Thursday, May 10

Red and Blues, (Part 1)

Being a boring, stay-at-home sort of guy, the Phantom always finds going out in the evening slightly problematic. Most public entertainments, be they on the stage or the cinema screen, tend to start around eight in the evening and finish a couple of hours later. The quandary is always the same – when do we eat, and where?

At home we naturally gravitate to eating at seven-thirty or eight. This is, of course, the time when most shows start. Factoring in travelling time means that eating at home before the show is rarely a realistic option when you are heading out for your entertainment.

I find it difficult to enjoy a meal out if I am more than a few minutes away from my ultimate destination. Seeing a show in the West End therefore tends to mean dining in Chinatown beforehand. A gig at the Hammersmith Apollo will probably mean a cheap and cheerful burger and chips at the local Wetherspoon pub.

Tuesday presented new challenges. We were headed for the Royal Albert Hall. The area around South Kensington is very much Terra Incognita for my wife and I. Our forays into Hooray Henry land tend to be limited to visits to the Victoria and Albert Museum or Chelsea Flower Show. I find the wide, embassy-ridden streets somewhat intimidating. You can walk for miles without seeing anything but grand houses and 4x4’s, people in pearl twinsets, au pairs, and poodles. Corner shops are rare, there are few pubs, and absolutely no kebab shops. Bereft of the familiar sights and smells, a north London lad can feel quite unsettled.

I had done some research the day before. I used the Time Out restaurant guide to give me a rough idea of what was on offer, then checked out reviews of a shortlist of places from there.

The winner, and our culinary oasis for the night was Moroccan restaurant Pasha.

The restaurant was enchanting, glowing with rich ochre and dark carved wood, burnished brass and copper, twinkling lamps, the floors and tables strewn with fresh rose petals.

The food was finely flavoured, scented with cumin, coriander and saffron. From the starters of smoky aubergine puree and home pickled-vegetables right through to the dessert of fresh fruits and pastries, nuts and sweetmeats the food was full of flavour and generous in quantity.

We had allowed ourselves a couple of hours from arriving at the restaurant to taking our seats at the concert. Another half an hour would have been good, to nibble on Turkish delight and drink some more hot, sweet mint tea, (poured in Moroccan Style from over the waiter’s head, like a spin bowler delivering a googly).

Five minutes walk away lay our main destination for the night. The Royal Hat Box, where Joan Armatrading was to perform. Of that, more later…

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