London in the Fall

Of course, the best, or most intriguing, reason to visit London in mid-September is to find out how the current year’s surprise team is managing to survive in the world’s most competitive, not to mention lucrative, football league. And this year, the buzz is Blackpool; rank no-hopers, they won promotion to the financial nirvana of professional sports against all odds, and rather than playing obscure teams in front of 3,800 fans, they are playing in the same sand pit as Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United. And doing surprisingly well.

Not, of course, that football is often on my mind, or was a motivator in booking this trip way back in February; sheer serendipity.

I am here for to work on my Dad’s estate, and thanks to our brilliant lawyer who has guided me through the arcane process of probate with ease and a frightening efficiency, we have now reached the happy moment of giving money away. Or so we thought, but the imposition of “new” identification regulations to combat the ever present money launderers, and no doubt terrorists mean that his will’s benefactors will have to exercise patience.

I did so by meeting friends; one in particular is a curious chap called Joseph who I met on a train in Slovakia some time ago. He writes, successfully and rather humorously I have to add, novels, biographies, travel articles and restaurant reviews. It was in this last role that he sent ma an email a couple of weeks ago asking when I might be free to dine in London next. He had been invited to the opening of a rather unusual restaurant in Camden Town of African persuasion, he intoned, and wanted to go back and review it properly; my input would be valued.

And so it was that we headed to simply the most peculiar restaurants that I have ever patronised. It has to be admitted that Camden Town in odd in and of itself, but Shaka Zulu takes the cake. A single, smiling but rather lonely bongo player was placed outside to keep the crowds under control and lure folks in to dine. There was nobody around, and we were going in anyway; he did show up later in the restaurant performing some folk-tunes that appeared to involve large, used baking bowls and Homburg hats; I am still confused.

However, we went in through a massive shell-encrusted entrance and down an escalator into the top floor of a two-level bar/restaurant/curio extravaganza/club/museum. In the manner, it has to be said, of a gloriously decorated underground station; not one of the more subdued suburban stations, but Bond Street in its heyday. The escalators probably prompted this comparison, but really it was huge, decorated beyond overkill, lit dramatically and it made us smile.

Dinner was disappointing. Kudu, a type of antelope, I can assure you is not worth eating. Unless, perhaps, you are a natural predator of antelopes; for the rest of us it looks pretty on the plate but disappoints. Virtually flavourless, it also has a disturbing characteristic of simply disappearing after a couple of chews. And it doesn’t taste of much either. Joseph’s Ostrich was a much better bet, but all in all we were rather underwhelmed, and frankly astonished at the £160 bill that his newspaper will have to foot.

Expensive, amusing, bizarre and entertaining, but not good value. So there you are; for a professional review, I will refer you to Joseph’s article in due course, but my rank-amateur conclusion is far from encouraging.

Blackpool lost, by the way, 4 – 0 to Chelsea, the game being the reason that my cousin’s husband was late for dinner on Sunday; it was a good game, he reported, (as actually they all are), but started late on Sunday.

He, John, is a season-ticket holder at Chelsea and came offering a ticket for Wednesday’s game against Chelsea; the very next day a great friend Clive, of whom I have spoken before, offered me a ticket to watch the final match in a five-game cricket series between England and Pakistan on Wednesday evening.

Spoilt for choice I had to decline both, as I was to be in Munich dithering between Oktoberfest and Nymphenburg Castle. What a life.