In normal times, in happy times, in times less fraught with division and isolation, I used to frequently go to Maze Grill on a Monday evening. It’s the poor substitute for Foxtrot Oscar. Foxtrot was the old Chelsea place to go and have a burger and an angry conversation about why nowhere in Chelsea but Foxtrot remembers how things were in Chelsea before the Cadogan estate murdered individuality with rental prices. Once upon a time there was colour in Chelsea. Now it’s beige. And Foxtrot went, as everything went, and was replaced by Maze.
The Chelsea Kitchen went. Even the Stock Pot went. It’s a miracle Phat Phuk was still trading before lockdown. Pretty much the whole character of the King’s Road has been dismantled by the greed of the landlords. Even R Soles.
When I was a teenager you could go to the King’s Road for your tie dyed shirts, your flared jeans, skinny trousers in banana yellow, CHELSEA BOOTS! I bought my first CD in the basement music shop in a bright and wonderful clothes store.
Some nasty old bastard decided to hoik the rent enough that nobody but homogeneity uk dot com could set up shop there. “Better an empty shop than personality,” would’ve been the official line, mirroring the humans who set the prices.
The remaining creative people moved to Camden because they had to – and since then the same kind of paunchy flat faced people have been literally trying to burn them out of the markets.
I had some Americans come and visit once : “We wanna see the King’s Road!!” They enthused.
“No you don’t. You want to go to Camden.” I responded.
I took them to both. They saw my point. “What happened to the King’s Road?” They asked. “Greed, my dears. Greed, short termism, stupidity and lack of perspective. But mostly greed.”
The King’s Road in London is dead dead dead and has been for over a decade. It’s just chains and dogshit people. It was “cool” in the sixties and seventies, and so all the rich people who wouldn’t know “cool” if it bit them in the face bought property near there. Meanwhile all the arty people sold it to them for cuntprice: “I got it off this sculptor for a fraarction of what it was warrth.”.
Chelsea turned into a wasted memory in the custody of people with no imagination. Now it’s just slow moving old bastards who can buy you, trustafarians, lucky people with disorganised dead parents who thought they’d live longer (that’s ME!), and people who are paying the absurd rent charged by humourless twots who have bought investment properties because they still think there’s something in the post code that helps augment their expensive surgical decisions.
People still parade up and down the King’s Road, but now it’s plastic faces and humongous arses and gymbodies, and it’s very very clear from the outset that there isn’t a flash of personality left no matter what it says on your steering wheel you vapid motherfucker.
The Chelsea Drugstore is now a Macdonald’s.
I saw the death throes of my famous local High Street, but I was mostly a teenager when the beautiful places closed.
Pizza Express appear to programme The Pheasantry, which still tries to do live music, and they DID put on Katie Birtill just before lockdown which at least shows they’re trying as she’s ace but…
Wilde Ones – the New Age plinky plonky shop – that was still alive last time I looked (against all the odds), but that’s pretty much it. Most of the other fronts have been lobotomised and colonised by lizards.
The character and interest has been replaced by noise and sameness. It’s like Instagram but with less make-up. It’s the same across the world of course, and we’re supposed to just not care and keep spending. But … Character??
Homogeneity. Massive chains price the smaller traders out of the market. The market speaks though. Most of us are buying this crap.
My generation was taught to watch the pennies. We were taught by people who came out of rationing. Cheaper for the same is good, we were taught. “If two places sell the same thing, buy the cheapest”. Which let these monsters take hold. Because the race to the bottom in terms of viable quality was won a decade ago by the people making food and things out of slurry and byproducts. With great big shiny logos. For less than anybody trying to make real stuff can afford.
Spend more if you know it’s independent and come on that’s not even polemic it’s common sense.
Spend twice as much if you can. Three times, knowing that right now if it’s a sole trader it’s probably – hopefully – better quality. Otherwise there’ll be nothing left for us but shitburgers made out of generations of unquenchable psychic agony.
It’s only getting worse. We are so fucking lazy. So lazy. So so so desperately stuck in the familiar. It’s desperate…
So yeah, before I got distracted, normally I might show up at Maze Grill on a Monday. I have a keyring that gives me 50% off food which means it’s still expensive but just about affordable. Maze Monday is my expensive meal night and how the fuck anybody goes any other day of the week isn’t my business, I guess, but they are paying for the quality of the ingredients I think and hope. The meat was once part of an animal, unlike much of what people eat these days.
While they’ve been shut I’ve been working out how to do what they do with Frank’s Hot Sauce to make it perfect for steak. People: BLEND IT WITH BUTTER! Heat it. Stir in butter until melted. Cool it. Steak sauce.
Now I don’t need to go to Maze. Which is just as well as it’s not going to be allowed to open for generations anyway. And it’s designed as some sort of open plan hell anyway when it IS open.
We will never get Foxtrot back. I wish. The very fact it was named after the phonetic alphabet “Fuck Off” stands well for it. I sometimes get that attitude from the staff in the new place if I kick off about the fact they can’t be bothered to do the pepper sauce properly because I’m on 50%. And good. I like a bit of life. Stop topping up my wine, you bastards. You’re deliberately rushing me through the bottle and I’m onto you.
There was a place in Bermondsey called Fuckoffee. I bought a “Fat Wife” there near to lockdown. Good on them for not giving a fuck about insulting people.
That sort of disobedience used to be all over Chelsea, and it just won’t happen here anymore. Now we have reaped what was sewn. Dull and ghastly people and the same old same old.
I’m glad I’m up north London for a bit even if it makes me see that how much my old stomp is dried up.
My steak was rancid. I’m literally devastated. Dammit, Hampstead Butcher! I had one of their Barnsley Chops instead, and I’ll be there tomorrow holding my nasty steak. I won’t bring the hot sauce …