Wednesday, November 30, 2011

My Universities: Restauranteur

You can tell a lot about a person by the way they react when they pass a deconsecrated church.

The demise of Soviet Communism means that 150 million previously cheerful Slavs now wave their hands around their torsos as if swatting away a lustful giant bumblebee whenever they survey some of Stalin's finest handiwork.

British town planners used to think "bank!", but now that we all know what happens in such establishments they prefer to mumble "er, supermarket or mosque - is there a way to combine the two?"

The average Welshman thinks "the wages of Episcopalianism is being turned into an XXX porn cinema, though but".

Maximum Bob Friog and I were making steady if bow-legged progress past the Methodist Church on York Road, Reading, after another lesson on why The Moderation was the least appropriate name for the given pub. I noticed the church had recently been closed down, and admired the way its Gothic twin steeples parted the red clouds.

Bob looked it up and down, took one of the cigs out of his mouth, threw his head back and bellowed "MEAT!!!"

We proceeded to The Hobgoblin, where Bob elaborated on his new kind of cuisine.

Prospective diners arrive at MEAT! - a deconsecrated church in the Caversham borders - guided by the Frankenstein sparks that leap from one tower to the other thanks to the Van Der Graaff generator that long replaced the bell.

The bone-studded doors of solid Boerewors swing open to unleash a mounting barrage of timpani rolls that turn out to be a fusillade of evangelists catapulting into the giant tureens of nutty slack that dangle across the dining hall.

You are welcomed by Bob's then girlfriend, a comely Persian with a degree from Shiraz University in Advanced Mindfucking (egregia cum laude). If your clothes please her, she passes you on to a friendly Hells Angel who rides you to your assigned place at the sole, endless table. No, not a Harley. He rides you.

Any remark about anything at all, and she sorts you. Your young lady is propelled into one of the many kickboxing-movie-surplus dancing-girl cages to win back her freedom through tearful hip-gyrations, while Sir joins the vagrants, lepers and endangered species down in the larder.

MEAT! dispenses with the outmoded restaurant system of menu, crockery and service, opting instead for a guided dining experience.

Your place at the table comes complete with hollowed out tree-trunk stool - there are no toilets - meat trough and booze dimple. Every ten minutes or so the pig-iron doors to the kitchen fly open to reveal Gran Maître Bob Friog, naked apart from a bloodsoaked leather apron, framed in flames.

His trademark cry of "MEAT!!!", fedback through the over-amplified speaker stacks under the table, releases a phalanx of bikers with hunks of half-cooked beast impaled on their Pickelhauben. You get what you're given and are vocally grateful, in unison.

The meat is real meat. Fish and chicken are classed as vegetables and dropped live through grills to the Vegetarian section in the Crypt. Salad is provided throughout, for use as ashtrays. Smoking is not compulsory, and the righthand side of the table is reserved for lungcoddler weaklings.

In order to keep MEAT! the right side of at least one law, tobacco is banned.

MEAT! is ecologically aware, so drink is served by the bottle it comes in. Brown Booze = ale, Red Booze = wine, Yellow Booze = scotch. All booze is selected by your designated Hells Angel, Filthy Al, in line with the meat you got and whatever he hasn't already necked or poured down your date's cleavage.

Vodka, lager and all other mixers are banned, except in the Snakebite Express takeaway outlet in the Vestry.

MEAT! works with the local community, and encourages the pupils of the nearby primary school to befriend the animals on its Great Beast City Farm at all stages of their furry odyssey from pallet to plate. This culminates in the Imbolg Wolf Cub Challenge, at which lucky children compete to see who can eat their way out of a boar revolving on a spit before the flames take.

Dessert is more meat, served with a pineapple on top. And leave your wallet at home because you won't be presented with any bill. Instead Al and his mates will ransack your house and sell what they need to cover your meal. For a perfect end to a perfect evening, they may still be there when you get back.

I was impressed by this vision, and set to designing an advertising campaign. Readers will recall my previous attempt at promoting Start, the world's least appetising breakfast cereal, through guerrilla TV shots of Dennis Skinner MP yelling "Eat Start, it's Shit!", not to mention my promotion of Matthew Ward's Robo-TEFL Teacher screenplay.

I decided that MEAT! required something a little more sophisticated, and came up with the three following ads:

1. A man is driving through a grey London late afternoon. The wife at his side is droning on about some new restaurant with "to-die-for" goat's cheese crêpes. He stops at the lights, and a squeegee-merchant starts soaping his windscreen.

