Melissa Kite

Just another mad night out at the local bad-food gastropub

Dried-out sea bass and a scary pub manager in navy gabardine leave me reeling and dyspeptic

Just another mad night out at the local bad-food gastropub
[Photo: gerenme]
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We were enjoying our evening at the overpriced gastropub until a woman in a dark uniform appeared at our table. She didn’t introduce herself or explain why she was there, and the first thought that entered my head was that we were being arrested.

It was partly that the woman was extremely well built and wearing a navy gabardine jacket and trousers. But it was also because we were with Anthony.

I looked across at the builder boyfriend’s wayward friend, a tanned, blond, spiky-haired estate agent who is a dead ringer for Shane Warne. He was spooning French onion soup into his mouth in between downing vodka shots and I thought: ‘Oh no, what has Anthony done now?’

Anthony’s office is just down the road from the BB’s work yard so they have lunch together in the caff. As well as selling houses, he is fond of telling people he’s a qualified hairdresser, a chef of some standing, an artist and a potter. He talks in a stream of consciousness, saying exactly the first thing that comes into his head, which fazes people who aren’t prepared for his unfiltered repartee.

On this occasion, we had made up a foursome with Anthony and a female friend of mine, who happens to be a television personality, and were seated by the window having dinner.

Anthony was getting stuck into showing us iPhone photos of his pots and paintings while trying to convince our celebrity friend to let him cut her hair, right there and then, although he’d left his best scissors in the Caribbean, and off he went telling that story.

The evening was no more than mildly all over the place, and we weren’t being especially loud. So why was a police officer standing by our table? And why was she hugging our celebrity friend?

As she did so, I could see there was no insignia on her suit, so the next thought that occurred to me was what Anthony innocently blurted out: ‘Excuse me? Are you the bouncer?’

The woman stopped gushing pleasantries to our famous friend and gave him a withering stare. Then she leaned in close to him and the BB, who were sitting on one side of the table, and bellowed in a heavy French accent: ‘Shut up! Shut up making so much noise while people are trying to eat!’

She spoke with real venom and the closer she got the more frightening she became.

I stayed quiet, which was just as well, for the woman now leaned towards me and, nodding at my plate of seabass, shouted: ‘Is it good? Uh? Is it?’

‘Y-es, it’s wonderful,’ I lied. She turned back to the builder b and Anthony: ‘Is yours good? Uh? Is it?’

And they squeaked: ‘Very good, thank you.’ The boys were pinned to the backs of their chairs trying to lean away from her as she bore down on them in her navy gabardine. Anthony gulped back a vodka shot.

She snorted and turned to go, changing her face suddenly into a wide smile to pay a warm farewell to our celebrity friend, who then explained to us that this departing ogre was the pub manager.

We had been in a scene from Fawlty Towers. If I had said: ‘Well, my seabass is very dry and tastes reheated,’ this woman might have gone outside, torn a branch off a tree and set about beating her car with it, or possibly our car, or our table, sending smashed crockery and bits of seabass all over the place.

The BB and Anthony went outside for a smoke and as they stood by the door inhaling, the manager marched up to them, got into the BB’s face and growled: ‘A’ve got mah eye on youuu. You’re trouble!’

‘I beg your pardon?’ he said, as she turned and went back inside.

The penny finally dropped as we were collapsed on the sofa at home, reeling from a night of Anthony on vodka, the angry French landlady and the burnt seabass, all of which was wreaking havoc with my digestion. I was sipping mint tea when it occurred to me.

‘Bonfire night!’ I exclaimed. The BB looked up from his phone, for he was busy writing an excoriating Tripadvisor review. I reminded him that two years ago we called the fire brigade after the pub set off fireworks and lit a towering inferno right next to our horses’ shelter when they lived in the field next door.

Had the landlady been waiting all this time to see our names on the reservations list so she could wipe the floor with us? Or wipe the floor with our sea bass?

‘Nah,’ said the BB, and he pointed out that pretentious Surrey gastropub food out of catering packs always makes us feel bad.