Tanya Gold

Stringfellows for the sex robot age: Bob Bob Cité reviewed

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Bob Bob Cité is a restaurant dangling like testicles from the underside of the Leadenhall Building in the City of London. It is shaped like a series of yellow train carriages, for a voyage no one will ever make; the building above it manages, in the way of the age, to be both absurd and frightening. People call the Leadenhall Building the cheese--grater, but it does not make me think of kitchens. Kitchens are human and intimate; from the atrium, which is guarded by security men, this building looks like the innards of something vast and inhuman.

This is the sequel to Bob Bob Ricard, a Soho restaurant for rich men with anxiety disorders, hollow legs, and nervous thumbs. The schtick is this — you press a button at your booth, and champagne appears — House champagne, two glasses. Perhaps there is another button for pliant women — House women, two whole female bodies for Patrick Bateman to consume?

Bob Bob Cité, though, is larger, more expensive — it cost £25 million to fit, and you can see the money dripping down the walls — and more ambitious. You rise to a dark hallway, which does not look like a place for happy souls and does not seek to. This, rather, is where the money lives.

It is a series of sequential public and private dining rooms — some blue, some red, some gold as in The Masque of the Red Death meets Star Wars Episode 183.6 — doused in light from a golden ticker tape running around the yellow train carriage which makes you feel, initially, as if you are inside a computer. I thought the ticker tape held news of the stock market, or paralysis in government, or war, but it is actually the menu, which is defiantly French. The Leadenhall Building says: LOBSTER MACARONIS AUX QUATRE FROMAGE. That is its message to the future. Or: DORADE GRILLÉE ANTIBOIS. Both are equally irrelevant, and large.

It is quiet on Monday night and thrilling, because, if this is a restaurant for Batman villains and monied serial killers, they have yet to dress and arrive. This gives Bob Bob Cité — the name has something to do with the percentages of which investor gave what to the decorating fund, and Leonid Shutov, ‘the man behind the button’, won — the air of an abandoned crime scene in the Art Deco style. Money lies on this restaurant like fingers. There are champagne cradles of extraordinary beauty and worth; numbers on the walls which light up when you press the button, as if the patrons feel unsafe without their consolation; bright circular artworks, for rich and thoughtless children; marble floors; leather banquettes; Armagnac for £888 a glass. There are glassy rooms filled with vast bottles of champagne — champagne for giants — and waiters with beards that are, by themselves, minor works of art. It’s a drug dream, of course, made of amphetamines but so sterile; Stringfellows for the sex-robot age.

Even so, I love its pools of light and its glossy strangeness. It is certainly coherent. I haven’t been anywhere this weird since Sexy Fish. The music sounds like the wailing of sex workers.

The food does not need to be good — this is for men who have eaten every-thing already, and laid waste to their palates — but it is. It is served on plates that name the restaurant, for emphasis and remembrance: charred and very salty ribeye steaks; creamy mashed potato (one comes with truffles, smelling faintly of posh sock); baby carrots, tiny as fish; Art Deco Eton Mess, a smashed face; Île flottante, a floating pudding that looks like a fish cake in vanilla anglais.

Evil, then: lovely, perfectly executed, and as desirable as ever.

Bob Bob Cité, Leadenhall Building, 122 Leadenhall St, London EC3V 4AB, tel: 020 3928 6600.