenth in Britain.

It was to be a coventure with David Beckham, the ex-footballer and human thong, but Beckham pulled out; perhaps the restaurant was not thin enough for his terrifying wife Victoria?

The cuisine is Italian, but food was never the point of Gordon Ramsay; it was always about his anger, his face, and his chomping desire for an empire; and also the fact that he was cynical enough to attempt haute cuisine while punning, at Heathrow airport, with the appalling Plane Food. Of course he isn't here in the kitchen of the Union Street Cafe; who loves their tenth child? He is probably in some TV studio, stuffing powder into the crevasses in his face, or perhaps shouting.

Instead there is a wall of smiling heads greeting us at the door. So many happy heads smiling together. They are like the Tweenies, but abducted.

The vibe, as morons say, is Manhattan.

Except this isn't anything like Manhattan, which is overrated in any case; it is, I am afraid, closer to Penge, or even Southwark, still lurking just outside. But it has exposed pipes, concrete floors, ugly lighting, greying pop art and all the detritus of 1980s urban grunge, which to me only bespeaks dodgy builders; all we now need is Madonna, circa 1985 and young again, gyrating over a potato ricer while licking a sledgehammer ('Men at twerk'). …

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