From the driver's point of view we watch the sponge circle hypnotically, as the wife's adenoidal litany of lettuce recipes fades away into steady crescendi of pounding timpani. Almost imperceptibly, the sponge turns into a raw, red steak, smearing blood all over the windscreen, and the woolly-hatted merchant morphs into a gurning Bob Friog, naked apart from his sanguinary leather apron.

The driver turns to his wife and screams "MEAT!!!"

Cut to a black screen, with the simple caption "Bob Says Eat My Meat".

2. A wife sits in her underwear at the dressing table of a well-appointed bedroom. She puts on her make-up and jewellery as her husband chats from the en-suite bathroom about the restaurant they are about to visit - steamed fish and sustainable samphire a speciality.

His prattling fades out in the mounting march of drums, the bedroom door bursts open and in stalks Bob in trademark déshabille and clotted apron. The wife turns, mouth open. Bob draws a raw steak from his crotch and rubs it bloody in her face before flinging it against the cream silk wall. He leaves.

The husband's voice fades back, asking "So what's it to be, darling, tipila linguine?" He wanders into the bedroom and drops his towel as his wife shrieks "MEAT!!!" through bloody teeth.

Cut to black screen etc.

3. Whitechapel, the autumn of 1888, and Old Jack is at his exercise. A petticoated figure is slumped in a grimy midnight doorway. Over her hunches a top-hatted figure in black, a Gladstone bag by his side. A blade flashes in the guttering gaslight. Two policemen advance slowly on the scene of slaughter. We hear only their panicked breathing - "at last! at last!"

A uniformed arms reaches over and grabs the killer by the shoulder, spinning him round. In a crash close-up we catch only the bloodshot eyes, the stubbled, sweaty cheeks, the rotten teeth twisted into a grimace.

The policeman releases his grip. "Oh, sorry, Bob," he mutters. The two officers salute, and move on down the cobbled alley.

The camera pans up to a killing moon as the Victorian London skyline is torn by a cry of "MEAT!!!!", slowly subsiding into a bestial snarl. And fade to red.


The York Road church is now sheltered housing for the bank managers who heard our initial business pitch, but Boyo-Friog Associates are still in talks with some East European investors and actively seeking unhallowed ground.


Rod Warner said...

Wow! You're more whacked than I am at the moment. Congratulations...
Oddly enough, I feel that I entered a branch of 'Meat!' one lost night in Mansfield, or was it Wolverhampton? Or Budapest a couple of years ago, on a strange foray... Some years back, I was having a ridiculously drunken meal with a dear friend of mine who now lives in Berlin, having retreated from the Ukraine at some point but luckily acquiring a wife who steadies him very well (he is allowed out now on license), and we were speculating about various franchises. The obvious boring ones being Oirish which were opening all over the place and we found lacking but interesting for onging spoofery. (I lived in the place, North and South in surreal times). He, who had travelled much in Eastern Europe (due to having a strong communist father) suggested a Bosnian theme pub, with all that might entail at the time, as a corrective. 'Meat!' seems to be the metanarrative we were groping for...

Yours in meat and flippancy...

Rod Warner said...

Onging should, of course read ongoing, but is an interesting looking coining. The reverse of wingeing, perhaps.

No Good Boyo said...

Sioba Siencyn and Iago Anffawd, two other chums, came up with an idea for a chain of Welsh theme pubs called "Evans". The upstairs room - serving cockles and teacakes - would be called "Evans Above".

Gareth Williams said...

I hear there's now a branch in Spitalfields. BTW I'm glad you stopped at the Jack the Ripper reference - things were beginning to get a bit wild.

No Good Boyo said...

Uncanny, Gsreth - a colleague was just telling me about it: four floors of escalating meat, I gather.

As for "Bob the Ripper" being a bit strong, it's as well I didn't punt you my ad for MEAT! based on Carrie...

Jon said...

As ideas go, it's got legs. It has been many moons since I dined in a restaurant in the UK, but I seem to recall it being a fairly vanilla flavoured experience. The only frisson of excitement came when the comely if dim waitress asked me if I wanted to "large" my meal for a mere 50p more. I declined, but often wonder what might have been had I not been so timid.

Gareth Williams said...

"As ideas go, it's got legs...' And shoulders, hooves, entrails, ears, snouts, etc.

No Good Boyo said...

Jon, Gareth, you remind me of one of the benefits of having small children - no longer getting to eat out in Britain. Instead I am sustained by Madame Boyo's borsht.

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