I got off the tube at Holborn the other day, on the way to The Porterhouse in Covent Garden to meet Catherine and Jacko for a pint, and noticed something I wish I hadn't.
Jamie's bar on Kingsway closed around the time I left Bush House, and had been under refurbishment. Well now I got to see what it had been replaced by.
A Scotch Steak House.
If you've never come across one, they're exactly like Aberdeen Angus Steak Houses. And if you've never seen one of those, they have big clunky signs, everything is red inside and they look plain awful. Outside every one is a sign that says 'Today's Specials'. The specials board never actually changes. It is always exactly the same. You can tell it was never designed to change as the sign is printed neatly and on a piece of wood. Every single one is always empty. They look that bad, it's not surprising.
Scotch Steak Houses are exactly the same but the sign is green. Why the difference? Well after some digging, Scotch Steak Houses were set up by someone who used to own Aberdeen Angus Steak Houses but sold them when times were bad. So no surprise as to why they look identical - it's the same madman who set them up.
I along with many rejoiced when Aberdeen Angus went under in 2002 - the things were the scourge of London, preying on gullible tourists and giving them a plain awful experience to boot.
So to see the dreadful experience rise out of the ashes and start all over again, well it just doesn't bare thinking about. Scotch Steak Houses Apparently bought at least eight of the Aberdeen Angus houses and have now gone on taking over busy bars!
How?!? How can someone build a business out of a chain of restaurants that are always, and I mean always, empty? Even at Christmas they're deserted - and that's a time of year when even the worst eatery can be filled to the rafters. So how do these awful things continue to survive?
In many ways I am rather glad that I no longer have to walk past one of these establishments. They're gaudy, tacky and downright depressing. They are a plague on our city and it looks like the plague has started again.
But what really gets me is the way they look. They are just downright awful. How can anyone make a restaurant look so bad? So appalling? Who on earth things that a neon light sign saying 'Cocktails' is a good thing?
And just in case you ever think that it might be worth trying one out for yourself, perhaps you should read Flogging A Dead Cow by Stuart Jeffries in the Guardian. Okay it's about the Aberdeen Angus chain, but by all accounts, the Scotch Steak Houses chain ain't any better... Quite how he even got the guts to go in one is beyond me. His partner seems to be the sensible one - she gave him a box of Rennie's as he walked to the door.