Friday, 8 February 2013

Pig Pit



“The wait will be two hours and twenty minutes,” she says, looking behind them. “But you can’t wait here. We’re full.”

It’s busy. It’s dark. The music is industrial. The buzz of excitement is as thick as the fire-and-pig-filled air.

“No problem,” they say. “There’s a bar around the corner, we can go for drinks.” They’d arrived early, anyway, so it’s fine.

They go and have some drinks.

Two hours and twenty minutes pass. They were expecting a call when a table was ready.

Another twenty minutes and there’s still no call so they go back to the restaurant.

“No, you’re table is not ready. Look how busy we are.” Her arms sweep emphatically. “There are still four tables to seat before yours,” she spits. Perfume and sweat mix with pumped cooking fumes in the hot air.

“Can we get a drink at the bar,” they ask.

“No.”

“It’s just us, all we want is a drink at the bar while we wait for the table.”

“The manager decides.”

“Can you ask?”

She breathes out a long, frustrated sigh. “I guess.”

She spins on her worn-down heels. A tattoo stains her calf. Her hair is half-shaved.

“I hope it’s good. We’ve waited ages.”

“I heard someone say that it’s excellent.”

She stomps towards the bar. She doesn’t talk to the manager. She just walks a circle, head high as she looks down on the diners around, and then returns to the front desk.

“There’s no room at the bar.”

“All we want is one drink. We can see there’s room at the bar, look, just there. Plus this way we’ll be here when the table’s free.”

She exhales forcefully. “Jeez. Fine. Whatever. Follow.”

She takes two steps, points at the empty bar then goes back to her gatekeeper podium on the front door.

One variety of Champagne is served next to one can of hipster lager. As they take the first sips from the jars they are served in they are pointed to a table.

They sit. There is no cutlery. No menu. No water. No decoration. Just napkins. The table is uncomfortably small.

“What do you want?” Says the waiter; young, angular hair, thin arms, listening to his iPod.

“Do you have a menu?” They ask.

He looks around, incredulous, as if no one has ever asked this before.

“Errr. No. Obviously.”

“Huh?” they ask back.

He shakes his head. Haven’t these losers read the reviews, haven’t they followed the tweets, seen the pinterest. He points at his shirt.

It says Pig Pit.

It’s pig cooked over a pit.

They should know this. They should’ve read the reviews. Why else would they be here.

Now his job gets exhausting; he has to explain the damn obvious: “Choose a part of a pig. It gets cooked on a pit.”

“What are they eating over there?” They ask.

He doesn’t look. He just says: “Pig.”

“But one’s got something in a roll, the other has, like, a stew-thing.”

“Hot dog. Cheek.”

“Do you do ribs?”

“Obviously.”

“Belly?”

“Yes. It’s Pig Pit.”

“Do you do salad?”

He almost walks away. He swears and sighs silently. “Fuck... No. Pig Pit.” Emphasis punched on the pig. “You just tell me the part of the pig you want and I bring it for you. Pig only.”

“What about prices?”

“Prices? What, like how much it’s gonna cost? People don’t normally ask, they kinda know the policy.”

They have no idea what this means.

He stares at them. Waiting. Foot tapping. He writes OBV on his forearm.

“Thirty three pound each. Eat what you want. Drinks extra, obviously. And service.” He smiles. Just.

“Oh. We didn’t know that. Ok.”

“You didn’t know?” He can barely believe it. How is it possible that these people didn’t know that. Everyone knows it. That’s why everyone knows this place. Jesus.

“And we pay that much for whatever we eat?”

He shrugs his shoulders. What part don’t you understand? “Do you want to order or not? I’ve got...” he trails off his sentence pointing around at nothing in particular.

“Ok, we’ll take two portions of ribs, two hot dogs... no four hot dogs, cheek, sausages...”

“Nothing else?” He asks as if they’d stupidly under-ordered.

Thinking up more cuts they say: “Bacon.”

“What else?”

“Er... Snout?”

“And?” He doesn’t write the orders down. Just half-listens.

“Bacon...”

“Any sides?”

“PIG. PIT.”

“Four more beers.”

