Magazine article The Spectator

Restaurants

Magazine article The Spectator

Restaurants

Article excerpt

RESTAURANTS

It is half-term and so our pre-teen son must be kept amused because, on the whole, boys of this age are like Labradors: unless you give them some kind of run every day they will eat the furniture. In fact, come to think of it, they are actually worse than Labradors because, unless you give them some kind of run every day, they will not only eat the furniture but they will also rugby-tackle you at every opportunity, even when you are on the toilet. It's not clever, it's not funny, and it is most undignified. So, in our efforts to entertain him we decide, one evening, to take him, fittingly enough, to the dogs at Walthamstow Stadium, where we have been told that there is also a pretty good restaurant.

Off we go, then, to Walthamstow, which turns out to be in E4. Mostly, in London, I tend to feel safest in the Ns - and safest of all in the NWs - and the nearer we get to E4 the more the front doors have iron grilles on them. It's a scary place, E4. But you do get to circumnavigate the Crooked Billet roundabout, which is quite exciting, because you always hear of the Crooked Billet roundabout on traffic reports - 'major problems today at Crooked Billet' - and now I know it actually exists. One day I would like to see Gypsy Corner. Gypsy Corner is always on traffic bulletins. I think, though, that if I want to see Gypsy Corner I should do so soonish in case Mr Howard comes to power and has it taken away. Mr Howard has promised to come down hard on gypsies, and I guess if he is going to come down hard on gypsies he is going to have to come down hard on their corners. The thing about gypsies is that they will put their corners down anywhere, without a thought for local residents or planning requirements. They can be very selfish, as well as smelly and not like us. They're quite like immigrants in that respect.

At last we reach the stadium, which is truly wonderful, a masterpiece of neon-lit, 1930s Art Deco architecture. Fab. In we go, through the turnstile, but decide to hang about a bit to soak up the atmosphere before going up to the restaurant. Well, if horse racing is the sport of kings, then greyhound racing appears to be the sport of old boys with roll-ups stuck to their lower lips and the Asda-goers who would otherwise be in Asda slapping their children. Of course, abuse also goes on in Waitrose but, it being a more middle-class establishment, the cruelty tends to be less physical and more mental. Oscar, behave yourself, or I'll make you take up the harp and write 78 thank-you letters a day for the rest of your life!'

There are also groups of chaved-up Essexy people in Burberry and diamante here. This is, in fact, just the sort of place you expect to meet Vinnie Jones. Actually, I did meet Vinnie Jones once. He was reading a boat magazine. 'Buying a boat, Vinnie?' I asked in my pathetically friendly way. 'Yeah,' he said, 'I want an 'orse and boat.' 'A horse and boat?' I queried. 'Like one of those old-fashioned barge things?' At this, he marched off. It was only a few days later that I realised he was trying to say 'an awesome boat'. I'm lucky he didn't bite my nose off. But, that said, the whole misunderstanding could so easily have been avoided if only he'd spoken properly. My partner says my problem is that I am just too middle-class. …

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