The Social Life – War Horse & Heddon Street Kitchen

The Social Life – “War Horse On Stage & Heddon Street Kitchen”

I have to be honest and say that if you’d told me I’d be sitting in a theatre, laughing, cheering and applauding three blokes running around controlling an eight foot high puppet horse, I would have told you that you were having a giraffe. I mean how ridiculous would it look ?

Let me tell you now, and you lot really need to listen and take heed. Go and see the theatre production of ” War Horse “. Or buy someone you love a ticket for Carrimbo and then buy yourself a ticket and use it as an excuse to go with them.

“Well you can’t go on your own!”… See where I’m coming from. It’s currently showing at the New London Theatre in Covent Garden.

I was a little apprehensive. I mean it’s one of those “lovely” films. Not necessarily a laugh-a-minute story, but most definitely a feel good film. Or at least I thought it was. Would they ruin it? For those of you that haven’t seen the film OR play. Here is a very quick run -down ( and I do mean quick )…please note if you haven’t seen WarHorse the next 4/5 lines do tell the story on an extremely basic level. So ( like on the old 10 o’clock news ), if you don’t want to know what happens, look away NOW!

this is very much a SPOILER ALERT:

Boy gets horse
Boy trains horse
Horse goes to war
Boy goes to war
They both meet up years later in a bar to discuss old times and to compare scars.

I’m joking. Horses can’t talk. Or can they?

I had booked a Saturday matinee show months before. It was our unofficial anniversary having been together 24 happy years , ( all together now Aaahh ). Believe it or not In those 24 years together we have not had a single argument. Well, I didn’t like to interrupt her once she starts talking.

We had pretty good seats. 10 rows back, to the side at the end. You could clearly see everything that was going on though, so no complaints there. A friend had suggested tissues were required but I’ve no idea why. I didn’t even have a cold, although that little line has come back to bite me on the ‘arris.

Everyone was settled as a young lady walked out on stage. She was smiling. The audience hushed, the lights went down and we were off. I don’t mean we all left. It was showtime!.. There is a very clever use of props in quite a sparsely clad stage. I did think to myself after 2 minutes ” what the bloody hell have I done? ” as 3 young members of the cast started running around the stage with a horse puppet straight out of the Bill and Ben era. The equivalent to having Legs made out of pool queues. Each member played their own role. One controlled the head. One the front legs and one the hind legs. As much as it was clever I wasn’t looking forward to another 90 minutes of it.

Twenty minutes in though and my general demeanour had completely changed. I was transfixed. What these people do without giving everything away is just immense. To quote my better looking and more intelligent other half….

“They give the horses soul”.. And by that she doesn’t imply they stick a Walkman on the horses head and play him James Brown to calm him down. It is difficult to explain just how clever it is. It’s like no show I’ve seen before. It’s so far off the beaten track that it’s in another country. Everything these people do, from the goose on a stick to the birds in the sky ( on a stick ), it’s so real. Animation taken to another level. Of course you have to embrace it a little but it’s made easy by such a clever use of noise, movement and of course not forgetting the acting itself. Jack Loxton is outstanding playing the part of Albert Narracott. I didn’t remember it being based in the West Country but apparently it was.

It’s a little unfair of me to single out individuals as each member plays a significant part in what is a fantastic theatre production. There are laughs a plenty. The odd squeamish moment although children over 12 I think would be fine and a few sad parts, hankies at the ready! The star of the show however is undoubtedly the horses, or at least the people that control them. The strength and guile these guys and girls have is an amazing attribute to behold. I fail to see how anyone would not enjoy watching this.

It’s when they brought the real horses out I was shocked!
( I’m joking )

Seeing the show the weekend after Armistice Day made it maybe slightly more prominent.

We left Drury Lane feeling we’d both seen a real gem of a show. It was a relatively pleasant evening and we strolled ( at first ) cheerfully in what we thought was the correct direction towards our selected food destination, stopping off at a couple of boutiques ( shops, I mean shops ), along the way. Upon leaving the last shop, very much like our last time out, we got a bit muddled up. Lost is maybe too strong but confused would be fair. In searching out particular shops we had lost our sense of direction ( again ). More hurriedly now, our pins took us along through Leicester Square, along Coventry Street and onto a chaotic Picadilly Circus leading to Regent Street. I love Londom, ( remove that M on the end, stick an N there please.. ), Sometimes however the number of people walking past, or straight through you is moronic.

We fought our way up Towards Heddon Street where we were eating. Checking my watch I realised we were now 5 minutes into our reservation time. Fashionably late as always. It may have taken a little longer than planned, mainly because I was busy watching an oriental gentleman kicking 10 shades out of the back of a London bus. I’ve no idea why the chap in question felt it necessary to take this action but it was highly amusing!

Anniversaries for Geraldine and I normally means dinner ( or lunch ) at a Gordon Ramsay eatery. Any excuse, funds permitting to eat somewhere nice. Heddon Street Kitchen is the latest of Rammo’s restaurants. Opening the week before, not without controversy, HSK is tucked away in the corner of Regent Street’s food quarter. Apparently fully booked for its opening night over 100 bookings failed to show, leading to Mr. Ramsay suggesting that ( allegedly ) a rival had sabotaged the big night by making phoney reservations. This had left staff deflated and frustrated, if you believe the newspapers and Mr. Ramsays version of events on Jonathan Ross.

Well the following Saturday I have to say there were no doom and gloom merchants on service as far as I could see. Greeted at the door by a lovely young lady at the reception we were immediately shown to our table. It wasn’t full to the rafters but I thought it reasonably busy. It was only 18:30 and judging by the number of people still out shopping, there was plenty of scope for more custom to come through the doors. I do question the positioning of the restaurant itself. Positioned opposite Strawberry Moons at the end as it is I would guess passing customers may choose to dine elsewhere not even realising HSK is there. Just my opinion.

