Magazine article The Spectator

Dining with Relics

Magazine article The Spectator

Dining with Relics

Article excerpt

Langan's Brasserie announces its presence with a long, pink neon line of Langanses, tootling prettily along its facade, which is opposite Marks & Spencer on Green Park. (The apostrophes, by the way, are mine; signage can be illiterate. ) So this is a restaurant with Alzheimer's, a restaurant that has forgotten its own name.

Could it be hungover? Langan's was opened in 1976 by Michael Caine, Richard Shepherd and Peter Langan; two thirds of the triumvirate were newsworthy. Langan was the sort of alcoholic who is mistaken for a raconteur: he told Orson Welles he was fat. (He was fat. Do we care about the feelings of Orson's fat ghost? ) His alcoholism became a destination in its own right, because people are cruel.

Langan's was, for 15 minutes in about 1981, the centre of the earth.

And now? Other fashionable brasseries have opened - principally the wonderful trio of Zedel, the Delaunay, and the Wolseley, which is closed for renovations but still retains its cadaverous doorman, who is grimly admitting tins of paint; Novikov, a screaming exhibitionist which is also an I talian/Asian restaurant, is bigger.

So what of Langan's, still hanging on to the fringes of Mayfair?

It is soft at the edges - a rectangular cavern, warm but faintly yellowing.

It feels dramatic, a destination restaurant in some circles, still got it; before the food arrives. There is a chaotic cloakroom and elderly waiters in black, always reassuring - but look closer: carpets are fraying; corners are dusty; the bathrooms are over-bright, like an explosion; the art, once so talked about, is not the best. Langan's art collection, including a terrifying Hockney of Langan himself, staring at the painter with agonised eyes, groping for his glass, was sold in 2012. 'Peter Langan: A Life with Art captures the inextricable fusion of good food, good wine and good fun with good art that is synonymous with the legendary hot spot,' said Christie's, moronically, possibly oblivious to the fact that before he died at 47, Langan tried to burn his house down. …

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