Monday, 22 June 2009

Behind the Pale Blue Door

Whilst bankers may be mourning their lost bonuses, its the arts sector that always suffers most in a recession. But set designer/artist Tony Hornecker decided to supplement his income by combining his past experience working as a chef with his artistic talent, creating a pop-up restaurant in his art installation-esque home. Teasers were tempting:
'If you follow your nose and open your ears and let the breeze carry the waft of smoke and the whiff of moonshine, the promise of love will drive you on and with furtive looks you knock three times, a heavily lacquered hand reaches out. Light, love and laughter spill out into the night sky before the city falls back into it’s slumber, only turning slightly in it’s cold and guilty bed.'
That heavily lacquered hand belonged to Greek drag queen Amanto Pet, who welcomed my boyfriend and me to Tony's eclectic abode last night. Seating only 24 at a time, tables nestled in various nooks and crannies, the environment is intimate to say the least. I had emailed Tony in advance to warn him that my boyfriend is rather tall, so perhaps some of the wee alcoves might make awkward sitting- whether said email went array or Tony just thought it would be particularly funny to see all 6ft5 of my man folded into the smallest space possible, I don't know. It was pretty damn funny. We were soon distracted from any discomfort by the surroundings-seated on what any Health and Safety officer would only describe as a plywood deathtrap, we had a great view over the rest of the restaurant. If you've seen any of Tony's work, the sets used in the artwork on Bat for Lashes' latest album for example, you'll have some idea of his penchant for curiosities and paraphernalia- his home is an embodiment of everything fairytale and otherworldly- what the inside of Tim Burton's brain might look like- on a good day definitely; its a lot less dark. In our little alcove we are accompanied by a glowing duck, whilst next door in the bedroom a stuffed alligator adorns the wall, whilst a number of dollshouses and baskets of knitting surround the table for two, set with mismatched vintage crockery. After a strong gin and tonic, we revert to childhood and start to explore on our hands and knees. Luckily the couple in the bedroom area invite us onto the bed so Boyfriend gets to stretch his legs. With the TV in the room loaded with porn, who knows where the night may have gone.. but then our food arrived. We ate by the light of the duck, a starter of Greek salad and pitta bread, followed by a huge platter of roast beef, deliciously rare, warm potato salad and slow roasted tomatoes. You also get a bottle of wine with your meal- drunk whilst perched above the rising heat of 20 people with barely an inch above our heads, we were quickly quite warm and, well, drunk. Crumble of fancy was served for dessert, whilst the lovely Amanto Pet performed a number of showstopping routines downstairs, from a fantastic Tina Turner rendition to some Greek plate -throwing antics. When the warmth and wine were in danger of sending us back to the bed, we wandered downstairs and joined another crowd's table, beneath a massive portrait of Colonel Gaddafi, some disco balls and a stuffed duck. The atmosphere is such that pulling up to other folks' tables feels completely natural; this is a million miles from the stuffy restaurant formality we've come to accept as the norm. Walking to the toilet I passed by the kitchen- so small that it seemed all that food must have appeared by magic, in the manner of hat stands sprouting from Mary Poppins' handbag. The toilet is as eccentric as the rest of the house, a chandelier overhead and a collection of plastic horses above the loo. Most endearing is that Tony's toothbrush, toothpaste and other toiletries are all in their usual homes, only adding to the sensation that you've popped to a friend's for dinner. Tony himself wanders around chatting to guests as coffee is served, giving us a chance to congratulate him on creating a truly unique dining experience. Whilst most restaurants manage to tick one of the boxes, Tony's has achieved all three; great food, great setting and great service.
Last night was the last of the current session of nights at The Pale Blue Door, but Tony did imply that it might open again- we'll let you know any further dates as soon as we hear of them.

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