A French creole restaurant rises in the sullen ruins of London. It is called Louie, for French king or trumpeter, depending on your wish. It is next to the Ivy — now a private members’ club and franchise stretching to the London suburbs bearing small bowls of shepherd’s pie — and it is infinitely preferable. That is, I can get a table, and no pastiche medieval windows or tabloid photographers are involved. It’s a terrible thing being jostled into a gutter so someone can photograph the former cast of Crossroads. The Ivy is the Love Island of grand restaurants. It is for the spuriously famous, which is now everyone. The zeitgeist cries: we’re going to need a bigger Ivy. Or at least it used to. Louie is a small, golden rebuke.
It lives in a blackened -Victorian rookery — ah, gentrification! — and it opened with great misfortune: after the first lockdown and into the wasteland that used to be Theatreland. The atomisation I always fear is made explicit by pandemic: who doesn’t want a golden restaurant as we stagger into the light? There are many supper clubs in London these days and, though I like them, I wish they didn’t invoke the Weimar Republic — invoke decline — quite so much and so often.
I love a banquette but the insinuation makes me nervous. The Wolseley started the trend, and the Delaunay and others accelerated it. Now it is the settled fashion in central London: wide golden rooms ideally filled with laughing people in a world before television. Such places look unbelievable now; they are stacked up, waiting. If the people, who aren’t here yet, can’t match the styling — if it is more of a prayer than a fact — that’s not the restaurant’s fault.