Sophie’s lives in an old pornographic cinema at the south end of Great Windmill Street, Soho. It is opposite McDonald’s and the Windmill International (‘Probably the most exciting mens club in the world [if you don’t mind paying women to expose their breasts when they might do it for nothing if you were charming]’). Is it so exciting that the patrons do not care that they have been given a semi-consensual sexual experience but denied an apostrophe? It is also pleasingly close to the venue of the Second Congress of the Communist League, which took place in 1847, and prompted the commission of the Communist Manifesto, and all on the first floor of the Red Lion pub which is now a cocktail bar called Be At One. Quite so.
Sophie’s is a steak house because it is now the fashion to eat cow by mass. I don’t know why and assume it is a kind of machismo; cows are bigger than ducks. It is the third Sophie’s — the first is in Chelsea — and the second, in Covent Garden, closed recently, possibly due to cow terrorists who I, alongside Jeremy Corbyn, wholeheartedly support. I have cow ennui, and cow fatigue. I am, essentially, cowed.
Even so, I am excited because Sophie’s used to be the Moulin Cinema, which showed soft pornography and, for some reason, Carry On films. Is that what fans of soft pornography liked to watch when they were sated? Bernard Bresslaw looking sad? Was that their cinema verité, their recognition? I am not sorry that the Moulin Cinema has closed but sometimes anything feels more palatable than what Soho has become, which is blocks of flats for men seeking danger, even as they make Soho undangerous. (Even the Colony Room Club has fallen.)
There are also shops with one pair of clean socks in the window, presumably for the men looking for danger but finding clean socks instead. They should have stayed in Surbiton but instead they forced the scumbags out of Soho, using mortgage brokers as brooms, and that is that. The underbelly has no underbelly. I have looked.
So Sophie — a woman called Sophie Bathgate, who sounds like the plucky orphan heroine of a Young Adult novel inspired by #MeToo — has swept the soft porn out, built a steakhouse on the ashes of tits, and named it for herself. From here, she awaits the men with clean socks.
It is two pale caverns, separated by a small staircase; the second holds an open kitchen and the beginnings of an oven. I would have liked to have seen some wreckage of the Moulin, if only to gloat on its passing — some Carry On film posters, a thong with historical significance, possibly Karl Marx’s thong (he was certainly a slut, and his maid could cry #MeToo from her grave, and Jenny Marx could cry #MeTooToo) — but there is nothing.
The interior is another tedious homage to the Conran Shop and the wankers who go there (technically speaking, the other wankers): white walls, dark floors, blue velvet sofas. There is nothing to offend, and nothing to love. One day I expect to discover that London has become a single hotel with ten million identical bedrooms, all centrally controlled by Richard Caring: but I am writing one-sentence pitches for novels I am too lazy to type, and I must stop.
The food does not raise Sophie’s. It is cow, hot, in parts, and expensive — sirloin, rump, châteaubriand. The staff do their best in the almost-empty cavern but it simply doesn’t taste very good, and who pays £120 for lunch for two (without wine) to sit in a former porn cinema and eat bad food?
The men in socks? They came to Soho by mistake; perhaps they will come here too.