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Wheels on the bike go round and round 8: English Grille
by Mike Jennett
2009-05-25 09:24:04
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Obviously, my mind is not what it was, for I must have forgotten pertinent facts about the décor of drinking establishments in my homeland. Lyon’s English Grille, however, reminded me of all of them.

Stained glass windows lined the hallway, polished suits of armour stood in corners, portraits of the royal family and Winston Churchill adorned every wall and Toby jugs sat behind the bar. The sight of so many familiar items almost brought a lump to my throat but, to see them all in one place felt unreal.

You’re also unlikely to find a singing pianist in an English restaurant, belting out Broadway musical favorites to a backing tape and occasionally accompanied by a weight-challenged female vocalist.

The best you might do for musical entertainment might be Radio Two from a trannie behind the counter of a local greasy café, or a pub rock band on a Saturday night.

American restaurants leave English service in the dust, always, although the English Grille strives to confuse. Perhaps it’s all in the name of authenticity.

Imagine the following scenario…

With the help of reading glasses and a borrowed magnifying glass, you finally make a choice from the ornate Gothic script and tell the bartender what you’d like. Thinking that you have ordered a meal and drinks, you sit back and wait.

Your drink will arrive.

Food orders have to be made to a waitress.  All the bartender has done is to call one. Your meal has not been ordered. It would be useful if this was communicated, but…

Unaware of the situation, you will wait for perhaps a half an hour and at least another drink before inquiring, from the bartender, where your food is. She will go in search of the waitress, who will shake her head, and that’s when the whole tale of confused disorder will come to light.

Should the kitchen still be open, this is the time for them to apologize, for you to have a good laugh and get a drink on the house to put things right. Or drive to McDonald’s for a Big Mac and a DWI on the way back.

Never have I seen so many walking sticks outside of a shop, nor so many grey and white-haired folks folded into armchairs. It was easy to believe, as several chunky glasses of Cabernet Sauvignon narrowed my consciousness, that I had stumbled into the dining room of the local old people’s home.

Are You Being Served came to mind often as the servers referred to the owner as old Mr. Lyons and the manager as young Mr. Lyons. I kept looking around worrying that either a blue-rinsed Molly Sugden would appear or perhaps a mincing waiter might approach and exclaim gleefully, “I’m free.”

I have often wondered what goes through the minds of old people when they exhibit signs of starting to leave this planet, but that’s probably like wondering what a baby is thinking at the age of one.

Twice, a gentleman sitting alone in the corner would meander across the red carpet with his stick, in a direction that might have been towards the toilets. He’d get half way then appear to forget his mission and stray tangentially to end up next to me, like a moth drawn to the light. Confused, he’d shuffle his feet, bump against the bar and tap my stool as if he really didn’t expect either to be there.

“Old Mr. Robbins is loose again,” I heard the crumpled bartender whisper to the manager the first time he did it, waving furiously across the room until a cute young thing of around sixty came to guide him back.

Despite customer-catching duties and confused service, food was fast and over-filling. Isn’t that the most important thing when you’re preparing for a six thousand mile bike ride?

A most interesting place. I went there three times.

Read more at: www.mikeonwheels.com OR www.wheelsonthebikegoroundandround.blogspot.com   

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