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Thursday, 17 October 2013

Union Street Cafe Bar : Southwark

'Gordon would like to personally invite you and a guest to celebrate the opening of Union Street caf├ę' (note the oh-so quirky lower case 'c'). This sounds ominous. I fear if I show up at Ramsay's latest launch (given my often barbed comments about the world's greatest living chefebrity that stretch back to my first less-than-ideal experience at Aubergine, some 20 years ago) I'll be toast - as in skewered, basted, griddled and served up on it as an amuse-bouche. Compounding matters, the guest I invite claims to have once had a run-in with he who bestrides continents, rescuing other people's Mickey Mouse catering establishments, when he's not in his whites, effin' and cheffin' in one of his own successes. This could be hashtag-awkward as they say. Fortunately, the downstairs bar at USc is overseen by a friendly face - perennially chipper chappy, Abdulai Kpekawa (pictured), lately of the lovely Luggage Room (see http://tinyurl.com/mbwujoq) next door to el Gordo's not-particularly amazing Maze bar. If things turn nasty and knives (Gordon Ramsay by Royal Doulton, available online) fly, I'll use him as a human shield. In mitigation, may I say, I have already visited USc's bar ahead of tonight's official launch stramash and, to paraphrase Big Sweary himself, thought, ''F*** me! Here's one of his gaffs I'm finally able to enthuse about' (if not now hang out in, on the grounds I have likely just got myself barred for my cheek). Cocktails, from £8.50, include sophisticated calls Camino de Agricultores (cognac, Pedro Ximinez, chocolate bitters and lemon juice), and the Duke Meets the Queen (a Rinquinquin, Gew├╝rtztraminer, white grappa, and porter syrup Collins). But before you make a mental note to try 'em, please also note that the list is to be changed weekly, I'm told. On past form, for Kepkawa, who also did a stint at ECC, that will be a doddle. The room, a post-nuclear concrete bunker, has been gussied up by Russell Sage Studio  in one of those overnight miracles performed on Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares to universal adoration, I like to imagine. The style is postmodern London loft lite: deep sofas for slouchy posing, large leather ottoman stools reminiscent of an SM club's ahem, workbenches (I'm told), and the sort of graffiti/ urban wall-hangings that a first year art student at Kingston or Epsom would be proud of. Innovative? Hmm. But it hangs together well and, for the sort of awed rubberneckers drawn to Ramsay's joints, it will no doubt represent the height of urban cool. So, does Ramsay rip off my cojones when I show up at the party? His mate Jonathon Ross in tow, the great man strides in, as megastars do, hours late for his own gig, and is instantly swamped by beaming hem-touchers. He turns his head. I wince. He looks straight through me. 'Personally invited?' Gordon clearly doesn't know me from a gourd. Let's keep it that way, eh?    
Union Street Cafe, 47 -51 Great Suffolk Street SE1 0BS 7592 7997