He leaves. The air feels thick and fatty. It stings the eyes, filling them like grease.

All the tables are busy. The pumping beat of music is like an old factory engine. The popping sucks of a sticky finger echoes around. The gnaw of meat from the bone like a lion chewing a deer leg. Pig juices are wiped from chins. Talking with mouths open. Ripping ribs from smoking slabs. Pulling pieces from teeth. Angry, delighted eating. Greed and speed.

Four beers arrive, are dropped and slid.

“Excuse me?” They ask. “Where are your pigs from?”

“What?” The waiter replies, taking his headphone from his ear.

“The pigs. Where are they from?”

“The kitchen.”

“What breed are they?”

“What breed? Jesus, how would I know that. They are pigs. Pink, go oink, lie in shit all day.” He walks away, stops at the bar, leans weakly on it, lazily exhausted, shakes his head and tells the disinterested, over-tattooed bartender where he’d rather be and what he’d rather be doing than being in this fucking pig sty.

“Fuck that was amazing,” says one departing diner, wiping his lips with a tenner and dropping it on the floor. “Fucking love pig.” His date is tweeting or tumbling.

Two other diners wipe their hands clean before sliding and poking at iPads. City suits sit next to the fashion let’s-be-seeners. Eating with a phone in one hand, a rib in the other. Everyone takes photos.

“I need to pee.” Says one of the group. They get up and follow signs downstairs where it gets hotter and hotter nearing the furnace of a kitchen. It’s dark down below. The orange glow of the pit licks out onto the hall.

The pigs are here. Maybe 20 of them. Massacre at Animal Farm. Dull pink, eyes closed like they’re sleeping, squashed on top of each other.

A chef, hands covered in dried blood, throws a pig over his shoulder then slams it down on the kitchen surface, taking a saw to it. 

Back upstairs, one table is immediately replaced with another, money floats in the air like colourful confetti.

Before seating, two place their order: Champagne. Rib. Loin. Trotter. Bacon. Fast, yeah. Fucking starving.

People talk loudly. Shouting favours whispering. Things are done fast as if there’s somewhere else they need to be.

“We waited for three hours,” someone says. “Wow, that’s good. We waited four!” “It’s totally worth it.” “It’s fucking delicious.”

The food arrives. Big smoking trays of meat are dropped on the table. The fat is puckered and black. Smoke spirals upwards. An ooze of something seeps onto the plate. The different cuts are unidentified; the bartender offers no support.

Our four eat. They pass around the hot dogs. “I’m so hungry.” “What’s this thing?” They take a bite of rib, pulling meat from bone. Slowly at first, the second bite is faster, the third is torn away. The sweet-bitter edge of smoke laces everything, bones are discarded like stained ivory keys. The ribs disappear in seconds, the hot dogs are gone, they chew on the cheek and rip apart the bacon. The snout is split open and barely shared. They don’t speak, they just eat, mouthful after mouthful, gulping beer in between, licking sauce and burnt bits from fingers, until nothing is left but bones.   

“Fuck, that was good!”

“Totally worth the wait!”

“Pig is great, isn’t it.”

“I’m stuffed. Pig rocks.”

The bill is slapped on the table, the plates taken away. They each throw cash into the middle of the table as they down the last mouthfuls of beer.

The waiter takes the money, counts it, leaves.

As the four walk out the pass the front desk where the girl is drawing on paper covered in phone numbers.

“Nah, it’s full. I already told you.”

The line grows.

Outside they look back into the grey, smoky pit as people stuff themselves with pig parts.

“Have you heard about Comb Claw? It’s a new chicken place. We should go next week.” 

19 comments:

  1. I get it, it's the customers & staff that are the pigs innit?

    It needs some sex and violence, though, if you are looking for a publisher.

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  2. @Cooking Lager: Punching that waiter would be a good start.

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  3. Meat Liqor in London right?

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    Replies
    1. Google (and TripAdvisor(!)) suggests that Meat Liquor is even worse.

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  4. I want this to be a scene from some kind of wonkily storylined Vonnegut novel.

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  5. As Stewart Lee pointed out in another context, the problem with this piece is that everyone outside London will be going "Ooh, well, that’s the sort of daft thing they *would* have in that London, isn't it?"