Seated, we ordered cocktails, if you’ve read previous blogs you’ll know it’s now tradition. Jellybean chose the “Lady Regent”, which featured Gin, Ruinquinquin Peach ( I haven’t a scooby ), Elderflower, Lemon and Mint. She was suitably impressed. I had the “Grey Goose Le Fizz” which was very nice. It’s not the best drink to ever pass these hallowed lips but it was refreshing and hit enough high notes for me to be happy enough. Starters were taken, Beef Brisket for the boss and Tamarind Chicken wings for moi.

The food arrived along with a nice bottle of English Bacchus Reserve from Chapel Down based in Kent. Maybe it’s me getting patriotic as I get older but I do find myself searching for English wine, before I bite the bullet and order a New Zealand White these days. In truth the Bacchus is a fantastic glass ( or 3 ) of wine. So easy to drink. I remember thinking Hock was quite sophisticated. Geraldine and I would leave our tip at the beefeater and head straight to the off licence for Germany’s finest. Much better than that Piesporter rubbish we would argue as we bought our 2 litre bottle.

As I said the starters arrived and for a kitchen still finding it’s feet, my wings were a comfortable winner. Granted a tad messy, though that could have been down to the pup eating them as opposed to the supplier. Napkins were in abundance just in case of any accidents. Fortunately I kept my food mostly in or around my trap. Her indoors thoroughly enjoyed the Brisket. Presentation was excellent as was the taste and texture. Her only point of complaint, a touch more piccalilli wouldn’t have gone amiss. Head Chef Maria Tampakis had certainly mastered the art of a chicken wing. I’ve had a similar dish at Bread Street, under Chef Tampakis. I can promise you they aren’t like your average Pizza Hut side dish ( thank god ).

Our plates were removed and within a minute or so the main course was in front of us. This is great if you are in a hurry. If you aren’t as we most definitely wasn’t, it felt like we were being rushed. Understandable if the restaurant was heaving, but it had more than enough empty tables to warrant us a bigger space between courses. The starters were not small either, making the almost instant arrival of the mains a bit uncomfortable. I can only put this down to a new restaurant learning curve. Benefit of the doubt.

My dish was the Meat and Potato Pie. Just my non chefy observation but I think serving it on a skillet isn’t ideal. It feels like your main and side are two completely separate dishes. You are offered a third plate to devise your own main plate but I’m not sure it works. I can’t argue with a top chef over how food should look or be served but as a customer it could be re-thought. As for the taste, it was a cross between nice and lovely. Better than homely, but not ball out of the park stuff. Fractionally bland I found it. Definite improvements could be made on that one. Maybe I’m just spoilt and expect too much.

Mrs. R had chosen the Pork Belly dish. When ordering she had decided on a side dish of mash. It’s the Irish in her. Loves a spud. She chose me after all ( joke ). The chap serving us explained that the plate came served on a sweet potty toe mash. The look on her face when it arrived was very much one of disappointment. It was very much a purée ( or as the good lady put it, a posh spoon drag) as opposed to a mash. Along with some Brussels/Lardons and Carrots, Geraldine’s meal comprised of two huge ( emphasis on the huge ) slices of Pork and a bit of veg. Bit of a let down.

The Pork was like two house bricks. In fairness it was lovely but it was literally ( lots of ) meat and two veg. The crackling on top however was out of this world. As there was too much for one I offered my services and while cackling took crackling. It was divine. My favourite crackling of the year! I should also mention that the vegetables were delicious. I mean they were cooked and flavoured to perfection. You’d think that’s a given at this level but not necessarily.

Between our mains and dessert to give ourselves a breather of sorts we had a chat with one of the managers on the floor. A true gent. He probably spent the best part of 10-15 minutes with us. We just generally discussed his own career, the trials of restaurant management, how we booked, why we were there, our thoughts on the evening , both good and bad etc etc..

He also gave us a sample of Branca Menta. What an after dinner sup this baby is. An Italian version of Creme De Menthe. If what I have read is true then it was first produced in the 1960’s. Inspired by the opera singer Maria Callas. Before each performance the star would supposedly drink a glass of Fernet Branca with a touch of mint syrup. This eventually led to the production of Branca Menta. Less alcohol, more mint, more sugar.

When our desserts did arrive, along with a small “happy anniversary” plate, we were not disappointed. GR had the Bread n Butter Pudding with cinnamon. It was incredible. Both wifey and I tasted it. Her opinion was that the base was pain au chocolat. Anyone help us out on this? Either way it was the best of the three courses. I went for the Vanilla Cheesecake. Fully agree with wifey on this. The desserts were stand outs of the evening. The mulled berry compote added an extra dimension. I could have eaten it twice over ( if I had the room ). The special plate was like a brownie. Extremely rich. Luxurious chocolate. Lovely with my Irish coffee.

Sadly like everything, all good things must come to an end. Finishing the smoothest of Irish coffees we paid the bill. ( £156 ). That’s probably the cheapest I’ve ever paid at a Rammo restaurant. A win double. I like his new “kitchens”. Long may it continue. Overall, a cracking evening. Great company ( as always ), and very enjoyable food. Minor issues need ironing out but otherwise a winner.

Atmosphere : 8/10

Service : 7.5/10 ( hurried but early doors, top Manager though )

Food: 7.9/10 ( no idea how I came to a .9 but 7.5 wasn’t enough, and 8 was just too much. It had only been open for a week so maybe I’m being harsh but I have to mark it how I see it or what’s the point )

Hope you’ve enjoyed reading it. If anyone has!..
Next time up Merchants Tavern.