There’s only one place to mourn another Labour loss

So why does the Gay Hussar seem so cheerful?

16 May 2015

9:00 AM

16 May 2015

9:00 AM

Ed is a plank. He was always a plank — and now he is in Ibiza being a plank. Plankety–plankety-plank: goodbye to our most recent terrible leader — and who will be the next? I, meanwhile, am in the Gay Hussar, choking on my own grief, hearing ‘Crying in the Rain’, weirdly, in my head, trying to forget the images that flicker mercilessly across my eyes, disrupting my view of a book that says, in capital letters, for emphasis — tony blair (now that’s a leader, eh!) — Clegg, dry-eyed with realisation at the breadth of his failure, Ed Balls hauled down like an -Easter Island statue, Samantha Cameron’s victory dress, which was a bullet-proof vest on the front and a high-vis jacket at the back. Well, it was a long -campaign.

When a certain sort of leftie weeps, as I did on Friday, mournfully saying ‘The left is shattered’ to -passers-by in Westminster, who couldn’t give a toss, because they are Tory anyway — it has to be the Gay Hussar, a shabby Hungarian restaurant on Greek Street, Soho. The Gay Hussar has sheltered north London metropolitan geeks (OK, Jews, we can say it now?) from their own idiocies with duck and cake since 1953. It fell from fashion when Blair rose, because Blairites apparently ‘wanted salad’; salad and war. But still it is comforting, a tiny postage stamp of red near the hookers, the gays and the -oblivion; it has faint mirrors and wobbling tables and leftie-themed souvenirs, which create an air of dining inside a sort of politicised London Dungeon. ‘labour victory’ says a newspaper by the loo. (The date is 1974.) The last time I came here it was empty, and my friend — a Tory barrister — said: this is a Tory restaurant. It has tablecloths; and tablecloths are definitely Tory. But they don’t have to be, I say back, tablecloths can, if they are taught to act in their own interests, be progressive. Balls, he said. And, even as if I type, off I go. Balls!

Something strange though — today, as I dine with a fellow desolate leftie, this restaurant, full of photographs and cartoons and the writings of noble dead lefties staring pointlessly from the walls, as remote now as Cleopatra, seems jaunty, delighted even in this Tory spring. (Michael Foot is a design feature now, not a fate I think he would cherish.) It was on its knees recently, I read — ah, metaphor! — and was resuscitated by something called ‘the Goulash Co-operative’, which campaigned to keep it open; now there is a muted buzz. The customers chirp and giggle in the shafts of dust. But not us. I am thinking about Nick Clegg’s eyes (not a sentence I thought I would ever write); my companion whimpers disconnected words in a stream of grief consciousness: ‘Michael Gove… the Human Rights Act… The NHS… the BBC! And the badgers! What about the badgers!’ ‘The BBC!’ I whimper back, ‘The badgers! And the badgers on the BBC!’

We snuffle self-righteously, and order: cold salami, hot sausage, goulash soup, chicken with paprika, schnitzel, potatoes with paprika, a strudel and a big sticky ornamental cake. This, you see, is how north London metropolitan geeks (OK, Jews, we can say it now?) commemorate a rout and douse their agony; by spending the equivalent of two weeks jobseekers’ allowance in a restaurant from the past. It’s very nice, better than I remember. Maybe they have changed the chef.

I suck the cake and wonder where the cuts will fall. Nowhere near The Spectator I’ll wager, and that is fine; advocates of prosperity theology, we deserve it all. Bring more cake into the grand and bitter Tory dawn! And goodbye plank. May our next plank be a better plank.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

The Gay Hussar, 2 Greek Street, London W1D 4NB; tel: 020 7437 0937.

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Show comments
  • balance_and_reason

    A certain sort of leftie…would that be a champagne lefty?

  • Hegelman

    But the country is changing. The blue rinse ladies with the fat pensions and the
    skilled worker Tories who form so much of the Tory vote are on the way
    out. So Labour has reason to feel happy about the future.

    • Callipygian

      Keep living in your dream world, Lenin.

  • Teacher

    I didn’t know tablecloths were Tory. I’ve got five or six.

  • John Bindon

    Rather a lot about you, Ms. Gold, in this review and basically nothing whatsoever about the restaurant’s food, apart from 13 words at the end.

  • Callipygian

    The dress was dreadful, but Sam likes to shock. She wants to show that she’s above convention and Doing The Right Thing, even if that’s what her husband spoke of in his victory speech. I suspect that was the reason for not wearing a hat at the royal wedding. It wasn’t to do with whether Sam looks good in a hat. It had to do with being the prime minister’s wife, and therefore not like everyone else.

    • Yvon & Barry Stuart-Hargreaves

      Hedge Fund luvvies.

  • MC73

    Drivel. Again. Please stop..

  • kazdix

    Mourn that Labour lost? I don’t think so.

  • Sean L

    Inane drivel, as usual.