Saturday, February 4, 2012

Having Dinner with Bob Dylan - London, England

Tonight I ate dinner with Bob Dylan.  And Paul Simon.  Oh, and Jimi Hendrix.  And a host of other legends of the folk rock music era of the ’60’s.  Across town in Soho during that time, I envision the Austin Powers swingin’ set dressed up, rockin’ everything oh-so-British, when, near’s Earl’s Court, a movement all its own was happening as these folk rock legends were discussing the changes to come with the social movements taking root, all while they played their music in a coffeehouse called the Troubadour.

If I didn’t know what I was looking for on Old Brompton Road, I surely would have missed the entrance tonight as the facade does not adequately reveal the treasures inside. Even though the Troubadour has a few seats outside (for the downright brave in the damp cold -2C/28F weather) and plate glass windows fronting it, this is a traditional coffeehouse - nothing neon and flashy to grab the attention of the passerby.  

It pays tribute to it’s namesake, as the menu squares off its meal choices with titles such as “Intro” (appetizers) and “Finale” (desserts).   I chose to start with a champagne and a kir royale since it was before the 7:30 pm 2-for-1 cocktail cut-off.  I sat at a small bistro table, next to a rack of newspapers, but was far more interested in listening to the multiple conversations going on all around me.  My initial waitress was French; after that, it was British all the way.  Being such a famous place, and a Friday night, I expected to see more than locals squeezing their way in; instead, it was all sophisticated, twenty/thirty something, laid-back locals, deep in conversations.  My dinner was above my expectations.  Admittedly, I half anticipated standard food choices, and sub-par taste.  Instead, my “Intro” choice of Ciabatta Grill with goat cheese, portobello mushroom, spinach, tomato and rocket, with a light pesto sauce was spot on - filling and fresh.  The waitress laughed when she saw my plate - it was licked clean. 

Afterwards, I trekked downstairs to see where the legends themselves played when they were still unknowns.  For £7 before 10:00 pm (£8 afterwards), I would have been able to stay and listen to five different talented artists playing their music, which is the best deal in London town going on a Friday night.  I walked in on a packed house listening to Morrissey & Marshall, and wished I could have stayed until the 2:00 am closing. 

The intimate, bohemian feeling - the colorful old tin coffee pots lining the top of the windows, the bistro tables allowing tête-à-tête conversations, the absence of “famous faces” photos, the music of Dionne Warwick’s “Walk on By”, Stevie Nicks’ “Rihanna’ and Peter, Paul and Mary playing in the background - is what gives rise to the continued success of the Troubadour as an authentic, and original, coffeehouse.  No place could possibly replicate it since its musical history is the aura that plays through the air.  It’s a true original.

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