They say the English have three vegetables. And two of those are cabbage. The bar menu at George, Sir Terence Conran's new bar/restaurant in London's Liverpool Street, would certainly appear to bear that out. But like Rules, the Quality Chop House and Simpson's in the Strand, George glories in serving old-fashioned English comfort food like steak and kidney pie, Lancashire hot pot, smoked ham and roast beef. Food that should be accompanied by a flagon of foaming ale, poured by a stout barkeep. To criticise the salad cart is to miss the point.
George is popular with irritatingly loud City types. And because the high ceiling in this Grade I-listed building creates such an echo, you're forced to hear all about ISAs and bond issues - and not once, but twice. The words follow you all the way to the gents. As Alan Jay Lerner wrote in My Fair Lady, "an Englishman's way of speaking absolutely classifies him - the moment he talks, he makes some other Englishman despise him". Visit George on a Thursday night, and you'll understand the Marxist subtext. You would be as well to distract yourself by looking at the architecture.
Originally the Great Eastern Hotel's smoking room, George has one of the finest reproduction Tudorbethan interiors in London. It epitomises the late Victorian predilection for historical pastiche. "But you should have seen it last August," says Frank McGuigan, George's general manager, who left Mezzo to run Conran's new venture. "Imagine the worst building site you can. Then multiply it by 10." The wood panelling took two months to French polish back to its former glory. "I saw builders in a new light after that," says McGuigan.
George opened at the end of February - it lost 200 ashtrays in its first week. It was a Zeitgeist thing. At weekends - when the City types retire to Sainsbury's in Sevenoaks - George is quiet. But not for long. The Liverpool Street area is becoming increasingly residential, which is why Conran invested in the Great Eastern project, which includes George, Fish Market Terminus, GE Club, Aurora, Miyabi and the hotel itself. For now, McGuigan wants to target the markets of Brick Lane, Spitalfields and Columbia Road. And the lofts of Shoreditch. But that would mean hiring a DJ, and George prides itself on having no music. Unless it's an accordion. Anything to attract the morris dancers. @
George, Great Eastern Hotel, Liverpool Street, London EC2, 0171-618 7300Reuse content