I couldn’t find Gazelle. I walked up and down Albermarle Street, in which Oscar Wilde once plotted his own doom in the Albermarle Club, and I couldn’t find it. I had to go to Caffè Nero opposite the Ritz Hotel and email my dining companion — where are you? Are you there? Does Gazelle exist? Or is it a modern European restaurant and cocktail bar so exclusive that it exists only in the imaginings of the International Private Jet Set who have turned Mayfair into something so ugly it could only be purchased at Harrods? Is it an imago that serves breakfast?
It’s not an imago that serves breakfast, he replied, via Caffè Nero’s free wifi, which is always useful when you wonder if restaurants are semi--mythical. It’s next door to John Murray, publishers of Lord Byron; his memoirs were burnt there, either because they were so scandalous they couldn’t be printed or — and this is a hack’s theory — they just weren’t that good. And so it is. I find it via minuscule gold signage. I am of an age to need proper signage. I just bought one of those huge Panasonic telephones for old people which block everyone automatically, which is why old people are lonely. It’s not because their children don’t love them, they blocked their own children by mistake. And they would not find Gazelle either.
I have been here before and I have not been here before. These gaudy, shrivelling Mayfair hubris mansions all seem the same to me now — Sexy-fish, Novikov, Rivea at the Bulgari Hotel, which I thought looked like tinfoil. This is because they are designed to please the same people, who cannot, despite the current vogue for prosperity theology within wealth-enabling circles, be in multiple places at once. And even if they can’t, they do not like to be surprised.
The dining room is velvet — red, like sitting on a cardinal’s knee, with yellow too — and there is a charming waiter with a beard so fiercely groomed I thought he might be Narnian. Are Narnians going to be deported, and if not, why not?
There is exposed brickwork and a purple spiral staircase so polished it could become an accident destination for women with big shoes. At the top is more velvet, this time in green and blue, and an enormous photograph of what looks like a woman, all curled up, with no head. Who needs a head these days anyway? In any case, it behaves like a restaurant waiting for customers, and for night.
Again, it is just us in Gazelle, us and the well-groomed Narnian and his multiple handsome assistants. I am beginning to think I do this deliberately, so I do not have to meet the other diners. Also, I do not take class A drugs. I wish I did.
It is breakfast time, so we cannot have the dish called ‘Oyster, Yeast Emulsion’, which I thought was paint (3.5, or £3.50 if you like pound signs, which apparently they don’t here, which is quite droll) or the dish called ‘Scallop, Yeast, Imperial Caviar’ (£19, because I do like pound signs). Instead we eat fennel and spelt toast, a charcuterie plate and a poached duck egg. It’s an English Breakfast for idiots, then, and Piggy’s greasy spoon in Air Street — it’s next to Cordings, which sells corduroy trousers for maniacs off a rack that looks like a rainbow — does a much better English Breakfast, although it does not have a purple staircase for women to fall off. Perhaps they could not fit one in? It is a slight improvement on Sketch’s English Breakfast Stew. I give it that.
That done, there isn’t much to do but look out of the window, lament the end of Mayfair, and admire what is, apparently, Britain’s original one-way street.