Oh for a chop house that caters for real appetites

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THEY GAVE away my table. I booked it specially, and normally I wouldn't care, but I booked it specially. We were calling in the heavies, my writing-partner and me; the men from the Agency who would protect our interests and make us rich, so that we could have, oh, all those good things: a car, a British Airways Executive Club card, a Ulysse Nardin wristwatch, beef.

And they gave away my table. The nice one, by the window, in the little alcove. When I got there, a fat man was sitting there with his thin victim, yapping. They had their mobile phones out, and their electronic organisers. Leave them for long enough and they'd have had their willies out, too, lurking like little fat slugs among the bread and lettuce.

The fat man shouldn't have been having lunch anyway. He didn't need lunch. He didn't need to eat for a month. He needed to be eaten. It would be an easy way to run a restaurant. Give all the diners a sharp little knife. "See the fat man over there? Go and cut a slice off him. He'll never notice. Yum yum." Quite romantic in its way, if that's your taste: blood and screams and lacerations as a prelude to a stolen afternoon of hungry caresses, the bed rank, the minibar emptied, off into the monitory sunset reeking of the rut. Maybe there's something in it. Maybe we should have a word with the men from the Agency, give up this writing lark.

But it wouldn't work. You can't sit in a restaurant without your pen- fingers itching, scrabbling autonomously for paper, the tablecloth, napkins, anything to write on. Look at the woman just come in: Romeo Gigli frock, Bruno Magli shoes, a faint intoxicating nimbus of Fleurs de Bulgarie round her golden head, majestic and yet unsure, vulnerable ... and she sits down at the next table (there is a God) and takes no notice of me at all (there is not a God, how many times do I have to say it) and in due course is joined by a sweating curly-haired New Bloke with lousy teeth and a fruitily plausible manner, who immediately starts blethering about his busy life, his sked-dewl, the responsibilities weighing on his sloping shoul-ders in their vile purple stonewashed silk shirt. I want to berate him ("Here you sit with your woman - beautiful as a flower - and all you talk is business, business, business; it is not good, my friend") and ram his lunch down his throat and tamp it down with the big silly peppermill, and have his companion, just have her, there and then, on the splintery roughwood floor. Surely she would not mind?

But the representative from the Agency might mind, and refuse to sign us up, and walk out, and that would be that. No money, cheated right and left, brains picked and the pickings curried up and flogged for a fortune to Americans, and we would see nothing of it, nothing at all. Or maybe I'm wrong. Maybe the representative from the Agency wouldn't mind. Maybe he would be pleased, relieved almost. Maybe everyone would be pleased and relieved.

It would be wonderful: an end to the tentative parodic indulgence of appetites, nibbling daintily at flash tucker instead of licking of flesh, tearing of clothes, mugging of wallets, knifings in the back, all the things that we really want to do when we go into restaurants. What if it were allowed? What if instead of saying "I think I'll have the octopus and celery salad" (you'll have to rip the celery out of the damnable thing's tentacular clutches first, you ponce) "and the lady will have the raw seared tuna," you were allowed to say "I'll have first dibs, just tear the lady's clothes off, will you?" (and what would they charge you? It wouldn't be "corkage", that I do know) or "Well ... um ... what I'd like is for you to club my companion over the head and pinion his arms and extract the bulging wallet from his inside pocket and give me everything that's in there, because, God knows, it's only fair, seeing as how I did all the work and he got all the money"? Wouldn't the world be a better place? Wouldn't, at least, the restaurant be a better place? "Have you decided what you'd like, Sir?" "Yes. The brunette at table 5, lightly oiled with a honey dressing and served on a bed of basil and coriander. NOW."

So I propose to open such a place; say, an elegant Queen Anne house, somewhere in the countryside, out of earshot. Guests will be driven down by my man Pulvertaft, who will relieve them of pounds 1,000 a head in advance, after which they need have nothing further to worry about. On arrival, they will be shown to the calidarium, where they will proceed through the steam before being oiled, massaged, barbered and manicured, before being scented with myrrh and rosewater and clad in fresh linen robes. Then they will be shown to the dining rooms, where they will be seated according to my estimate of their agenda. There will be a Business Room, complete with gutters and runnels; a Seduction Room, where each table, on rails, will slide at the touch of a button into a Bower of Desire; there will be an Adulterers' Room, in almost complete darkness, the diners to be masked, and an Orgiasts' Chamber, where one eats reclining on couches by the light of flambeaux, while sweet yet oddly disaggregating sounds seep upwards from Pulvertaft's mighty organ in the crypt. At a sign from me, the sports will start; the orgiasts will fall upon each other volens nolens, in a welter of caramel and meatcrusts and Beaumes-de-Venise; in the Business Room, concealed stiletti will slide from beneath the tables, and the bloodbath will begin; the tables in the Seduction Room will drift into their mechanical Arcadia as the rose-petals drift from the ceiling, and in the Food Room (did I mention the Food Room?) it will be Pudding Time, before the ceremonial Arrival of the Paramedics.

That'll teach them. That'll teach the fat man to eat his unnecessary lunch, the yapping executives to yap, the beautiful girl to ignore me. That'll teach them to do octopus. Don't you agree? Of course you do. That'll teach them to give away my table, the nice one in the window, the one I booked specially. !

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