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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Even Educated Saturday Supplements Do It...

Normally the closest this Blog gets to talking about “culture” is with a “bio” in front of it when describing why James is having to apply yoghurt to his privates. But as it’s Saturday, and the more highbrow newspaper supplements across the land are doing their food reviews, then why the hell can’t we jump on the “free grub” bandwagon? You know, the one where the axles are in very real danger of collapsing. The one driven by Jennifer Saunders and that Lisa Riley out of Emmerdale. The one that that whizzes past the roadsigns of "Kill Your Speed Not a Child" with a rebellious cry of "it's a free country, why can't we do both?"

So anyway last week we went out to trawl Soho (be fair, we’ve all done it) and we ended up at Zksplash on Frorth Street.

This new restaurant is half the normal shop width, and getting to the end of the bar where the loos are situated is an activity more often linked to Nintendos, gold coins, and Italian plumbers. Though from a look at the loos, no plumber, Italian or otherwise, has been near them for a while. A sign at the mirror over the sink suggests visitors, “now burn your clothes”. To the left of the premises is an unlicensed tattoo parlour, and to the right an old fat woman in leather gives singing lessons (probably). The resulting audio mix makes Zksplash sound like they’re playing the Gypsy Kings at full volume, only slightly more tunefully.

The owners are taciturn men who decided on arriving in London to adopt names that might make them feel a little more local. They chose Sandy and Julian and there is absolutely nothing Bona about them. At all. The only way they would ever crack a smile is if you used a chisel. And Julian’s got a big scar down the side of his face where it looks like someone tried. I have no idea what language they use to each other. It is so fast and guttural that if you recorded it and played it back to a 48k Spectrum you’d end up loading JetPac.

Now I don’t wish to be critical of the East Europeans. With the Express and Mail currently demonising them, they just don’t need it. And besides, if it wasn’t for them then fat businessmen would have to pay good old British boys and girls to suck them off in hotels near Kings Cross. And goddammit that sort of thing is unpatriotic. But these guys come from one of those “Bratislaviarimskikorsikov” places that you’ve only ever heard of because the prince from there was machine-gunned at his own wedding. Or was that Dynasty. It’s the sort of placename that would score 800 points in Scrabble if a) you could use Proper Nouns and b) a Scrabble board was 58 spaces to a side.

The question was raised before visiting as to what sort of food they did. As a food critic, one cannot state enough the importance of finding out what the local economy of the country is known for. Anyone who’s ever ordered the speciality in a Swiss restaurant, and then spent the next six hours trying to get through “cuckoo clock in a basket” will understand the problems here. There’s nothing more galling than your main course telling you that it’s past closing time by pecking you eleven times in the eye.

Zksplash as far as I can see adopts a range of fare both traditional and exotic. Try their “muscles ak zoinrim” for the sort of eating experience you won’t forget. However hard you try. My companion has this as a starter, to find that “ak zoinrim” should be capitalised as it’s clearly an Eastern European engine oil. Imagine, “fish avec Castrol” for a local equivalent. I myself choose the “garlic bread done in the juesystkir style”. This is basically a soft dough bread cooked in a used cardigan, and has much to recommend it, namely the very small portion it comes in.

The wine is served in a manner unique to Zksplash: warm and in wide bowls. I have enjoyed a couple of glasses of this citrusy, tart and dry cheeky little number before I discover I’ve been drinking the fingerbowl. Eventually after much remonstration with Julian, the Zkplash staff raid their sparsely stocked cellar to provide a bottle of vintage Kinnjibinji 2005. I am assured by an optician that I will eventually get the sight back in my right eye. And all I did was sniff the cork. My companion accepted the offer to taste it before drinking and is still in the coma. Though I’m hopeful for her recovery as I’ve just received a taped message from Duran Duran to help her wake up.

For the main course there is a choice of two specialities. I decide against the “young lamb cooked at your table” when I spot that on the menu a pencilled correction replaces “cooked” with “shot”. And that in turn has “with an AK47” scrawled in afterwards. Though it does explain what I thought was quite alarming woodworm in the furniture up to that point.

I order the Twice-Cooked Pork. When it arrives, it is clear neither attempt has been successful but that hasn’t stopped someone trying. On my plate is something that looks like part of the evidence file from a fire at an illegal abortion clinic, only without the humanity. A side salad sits disconsolately in the manner of your bedside nail-clippings after bath night. Given its distressing taste of perfume and faint cheese, the comparison is an accurate one. I don’t want to know how they grow vegetables in wherever Sandy and Julian come from but that is a terrible thing to do to a lettuce.

It might appear that I found no saving grace in this apology for a restaurant. That is not entirely true. I recommend anyone order the crepes because in this day and age you don’t often see oil fires of that magnitude. The last time I saw a fireball like that, it had Bruce Willis just in front of it dangling from a water hose. Sandy himself brings the plate to my table, leaving a wistful trail of ethereal smoke behind him as he jumps across three tables and under a moving platform for five thousand extra points. I am the only man left in the place with eyebrows by this point, though it’s hard to tell if the smell of sizzled hair is due to the crepes, or because someone else has ordered a salad.

The reason Sandy is having to help out serving is because of their choice of waitress. She is young and pretty, in a disinterested sort of way. She had clearly come off the coach from Eastern Europe three days ago and was offered either this job or being a hooker in Mayfair. Lying on her back for eight hours sounded like too much work, so she took this job. If she were any less mobile they’d be giving her paycheck to the hat stand and be hanging bowlers and trilbys from her ears instead. Every ten minutes Julian or Sandy come out to check she still has a pulse.

Glad to have survived the entire meal, I pay my bill and get a taxi home where I can enjoy a cigar and a large glass of emetic. If that’s culture, frankly, you can keep it.

Zksplash (1 out of 5): two people, £80 per head, not including personal insurance (though that’s recommended)


CyberPete said...


Glad you survived

Kathleen Bradean said...

Oh god. I think I love you.