Low farce and high camp

CALIGULA: 21-22 Westmorland Place, Bromley BR1 1DS. Tel: 0181- 466 0738. Open daily from midday to 11pm. Three-course set menu, pounds 14.50. All major credit cards accepted

THERE IS something alarmingly Eurorespectable about Bromley, Kent, whose Churchill Theatre is the launch pad for our tour of Make Way for Lucia. This, reluctant as I am to plug my other life as a professional actor, is a comedy based on the Mapp and Lucia novels of E F Benson, in which I am playing Georgie, the closet heterosexual. Whole shop windows here are devoted to displays of reclining china pigs, china teddy-bears and puppies, and strolling through the Glades shopping mall you could be in Frankfurt.

The ladies have their hair done to buy their vegetables, and apart from Yum-Yum - an agreeable, old-fashioned greasy spoon in a corner of the red-brick palace that houses Bromley North railway station - and one noisy wine-bar called Henry's (specialising in blandish snacks), the restaurants seem largely to be extensions of the department stores.

Certainly the mood in Allder's self-service restaurant, above the H G Wells Coffee Lounge, is distinctly finger in the air, though reality did break in when one of the electronic check-out tills broke and a girl leaned across the exposed machinery to call to a colleague: "Doreen, have you got a pair of tweezers in your make-up bag?"

Caligula, therefore, comes as a bit of a relief. Just opposite the more functional Bromley South railway station it could be mistaken, from the outside, for a junk-shop. Standing in a bleak courtyard formed by high white office buildings it offers an open-air display of appalling old rubbish - a broken-down tricycle, bits of rusty piping and lengths of chain, broken weighing machines and part of an old canoe - among which there are a few battered tables and chairs apparently bought from an old church, with racks on the back for prayer books.

Under cover, pushed against windows cluttered with a surreal display of wonky lampshades and other tat, there is a row of horrible sofas - those covered in imitation zebra or tiger skin being the more restrained.

Inside, highlights from the Wonderful World of the Opera, Album Six are blaring out at near-painful volume, and there is more junk including an old brassiere hanging from the ceiling. The walls are covered with gaudy daubs and cut-outs and the cistern in the gents is sprayed with gold paint. My musician friend who took me there, a man given to understatement, described it as being "just this side of camp".

Having glimpsed the proprietor, a burly Turkish Cypriot with an intense manner and a rather belligerent charm, I'm not sure camp comes into it. Barking insanity would probably be nearer the mark. He has already opened a slightly less extreme Egyptian tomb at the other end of Bromley called Caligulette, and has plans for something more theatrical in Drury Lane. There is something about opera played very loudly that encourages heavy drinking, and we immediately ordered two bottles of the house white - Chateau Gourdibeau 1994 at pounds 8.75 - explaining that we would be joined later by more friends. The wine list accommodates all tastes and includes Chateau Margaux 1985 at pounds 65 a bottle.

What with the music and the atmosphere of near hysteria - one table in the corner as we arrived was occupied by a group of girls alternately exchanging whispered confidences and then shrieking with laughter - there is no great urgency on the part of the staff to take your order. You are brought a bowl of roughlychopped vegetables - peppers, cauliflower and carrots - a few slices of warm pitta bread and a bowl of what tastes like bulk-order fruit chutney, and left to shout above the music.

Some of the waitresses did not appear to speak English, grinning broadly if summoned and bringing more chopped peppers and bread and chutney. We eventually caught the eye of a waiter who came over and sat down at the table to take our order, a habit full of Eastern Mediterranean chumminess.

To start with I had the soup of the day, which was mushroom, and my musician friend had hummus, cacik (yoghurt and cucumber), and taramasalata. The menu is a long one, and other starters include oysters, baked avocado with crab, smoked salmon and grilled sardines. The food is definitely not bland.

I got the general impression that everything was slightly rough but definitely ready, although my soup was surprisingly good and unthickened and contained slices of fresh mushroom. My musician friend said the Turkish starters were fine.

For our main course I had duck with orange, and he had a "combination of moussaka and lasagne". Again, the choice was wide and all the helpings massive: there were various hairy chest-and-medallion specials such as big boss seafood selection, Caligula yoghurt and garlic pasta, kofte meatballs Turki or veal Milanese with spaghetti, but also more sophisticated things such as haddock with poached egg, lobster thermidor and boeuf Wellington.

Our main courses came with dishes of fresh vegetables, again perfectly all right, and both the duck and the pasta-moussaka mix were a great deal better than anything you'd get in Allder's or the very depressing buffet at the Churchill Theatre.

The big bonus then arrived, which was a bowl of fresh fruit - oranges, grapes, apples and a pineapple - thrown in free with set meals at lunchtime but otherwise pounds 3 and enough to feed a family. This was a good thing as my friend's glamorous opera singer wife then arrived with my Bromley landlady and her academic husband. We ordered a third bottle of wine, and any serious attempt to scrutinise the food went out of the junk-littered window.

They all seemed to order satisfactory main courses, some of the waiters by this time were singing along to the arias, the girls in the corner were weeping with laughter, and we might have been in a steamy holiday resort in Cyprus rather than opposite Bromley South station. Dinner for five of us, with the wine and without a tip, came to pounds 77.25. !

Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Hell, yeah: members of the 369th Infantry arrive back in New York
booksWorld War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel
Arts and Entertainment
Beer as folk: Vincent Franklin and Cyril Nri (centre) in ‘Cucumber’
tvReview: This slice of gay life in Manchester has universal appeal
Arts and Entertainment
‘A Day at the Races’ still stands up well today
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tvAnd its producers have already announced a second season...
Arts and Entertainment
Kraftwerk performing at the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) museum in Berlin earlier this month
musicWhy a bunch of academics consider German electropoppers Kraftwerk worthy of their own symposium
Arts and Entertainment
Icelandic singer Bjork has been forced to release her album early after an online leak

Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth as Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service

Arts and Entertainment
Brian Blessed as King Lear in the Guildford Shakespeare Company's performance of the play

Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
    World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

    Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

    The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
    Why the league system no longer measures up

    League system no longer measures up

    Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
    Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

    Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

    Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
    Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

    Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

    The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
    Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

    Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

    Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
    Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

    Greece elections

    In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
    Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

    Holocaust Memorial Day

    Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
    Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

    Magnetic north

    The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness