Ferdi is a café in Shepherd Market; I write about it only to comfort you, because you are not rich, and so you cannot afford to go there, because you would have to pay £140 for two courses without wine. It probably thinks it is a restaurant, wants to be a restaurant, but it isn’t. Its defining characteristic is claustrophobia, and even bad restaurants allow the critic to breathe as they polish their spite.
It is a copy, or satellite, of a fashionable café in Paris. The Parisian Ferdi is popular with fashion models and ‘Kim and Kanye’ (Kardashian and West), which is always a terrible sign.
Shepherd Market, in Mayfair, is a district that is losing its charm faster than Paul Nuttall. The Curzon cinema is currently held hostage by the developers 38 Curzon Ltd, who converted the offices above the cinema into flats but now insist their buyers cannot bear the noise of cinema, even as they knew, presumably, that they were developing a space above a cinema; perhaps they forgot it is a cinema? Elsewhere, there are skincare and designer pants shops for people with great skin and great pants and rotten souls; the prostitute memorial restaurant Kitty Fisher’s winks redly, with the promise of oxymoronic — that is, safe — depravity; and now there is Ferdi.
It is a tiny slender room, in browns and reds, like a broken train carriage; the tables are so close together the diner must move furniture to sit down, which is absurd; the décor scheme is an arrangement of cuddly toys on a shelf, and a photograph of a baby covered in food. Infantilism ‘chic’ is a genuine phenomenon — visit the fascinating and oppressive Cereal Killer Cafes in Brick Lane, Camden, and now Birmingham, where you can lie in a child’s bed and eat Coco Pops, and imagine you are Charlie Brooker aged nine, and all sanctioned by consumer capitalism — but this is pathetic. It is an overwrought Ponti’s café with a toy snake hanging off the bar.
I do not think the customers know this, for they probably do not go to Ponti’s, which they would find a hell of normality. They are young, rich Arabs in sunglasses carrying Prada handbags and shouting into mobile telephones. Watching a fat teenager fold himself on to the banquette while preening — and all due to some international marketing vapour that told him that Kim and Kanye sometimes dine in a different restaurant in a different country — is the only fun to be had at Ferdi besides imagining that the snake is real.
The menu is trilingual, a buffet of clashing cuisines; the food is adequate. We have average smoked salmon, cut too thick; corn on the cob, too wet and dense to be pleasant; good salami, cut thin; and a hamburger, which I ask to be served without pickle. I am told the hamburger must be served as it is, with pickle, as if it has an identity which I, who am about to eat it, cannot interfere with — until I eat it. Perhaps hamburgers have some form of human rights now, and Peter Hitchens will have something to say about it? I don’t know.
All this you could make better and cheaper in your own home, which increasingly irritates me; and you would not have to move the furniture or pay £140 for two without wine.
There is a contempt for the customer here which I recognise and sometimes applaud, if the customers are depraved and the food expensive enough, for it exposes the lie that wealth is a product of intelligence. Why not let them eat vegetable foam for $30 a head at Per Se, and tell themselves they love it, while the rest of us discard scum from the top of a stew? But never, until Ferdi, have I seen it practised for so little benefit.