Sexy Fish is a ludicrous restaurant with a ludicrous name in a ludicrous town. It is the latest venture from Richard Caring, major Tory donor and Asian fusion’s very own Bond villain. The more I insult Caring in these pages, the better I like him. He is certainly vivid, and the swiftness with which he expands his empire demonstrates a truism — the more often you order a £15 million restaurant interior in the service of propping up the Conservative party’s decimation of liberal civilisation, the better you will get at it.
So, Sexy Fish. It is, in homage to its stupid name, a tank on Berkeley Square, where no birds sing, and it is principally gold-coloured — for that, Scrooge McDuck, is its brand. Lunchtime on Monday; it is packed with Russian wives and Swiss bankers, all cartoonishly smooth and unsmiling; are they yearning? I almost lost my reservation because I forgot it was called ‘Sexy Fish’ and, instead, searched for ‘Superfish’ in my emails. Superfish is a chip shop in East Molesey, which is not owned by Richard Caring. Yet.
It is huge — a former NatWest — and decorated with a glittering Frank Gehry crocodile, a Damien Hirst mermaid — how did Hirst ever pass for revolutionary? — and Iran. (Apologies. I misread the PR babble. The floor is from Iran.) The golden ceiling — which I read about in the London Evening Standard, because ceilings can be news, if they are ‘it’ ceilings — is apparently by the style-editor-at-large of Vanity Fair, which I thought was a made-up job but apparently is not. In the basement private room there is a fish tank, where the ‘sexy’ fish — brightly coloured, minute and somehow heartbreaking — swim like tiny fishy slaves. I have never seen a restaurant whose ethos is so clearly and comprehensively, so preeningly and unapologetically: ‘Fuck you, I’m rich and I want a golden cave and servants. I want a pony and all the hookers I can strangle. I want a pyramid of cocaine and an Audi -Quattro.’ It is like being punched in the face by Abu Dhabi.
And I like it. Because this is not a restaurant in any true sense of the word; that, to quote Hannibal Lecter, who would be a marvellous restaurant critic in any age, is incidental. This is a living museum of anthropology. It demonstrates, pitilessly and over many courses, the extent to which people will debase themselves if they feel they have no choice; and the extent to which others will delude themselves about what is due to them, and what is ‘fun’.
Ah yes, fun. A Caring spokeswoman said he wanted to bring some ‘fun’ to this corner of Berkeley Square. Sexy Fish is not fun. It is more interesting than that. It is a nadir; and, whatever you think about a nadir, it is usually interesting. The walls are up, the missiles are primed, and inside is Sexy Fish. Niall Ferguson is right to compare us to Rome. We are surely near the end. I will get a copywriting job.
The service is exquisite and almost painful to watch: waiters so reverent they could be priests in some deranged cult dedicated to prosperity theology by way of interior design. They bring, swiftly, elegantly and without noise, a series of delicious plates of homo-genous Asian cuisine — why have Japan when you can have it all?
We eat venison carpaccio, beef rib (with wasabi crème fraîche, which I do not recommend) a wondrous vegetable tempura, including a battered shiso leaf; maple-glazed pork belly and chicken wings with Sancho salt; then the pudding of the moment, as the Evening Standard might say, because you can be an ‘it’ pudding, which is a make-your-own sundae, with a tail of a whale in biscuit.
So go to Sexy Fish. The chicken is good and the world is damned. Next time, Center Parcs.