I think Rowley’s is the perfect restaurant; but I am really a gay man. Rowley’s is at 113 Jermyn Street (the Tesco end). It was made in homage to the Wall’s sausage and ice-cream fortune, although it opened in 1976, after the Wall’s sausage and ice-cream company (I call it that because it sounds magical) was sold to Unilever (less magical). So it is quite a late homage. The Wall’s sausage and ice-cream fortune, how I love to type the words; did you know that Mr Wall moved into ice-cream so as not to sack staff in the summer months, when no one — except me and George IV — wants to eat sausages? That is worth remembrance.
It looks like a fairytale Edwardian shop; a Downton Abbey shop you would probably call it now, since Downton Abbey has taken over from the Almanach de Gotha as the repository of knowledge of all things posh and, in this moronic age, this is an excellent thing. (Underlying message of Downton Abbey: wealth exists for the benefit of the little people in the basement plus dogs. I once discussed this with Lord Carnarvon, who had the vacant eyes of the near-sighted or the truly stupid. You only see that look in belted earls and labradors.) It has huge windows, curly golden signage, and a plaque to Mr Wall, which was unveiled by the Marquis of Carisbrooke — a grandson of Queen Victoria — as thanks for all the sausages Mr Wall shovelled into the mouths of Lord Carnarvon’s ancestors and his friends. (Could this be a CBeebies series?)
Here, you see, was the first Wall’s butcher’s shop, the HQ of enemies of pigs everywhere, and, in a more complex way, of George IV, who also bought his sausages here, although I am not sure that he did so in person. I hope he did. I hope he bumped into George Bryan (Bryan?) ‘Beau’ Brummell buying socks further down Jermyn Street, and waved a bag of sausages at him, after which (George) Bryan ‘Beau’ Brummell was sick in his mouth and invented something stupid such as a cummerbund or leisurewear.
Inside there is a sort of golden gloom, made by tiles and polished mirrors, with a blood-red wall at the back for symbolism; yes it is another retro London restaurant, the culinary equivalent of being a depressed High Tory, but still hungry, because it’s not over yet. (The bookies say the Tories will win the election, and since I was wrong about Costa Rica winning the World Cup and the bookies were right, perhaps this is also true?) And so of course I like it. It’s Rules, but naked.
This is, of course, a steak restaurant; steak in all ways, as long as it comes from the Lake District; the wine is from Berry Brothers. Some people say that cows are killing the planet by themselves, because they fart out methane and are multiplying. If so, in my more despairing moments — such as when I consider recycling a Nespresso capsule, and exhale fear because we are too late, too late — I think: good for them. Good for the cows. It’s time they landed a punch.
The atmosphere is hushed and very masculine. Customers — local businessmen for whom Wilton’s is too pistachio and Fortnum’s too gaudy — are concentrating on their food, which is simple, excellent and expensive. I order lamb cutlets, delicate, delicious; C. has the steak, with unlimited chips for £4 and Rowley’s special sauce, which is simply butter and herbs; but everyone needs a brand to live for.
It is Did Mummy Love Me Really? food — that is, posh boarding-school food to soothe and remake your memories. I suck it down and ruminate, because Rowley’s is, at lunchtime, full — no, I do not think she did.
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Rowley’s, 113 Jermyn Street, London SW1Y 6HJ, tel: 020 7930 2707.
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