In a meeting last week, someone mentioned that Anthony Bourdain might have "jumped the shark." That Bourdain has turned into a one-note singer -- go to a city, snark about it, get drunk, sop up hangover with greasy pork-laden food, get back on plane to New York.
My reply? "Yeah, so?"; Maybe I enjoy Bourdain because I see a kindred spirit, but all I know is that whenever I go on business trips and weekend jaunts, I eat and drink too much. I've been on many searches for a barbeque joint or a pub in a strange city- not so much for a museum or a nice church. So there! Anyway, on to London ... Hip hop, cheerio and all that rot!
Tony lands in Heathrow, where he shatters the myth that London is the home of good manners. "Nah, not the London I know", he quips, before tearing apart the other myth that London has lousy food. He insists that the food is only eclipsed by the drinking, "often too much and not too well", which is why this is one of his favorite cities.
With 27 hours on the hated clock, Tony checks into his room at the St. John Hotel, just opened by chef Fergus Henderson (who we learn has Parkinson's Disease). A jet lagged Tony ("I feel like ten pounds of shit in a five-pound bag") grabs a bite of eggs over blood sausage before showering, and taking multiple meds (wonder if they're prescription or otherwise) before meeting chef Henderson for a spot of coffee at Bar Italia.
For some reason, the conversation with Henderson is in subtitles, yet
the little vignettes with various cockney accented people isn't. I've
been to London many times and there really should be an American/English
dictionary because sometimes it takes about five good minutes to
realize that even though you're conversing in technically the same
language..you didn't understand a word of your verbal intercourse about
the Queen and why the London Eye sucks the life out of the British
Tony then takes a black cab (always take a black cab
we learn, not a mini. Because they actually have a meter? No...because
they're totally retro-cool) to
G.J. Cleverly on Old Bond Street to buy custom shoes. (Which, by the
way run about $4,000). Tony looks so uncomfortable at this shop it's
insane. The look is akin to when your dentist suggests multiple root canals. These
handmade shoes are expensive, take six months to make, but they're
expected to last a lifetime. Which is about right because that's a normal person's
lifetime shoe budget. Tony is shown into a room filled with wooden impressions of all the feet that have walked, literally,
through these doors.
"How do you know when a customer has
died?", Tony asks. "We don't really", George Cleverly replies. The
custom shoes are a slippery slope, as Tony notes that now he needs some expensive shirts because his Ramones T-shirt isn't going to work with the $4,000 kicks.
takes a boat ride on the Thames, concerned about sodomy on the
open sea. To keep his mind off potential buggery, he entertains himself
and no one else with some made-up facts and figures, " Here's the
famous wonder wheel. In spite of the 17 known fatalities, still a tourist
attraction. Here's The Blair Bridge to celebrate Blair's cowtowing to
Bush's every popcorn fart, Yum -- Sea Containers House, home of the
buffet and your choice of dressing -- ranch or blue cheese."
can be both fun and douche apocalypse", Tony muses as he meets chef
Fergus for lunch at Sweetings, a banker hangout. There the boys drink
Black Velvets, tankards of Guinness and Champagne. At this restaurant,
the lush weirdness of London rites and rituals is rampant - these
Presidents of major banks actually wait for a table (sometimes for an
hour) with their favorite waiter. Like a baby squirrel, apparently waiters
imprint on these bankers so much so that they only can eat at one specific server's table for life.
As Tony downs some seafood and Fergus
digs into his daily fried scampi, we hear about London's famous
pies....lamb pie, beef pie. About now I wish Tony would take us to Mrs.
Lovett's shop or even give us a Sweeney Todd reference...but alas, 'twas
not to be, guvnor.
Here's a little tip for when you utilize the
Underground or, the tube.
Always stand up for pregnant ladies whether or not it was you that put
the bun in the oven.
Also, here are places you should never go -- The Tower of London, Big
Ben, Buckingham Palace, and (of course) The Eye. Here's where you
should go -- the market for cheese, oysters, and meat. And many, many
Then Tony takes us to a place so magical, that I'm currently shopping for a plane ticket across the pond....The Last Tuesday Society.
Part party planner, part shop owner of the damned, Suzette Field has
put together a place in which to buy celebrity poop (Amy Winehouse's
crap in a jar is still available), Russel Brand's pubic hair (and we
thought Katy Perry was selling all of those on eBay), a two headed calf
skull, and the 18th century penis of a hanged man. Tony gets a mounted
pig's fetus. I would have opted for the Winehouse shit.
purchasing a dead fetal pig, it's time to move on to heavy drinking.
Socializing in London revolves around pubs. Marco Pierre White, the
first celebrity chef and the youngest chef to win three Michelin stars,
meets Tony for a pint or three before walking Marco's dog to his newest
restaurant, a refurbished version of a classic that's been
around since Lincoln.
After dinner they head to Soho, a
"slaughterhouse of Jager bombs, public urination, bad behavior", where
the drinking continues throughout the night...only night comes at 11
p.m. in London, because that's when the pubs close. You may say that 11
p.m. is incredibly early (especially when Miami clubs don't get hopping
until after midnight), but you have to remember that Brits start
drinking at 11 a.m., so they're basically more efficient with time management skills than we are.
After going to some after-hours private
clubs (lifetime membership is five pounds) that look like someone's
Italian grandmother's kitchen, we cut to the next morning and the
important hangover-on-the-way-to-the-airport sequence.
into another black cab, Tony asks the driver where he can go for some
greasy pork. Cabman's Shelter is the obvious place. Set up to keep
cabbies out of pubs (which is a very good thing if you've ever navigated
London streets at rush hour), Tony and the cabbie grab a bacon butts
(bacon sandwich) and a cuppa tea. With pork in the stomach, it's off to
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catch a plane back across the pond.
Next up: Tony eats, drinks, and gets hungover in Los Angeles ... home of the In-N-Out Burger and many celebrity DUIs.