Restaurants: Where shall we meet ... in Kingston?

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The Independent Culture
If you haven't started thinking about your office Christmas junket yet, you'd better get your skates on. It's not as easy as you think. Most people who work side-by-side with each other all year have little desire to be socialising together as well.

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)