#168 Sarastro Restaurant
Sarastro is awesome. Wait a minute, no it’s not. It’s appalling. No! It’s great. Great stuff. Hahahah. The problem with this deranged Drury Lane restaurant – I wanted to call it little, but it’s actually fairly big – is that it shouldn’t really exist. It’s filled with a hodgepodge of operatic, baroque, be-glitzed and be-gilted knick-knacks. The toilets are covered in hand-drawn porn. There are more cherubs in Sarastro than there are in heaven. If it’s not covered in gold paint, it’s probably a drawing of a faun or a knocked-about plaster bust. It’s like if the Emperor Nero and Liberace ran a Venetian brothel together.
It’s one of those restaurants, then, blatantly the product of an out-of-town, larger-than-life imagination. But these sorts of places belong as little enclaves in the burbs, doing bohemianism all wrong – not in the middle of theatreland, where you’d expect at least a modicum of taste. Screw all that, though, because Sarastro doesn’t care for your pretensions. Sundays and Mondays see opera singers strutting round, bellowing out O Sole Mio and refusing to tell their friends how they earned their shameful cash. It’s Hungarian Gypsy music on a Friday and Saturday night, too. Why not?
Anyway, obviously Sarastro completely deserves its place in Drury Lane, because, despite its below-the-salt status, it actually reflects opera’s true soul. Beneath the pomposity and the diva-ish attention to detail, it’s deliriously in love with spectacle and attention-grabbing and camp, with not that much going on below the surface… but it’s gloriously perfect, all the same.
One final warning: the food is teeeerrible – yes, with four ‘e’s. It’s a sort of limp turkish-generic-mediterranean school dinners fare. But that doesn’t matter. It’s worth it to see what opera looks from the inside. Also you should probably be drunk, or at least get drunk there. Go for it.