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  6. Sounds like a trendy "Craft Beer" bar, frequented by people with more money than sense!

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  7. This is nowhere in particular (though it was inspired by a friend's experience somewhere in London...).

    As for Meat Liquor (and I only mention it because others have...), I really liked it when I went and that wasn't in my mind when writing this.

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  8. Replies
    1. The point?! It's a fictional, satirical story, Paul.

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  9. I quite liked Meat Liquor the first time I went (it was, on a rainy Saturday lunchtime, fairly quiet) - the burgers were good, the vibe upbeat and the beer (from Flying Dog) just pitched right.

    Second time, I also managed to avoid the queue, but not the sniffy attitude lampooned above. And I heard now the beer choice is Vedett (meh), Hobo (what branding can do for a mediocre if not disgusting beer, eh?) and Budvar (meh again).

    I maintain the next "fad" (and I fear this, given it's my go-to type of place) will be unpretentious but pleasant bistros with linen napkins and decent grub that isn't a US diner classic and hasn't (necessarily) been near a fryer.

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  10. I realise it's a story Mark, and a satirical one at that, but is there an analogy here?, or something people might have missed?

    You allude to a friend's experience of a place, "somewhere in London", and then jesusjohn joins you in mentioning a joint called "Meat Liquor" which, if their optical nightmare of a website is anything to go by, is definitely somewhere worth avoiding..

    It seems the Daily Telegraph's Restaurant Reviewer thought so too! http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/restaurants/9064568/Meat-Liquor-London-W1-restaurant-review.html.

    Mind you if people are daft enough to queue outside for 90 minutes, in the freezing cold for a burger, and surly service, they deserve everything they get. Perhaps, in a roundabout way, this is the point of your post?

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  11. I just thought it a nice piece of writing. I've long since ceased to marvel at what stupid hipsters will do though, so didn't really think too deeply about it, though I confess to wondering if there was a point being made.

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    1. No analogies, no hidden messages, simply a story I wrote a few months ago based on a friend's experience and general trends in London restaurants. It's obviously a comment on the strangeness of these restaurants but more from a curious point of view than an anarchic one.

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  12. I get a lot of truth in this. Seriously. I think the trend of more US shows on UK food channels has seriously pumped up BBQ, low n'Slow, ribs, whatever. It's good food, yeah, but I suspect we are, in the UK, kind of missing the point a little. Waiting three hours for anything is very rarely worth it. Fiction, I realise, but like I said, I recognise a lot in it.

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  13. Anyone remember Nathan Barley? The place he went where they test your finger to see what you should be eating? The beer made with the "analogue brewing process"? Reminded me of that.

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  14. Well I can definitely associate with that! The only thing I think a little unfair is the suggestion that there's a general disregard for quality and provenance at these types of places. That definitely isn't my experience. Maybe not so much with the waiting staff, but the reason these places are successful is usually down to a combination of hipster-love AND quality food. If the food was shit, I don't think the 'scene' would be enough to attract the crowds.

    GoodFoodGoodBeer: I wish that 'pumping up' of BBQ had resulted in a glut of BBQ restaurants in London! It really hasn't.

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  15. general trends in London restaurants

    Aint not just that London neither guv - Almost Famous (a pop-up burger joint turned permanent fixture in the hip corner of Manchester) sounds awfully similar. I can't find the local paper review online, but they basically said you can get as good a burger at GBK for £3 more, so it was up to you whether £3 was worth being forced to wait an hour to be seated, being shouted at by bored waitresses and eating out of a plastic basket. OTOH, for the target clientele it may be that the inconvenience is the feature and the low prices are the bug - who knows?

    I liked this comment:

    We need to have something like Almost Famous without all the bullshit.

    "That’s almost a restaurant concept in itself, Almost Famous without the bullshit; it’s a business plan. Oh no, that’s just McDonald’s actually."
    Seriously - trends? There are several different places like this? I've often thought hipsters were masochists, but it's not usually this blatant.

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  16. Sounds like a Fast Food Restaurant in Black Mirror, Spirited Away and Nineteen Eighty Four all rolled in to one.

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