Eating My Way Down Goldhawk Road: 1 Patio Restaurant
I have been living on the Goldhawk Road for 18 years. If a road has two bus routes then it deserves the definite article. It also needs a report on all the eating establishments. It’s so easy to get in habit of eating of at the same places so I have decided to give myself an eating list. I will systematically eat my way from Shepherd’s Bush Road to King Street and then back again. No establishment will be missed. It will be a different restaurant every month and I will report on each. This arduous task will take around two years and it will be my modest contribution to the sum of human knowledge. I should add here that I’m not a proper restaurant critic – I’m too polite and easy to please. I love the idea of someone else cooking, waiting and washing up for me. This series is just thoughts which occur to me as I dine.
If, with the predictive text on, I press the ABC button on my phone 6 times, I get the word Cabbage. (Well just fancy that!). It is generally considered to be the second least glamorous vegetable after turnip. Not so in Poland. People tell me that Patio Restaurant is an institution. By that they mean, it’s been around for longer than anyone can under fifty can remember. Yet despite this institutional quality, I had never visited it. This is why eating lists are important. The evening was pleasant enough. My companion tried out her three words of Polish which she learnt on a trip there last Summer. She told me that all the museums were dedicated either to the Second World War of Chopin. Starve yourself before you come here because two courses are almost too much. Earlier on in the evening, Hilary, the piano player in Chico Chica gave me half her Sainsbury’s tuna sandwich which was probably not a good idea. It was just after our gig at the National Theatre and I felt I deserved a reward.
There’s bread and butter and a tasty relish spread on the table as you arrive which we ate greedily. A few years ago I read A Balkan Trilogy by Olivia Manning. There’s one character who lived for Blinis. The author made them sound so delicious so I was determined to try them here. In the book they came with caviar among other things. However, I was told that at Patio they only come with smoked salmon. Perhaps it’s a Polish thing. The trouble is, I don’t eat salmon it’s my one Special Dietary Requirement and it makes so proud to have one. The waitress suggested the potato pancake with sour cream which she insisted I would prefer to blinis anyway. And I have to say, I did enjoy it. But what is it about beetroot? They love this in Poland. To me it’s fine but it just doesn’t go with anything. It’s a bit like the acordion – there’s nothing wrong with the sound it’s just really hard to make it work in an ensemble. So like any food which doesn’t fit in, I ate it on its own before a tackled the pancake. As for the blinis, they will have to wait for another time. In Brett Easton Ellis’s American Psycho, the characters seem to drink nothing but Bellinis. I have never tried such a drink so perhaps one day I will have a meal of blinis and Bellinis.
The next course was mincemeat wrapped in cabbage in a tomato sauce. I can’t remember the name. It had to be cabbage – in a Polish restaurant nothing else would do. There was a Polish lady in the last Come Dine With Me Series. She did something with cabbage – it met with sneers and sniggers from the other contestants. I didn’t watch long enough to find out how it went down. I ordered cabbage out of a kind of solidarity with her. There is something about the relationship with my mother and a general sense of thrift which makes me finish my meal, and this includes the garnish. But I could not quite finish this. Maybe it was the tuna sandwich but perhaps I just didn’t need the second course. My companion had ice cream and fruit and this came with an unexpected vodka.
One thing I like about the Patio Restaurant is the acoustics. Since Terrence Conran became a restauranteur, soft furnishings have been banished from all modern restaurants. Conran is a designer – for him, a restaurant has to look right , the acoustics are irrelevant. There was some research done recently into why airline food tasted so bland. They discovered that the noise level on aeroplanes does something to the taste buds. Get the acoustics right and the food tastes better and you don’t have to shout. Bring back soft furnishings in restaurants.