Days of wine and posers..

I’m feeling enervated. I know that I’m enervated because I remember the day, and nearly the hour, when the meaning of this word was made clear to me. Once upon a time there was a celebrated watering hole in Covent Garden called the Zanzibar, a 70’s deco dream designed by Tchaik Chassay, at whose feet, not Tchaik’s feet but the Zanzibar’s, can be laid the collapse of many a career, business and marriage. I have apportioned the blame thus as it is far easier to lay it at the feet of an inanimate object rather than inculpate those feet of clay that were the true cause of these mishaps. The Zanzibar was a drinking club of near Antipodean extremes. The bar stools were very tall chrome constructions which led to  the management working on the principal of “three strikes and you’re out”. Falling from one of these bar stools was not uncommon as the Martinis served were of Dean Martin strength and proportions. I remember sitting with another clayfoot who had taken a couple of falls and was sporting a blood stained handkerchief around the head to staunch the flow of blood after striking the foot rail on the way down. The clayfoot was now hanging on to the hand rail for dear life knowing full well that another tumble would entail the “third strike” enforcement of being bundled into a taxi home, or somewhere. Work was accomplished at a different rate in those heady days which meant that lunch time, to all intents and purposes, signified the end of the working day. It was essential to arrive early at the lunchtime session in order to claim a barstool that would keep one close to the action. Cray fish racing on the smooth, curvaceous, mirror studded black bar was a Woosterish event that I remember clearly at this early session, although the word “clearly” may well be an oxymoron when paired with the Zanzibar. As food was definitely of secondary importance in this drinking establishment, although the cook at the time was none other than the now iconic chef, Alistair Little, in embryonic form, maybe the crayfish were not racing but in fact sedately making their way to the kitchen under their own steam as no one seemed to be taking any interest in them as a possible foodstuff. It may well have been a safe haven for crayfish as I rarely heard anyone ordering food or, if someone did, the food often remained uneaten meaning that a live crayfish would be absolutely safe, under its glossy coating of mayonnaise, as long as it remained motionless and managed, chameleon like, to look pink. It was a morning such as this that found me climbing onto my upholstered chrome drinking stool and bidding “Good day” to a fellow clayfoot, Angus Forbes, a very clever Australian photographer and film maker. Angus had gone to Geelong Grammar so he nearly spoke English. He loved words, nearly as much as he loved Seagrams Bourbon for whom he was a test pilot, and enjoyed quizzing me on the meaning of random words as he got great pleasure from my infallibly incorrect answers. Thus we return to “enervating”, which I immediately defined as meaning exciting and elevating when, as we all now know, it means the direct opposite of those qualities. That was the icing on Angus’ morning and he laid another fiver to win on the crayfish who was washing his claws, pre race, in a red wine vinegar and shallot mixture which had been recommended to him by an oyster chum.

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About Food,Photography & France

Photographer and film maker living in France. After a long career in London, my wife and I have settled in the Vendee, where we run residential digital photography courses with a strong gastronomic flavour.
This entry was posted in 70's, Alistair Little, Crayfish, Digital photography, Food and Photography, Food photographer, oysters, photography course, Photography holiday, Uncategorized, Writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to Days of wine and posers..

  1. Mad Dog says:

    I remember it well, but never realised that Alistair Little had worked there. I think I might still have one of their ashtrays…
    Lovely prawn and crayfish picture 😉

  2. ChgoJohn says:

    Now, that sounds like it would have been a great place to frequent. With the right chin protection, I might have even become a regular.

  3. A wonderful laugh to start the day…
    Sounds like Hubby’s stories of the same era. Different city (Boston), different filmmaker, same activities…including the bloody bandage.

  4. Owl says:

    Happy memories. I remember trying to keep you on one of those stools one evening. It was a losing battle.

  5. Now this makes me want to have a watering hole story myself. Though, I fear my liver would not fare too well in my quest. I like the crayfish dipping his claw into the sauce there.

  6. The Zanzibar sounds perfect, Roger. And you are the first person ever to put into words for me the contradiction innate in the word ‘enervating’!

  7. ceciliag says:

    Fantastic, and having worked in the film industry a little in London I FULLY understand when you wrote that lunchtime was pretty much the end of the working day. Alas I was the PA not the Director, so I kept working and an eye out for the Director to come wobbling back to work (soho) at 5pm, straight from ‘lunch’, to pick up his satchel and check in on the days editing! He did most of his checking from the couch resting up for dinner at 8.30pm! “Did you remember my clean shirt he would call from the next room” Life as a PA to that fellow was endlessly diverse! c

    • I have been self employed all my life, except for a short stint as a producer’s PA at Young & Rubicam in London. My problem was that I drank more than the producer, didn’t pay attention and got fired within 3 months!Thanks for looking at all my old posts and for all your comments which I read and enjoy.

  8. I love that photograph! I’d like to eat that.

  9. Ah..I remember lunches like that! Well, sort of, some of them were a bit fuzzy 😉 Love the shot too, we ate fruits de mer last week in the UK and it was fabulous.

  10. Pingback: Slow Roasted Pork Belly with a Chinese Style Sauce « Chica Andaluza

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