Restaurants: Where shall we meet ... in Kingston?
December is the time of year when politics, backbiting and other traditional workplace skills come home to roost. What you need is a place where conversation can be minimal, where people can make fools of themselves in a controlled environment, and where drunkenness can be quietly kept to a minimum.
Somewhere like Blue Hawaii, for instance. I tried very hard to get drunk there last week, but an entire pitcher of Long Island Iced Tea still left me sober. To be honest, I needed to be drunk. Blue Hawaii, focal point of fun and games in Kingston-upon-Thames, is the most terrifying place I've set foot in since I saw a sign in a Manila hotel requesting gentlemen to leave their guns at the front desk.
It's an Elvis restaurant. Well, sort of. The theme is Hawaii, and the decor is low-rent, all-inclusive hell: "thatched" roof, leis made from bits of chopped-up bin-liner, party poppers, signs advertising seven shooters for pounds 12.50, Hawaiian head-shakers (a cocktail that includes having your head rattled up and down by a member of staff) and free holidays with every bill over pounds 50 on a Monday or Tuesday.
Staff are dressed in shorts and tight little tops covered in palm trees, and the food is more frightening than anything I've eaten before.
I had something appropriately named a Kannonball (rock-hard rissoles with coriander dip), then a barbecue (help yourself to ingredients, queue for hours, get someone to cook it), with dried spices including Korma and Vindaloo. Pudding - get this - was deep-fried ice-cream, a dish that had none of the subtlety of that Edinburgh staple, the deep-fried Mars bar.
Meanwhile, a man who suspiciously looked like Derek Hatton sang to a Karaoke machine and drummed up some enthusiasm. Elvis we were promised, and Elvis we didn't get, though an unfortunate was plucked from a table, dressed in spangles and a wig from Planet of the Apes and, surrounded by tipsy Hula Girls, forced to mime to a hit by the King. Weird.
Still, everybody else seemed to be enjoying themselves. Maybe they don't get out much in Kingston.
Blue Hawaii, 2 Richmond Rd, Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey (0181-549 6989)
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