Aagh, so I broke the rule. But when I went to PExpress in Russell Square I’d forgotten that I’d booked tickets to see a friend’s band (Evening Standards) at the Pheasantry. After all, one mustn’t let down a friend eh?
And the Pheasantry is a distinct enough venue to differentiate it from your average high street pizza venue. One time home to a ballet school run by Princess Serafina Astifieva (who trained both Alicia Markova and Margot Fonteyn there) it’s more renowned, among music buffs at least, as the place where Eric Clapton jumped out a back window to avoid being busted for drugs.
But that was in the 60s when Chelsea was still a locus for the counter-culture. Pockets of crazy old loons do still exist. I once shared an afternoon drink with a man in a back street pub who claimed to be a Marquis of somewhere whose dog’s name started Count Otto von Bismarck and finished several titles later. He was ejected from the premises after he poured a full bottle of whisky into an antique crystal decanter and got my fifteen year old son to ask the barman for glasses for drinking said whisky while I was in the loo.
But I digress.
Well, the basement of this PE (I’ve never dined here above ground) is on the cramped side – naturally so since they want to sell as many tickets as possible. We arrived early and got a table right by the stage. Not especially hungry we opted to share a starter of calamari, a side salad and a Hawaiian pizza (which PE have been pushing as a major new thing). Also, booze of the white wine variety.
Calamari was good, piping hot and with a tangy garlicky dip. Salad, well it’s salad so not difficult to get wrong but like all chains of this nature it seemed awfully wince to pay four plus quid for a bunch of leaves and a vinaigrette. And then the main event – pizza. Given that their latest publicity puts the pineapple front and centre there wasn’t enough of it in evidence for my liking. As for the chilli it didn’t make it to the plate at all. Which is a shame.
Any disappointment at the pizza was soon forgotten though as Evening Standards went through a charming repertoire of American songs of the twentieth century. The service was very good with staff very unobtrusively taking orders as the show began and delivering bills rapidly once it was over.
To have talented friends is a blessing.
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Blue Badge guide to London and academic specialising in early twentieth century history. Blogging on history, academia, and food and culture in the capital (and occasionally elsewhere).