"I wanted to take you somewhere special. It's just through here, through this door..."My friend G, who has come from Tokyo to London for a bit of work with MTV Europe, arranged to meet me last Thursday and I was stumped as to where to take her. It just so happens that the folks who brought us the fantastic Tropicana under London Bridge are now using their extraordinary space as a bar. And so we met in London Bridge underground station and I led the unsuspecting G to an unmarked door in the station wall... and we walked through into total darkness.
We had to hold hands and clutch each other in a completely non-lesbian way to get to the bar area without screaming in the dark - it's a long walk through the drafty vaults and there were only a few stage lights leftover from their summer show to light the way, but we eventually got to the bar area and sat down in the candlelit space.
We sipped cheap red wine while crouched around a battered old coffee table. Every chair looked like it had been rescued from a skip. It could have been the Blitz or an artists' happening in the crypts under Paris or the chill out space of a mega-rave from the early 1990s. It was special. If you're in the London Bridge area, go to the tube station and look for the plainest, most unsuspecting door in the brick wall of Joiner Street. Go through it into the dark and keep going... it's quite magical how you suddenly find yourself in a bar. And it's a bar with a garden shed.
After the Shunt Lounge, we tottered half-cut into Tito's, the Peruvian cafe I used to go to with my brother when he was working in the same part of town; if he was feeling generous or if I had whined persuasively enough, he would treat me to one of the mega six egg omelettes with chips or alternatively, a salad that had more ingredients than I would buy in my week's shopping.
The place is transformed after 6pm and the menu is unrecognisable from the lunchtime standards - it's all Peruvian favourites and pan pipe music with the promise of some saucy South American dancing to extremely loud and insistent Latin grooves in the basement afterwards. We both chose vegetarian dishes and while G picked delicately around a grilled aubergine smothered in a fragrant, creamy tomato and cheese sauce with a bit of rice, I ordered the pumpkin dish.
What I got was... a small mound of white rice, a pool of molten orange cheese with what looked like diced carrot floating in it, two fried eggs perched on top of that and an enormous deep fried banana split in two bordering the whole lot like golden parentheses. It was delicious if a bit unusual and it was only when I had cleared half the plate that I realised there wasn't any pumpkin. I suspect the diced carrot was actually small pieces of pumpkin, being the correct shade of orange and a bit tough and woody to chew... but I could be wrong.
Got home a bit overexcited and tipsy and submitted Mr Hypatia Avenue to yet another breathless and unintelligible monologue, this time about Peruvian waiters playing panpipes while we payed our bill, holding hands in the dark, cheese and pumpkins and fried bananas and... he was nice enough to just let me exhaust myself and talk myself to sleep. Even asleep, I was still burbling about big brick arches and the garden shed with no roof but a nice table inside. A great evening in great company in a great place.