Wherein Chef sets a new record, and other tales

It was Chef’s birthday last week so he invited us down to London for a quiet drink and a few light bites. Ahahahaha. In fact he booked a table at Enoteca Turi, which apart from being a very poor anagram for “Caution: Tree” is apparently one of the best restaurants in London. Or best Italian restaurants. Or best Italian restaurants in Putney. Or something. Chef said so.

I trained down early on Saturday afternoon and braved the crowds in the Apple store on Regent Street, successfully not buying an iPhone (not sure how long I can hold out though). Then I skipped across to Goodge Street, sidestepped loonytunes Scientologists recruiting outside their HQ near the station, and checked into the (rather posh) hotel in Bloomsbury that Mikey had booked, neither of us much fancying a night on Chef’s floor.

Chef’s detailed itinerary for the evening suggested 6pm at A Pub In Putney before 7pm at the restaurant. Mike and I made our own way to Putney, quickly discovering that neither of us had bothered to click on Chef’s link to find out where the restaurant actually was in relation to Putney Bridge tube. Chef then texted to say that they were running late; we unilaterally decided that a place called The Temperance successfully matched all important elements of A Pub In Putney and settled in with a couple of pints of Deuchars in old-man-style mugs. Flat caps, pipes and whippets were not provided.

We’d just started our second pint when Chef rang to say that his mob were going straight to the restaurant, and told us where it was: apparently we were the wrong side of the river. Putney Bridge solved that problem once we’d finished our pints, with Chef increasingly fretting via the medium of text since it turned out we only had a limited timeslot at the restaurant.

We arrived at Caution: Tree and almost immediately had to order. Proper Italian-style courses, too. I had some antipasti (v nice); something like wholemeal pasta with bits in oily, salty water (not v nice); and a pumpkin/cabbage lump arranged inside a pasta cylinder looking not unlike a big fat sushi thing (not bad). Accompanied, of course, by several bottles of wine chosen from the £££ end of the wine list. (Universal Poshness Indicator #94: new wine glass for each bottle.)

No dessert: our timeslot was up and the bill arrived with a hefty clunk. Nine of us, £606. Chef decided to pay half and our wallets were suitably grateful. God help us when he really decides to push the boat out.

Avaragado’s rating: 2 breadsticks

Back over the bridge we tubed to Tottenham Court Road and walked to Soho, having a beer or two outside in the cold at the Dog and Duck. When that shut we were directed across the road to an establishment called Garlic and Shots. In a downstairs bar we drank more beer and several of the party – but not I – moved on to shots. I did take a sip of one particularly evil concoction, I believe called a Bloodshot: like drinking fire. Chef’s friend Mark downed it in one, bless him, and spent the next ten minutes in tears.

Spirits exhausted, various flavours of bed beckoned. Chef headed home with several people in tow, and on past form they probably watched an entire series of Extras back at his while glugging more wine and with Chef cackling over all dialogue until 4am. Just a theory.

Mike and I walked back to the hotel to our beds. Here I learned the day’s amazing football results and decided that England still won’t qualify, obviously.

This morning, after checking out we wandered the streets for ages looking for a cash machine and somewhere to eat breakfast. We eventually found an acceptable little Italian cafe just off Oxford Street. Then Mike suggested the Science Museum, and it was so.

Hadn’t been there in, um, 25 years? Shocking.

Bizarrely it was Stephenson’s Rocket that got me, I guess because I wasn’t even sure it still existed. But there it was, behind ropes, the “ROCKET.” nameplate complete with punctuation in that funny way they used to have, with “No. 1” on the front. Cor.

Most of the other historical stuff was great too: the Apollo 10 command module, a V2 rocket, a 1958 Ampex video recorder, the 1919 Vickers Vimy that flew to Australia, Babbage’s actual brain, cuddly toy…

I wasn’t taken by the for-the-kidz newer interactive stuff, not being one of the kidz. I can tell you, however, that no kidz are interested in tedious Flash-like educational games even if they are projected onto a circular table. Two entire floors in one wing were closed without signage to that effect until you reached the entrance, which was pretty poor. Shame, I wanted to see someone’s laughable attempts at predicting the future.

The shop (sorry, “store”) was packed with oversugared children. We avoided buying anything; a low-tech mug was tempting but undersized, and I really don’t need a USB-powered plasma ball. I tutted disapprovingly at a “stationary set”; yes, as Mike pointed out, it wasn’t actually moving. But anyway.

Finally we took a packed tube to King’s Cross and the world’s longest WH Smith queue before boarding our respective trains home, feet complaining all the way.

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