The Olympics are over. It’s been rather good – typically quirky, occasionally brilliant and thoroughly British. The underground transport system, the world’s oldest, didn’t fall over. The weather wasn’t awful. The TV coverage was full of Brits bringing home medals. What you didn’t see on TV however, is what went on in the Olympic Village. Take over ten thousand body beautiful, incredibly fit, highly charged men and women and put them together, far from home. Have them abstain from sex before competition as part of their training regime. Then pull the plug. Distribute 150,000 condoms, stir in an atmosphere of celebration and you get one randy party! There was a serious amount of very athletic sex going on in Stratford.
Sex was on my mind as I read the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy I had been sent to review. Unless you’ve been on another planet it’s hard to ignore the publishing phenomenon of British writer E.L.James’s “mommy porn”. The books are on best seller lists on both sides of the Atlantic. Film rights have been negotiated for all three books. Over five million copies have been sold in the UK alone – making it a bigger seller than the Harry Potter books. Boy wizards are no match for horny women. Publishing Houses are hailing the birth of a new genre of literature and introducing dozens of smutty new women authors to our bookshelves.
Fifty Shades of Grey is porn for women, written (rather poorly) by a woman. Apparently most porn is poorly written, so no one is unduly worried about the quality of the writing.
The book is about a pretty young thing who is finishing college in America. She meets a young, devilishly handsome billionaire. She is a virgin; they apparently still make them at American universities. He has an interesting side line in S&M and does things with whips and handcuffs that would make a virgin blush. Before long our heroine is cuffed, whipped and deflowered. Her inner goddess (apparently every woman has one) responds by turning joyful somersaults. They have regular, slightly kinky sex for two more volumes with a few jealous females and bad guys showing up every few chapters.
The gentlemen who run the world’s publishing houses have woken up to the fact that women are sexual creatures. The question is, are women merely comfortable being seen reading porn on public transport or are there now whips and handcuffs in every woman’s bedside drawer, nestling amongst the usual battery operated emergency kit? Are women beginning to think about sex every 3 seconds the way men do?
To investigate, I took a posse of women friends to a Soho sex shop. The neon signs promised adult video, peep shows and private dances. Above the door a sign said “come”. As one reviewer put it, it’s the kind of place where you expect to see sad looking men with stained shoes leaving furtively, clutching at brown paper bags full of bouncing boobs. You want to shout at them, “Yo mate, it’s 2012, go try the Internet. Full of boobs!”
Friendly young things in fishnets, feathered trilbies and not much else, greeted us warmly. My women friends were nervous. Downstairs in the dimly lit basement, the decor was surreal. There were upturned pianos, children’s furniture hanging from the ceiling, taxidermy, curtained off alcoves and what might have been voodoo dolls. The sound system was pumping out a sexy mix of old school rock and salsa.
We were at La Bodega Negra, the Mexican restaurant whose party trick involves the aforementioned entrance (Bodega Negra also has a cafe next door with a more conventional entrance). It is the brainchild of “cultural engineer” Serge Becker who also created La Esquina in New York City. The women visibly relaxed as we ordered our first round of margaritas. The bar stocks eight good brands of tequila in 22 variants. Tapatio and Herradura Seleccion Suprema occupy the top shelf. There is a short wine list and a selection of very good Mexican beers.
Five of the eight cocktails on the menu are mezcal/tequila based. The standard margaritas were watery and frankly disappointing. We sent them back and ordered a few more cocktails. The Pepino, which is twist on a margarita with added cucumber water and jalapeno had a decent spicy kick. The ancho mojito substitutes mezcal/tequila for rum and tonic water for soda. It was complex and tasty – a successful reinterpretation of the standard mojito.
Some of the food was very good. Other dishes were passable. The spicy yellow fin tuna ceviche had mouth filling flavour. Crab tostaditas were piled high with flavourful fresh crab meat, adding coriander, mango and lime as garnish. The BBQ octopus el negro was briny and tender – a standout dish. Seared steak tacos and the chorizo/squash/corn taco didn’t do much for me. The steak had little flavour and the chorizo didn’t add the punch to the squash/corn combination that it should have. The pork belly with mezcal and salsa verde brought welcome touches of new flavour to what has become a cliched restaurant dish.
La Bodega Negra is a fun “occasion” restaurant. The service is superb, the music is good and the atmosphere is hip and on trend. It doesn’t have the best Mexican food and drink in London – I still prefer the tiny Crazy Homies in Notting Hill. What La Bodega Negra does offer is a fun night out, at least for two hours before they turn your table over…
By the time we were ready to leave my female friends had forgotten about the sex shop entrance. They thought it was confusing and didn’t really want the whole edgy sex thing. They’d all read Fifty Shades but it was all firmly shelved under fantasy. We wandered across to Ronnie Scott’s for some old school jazz and a bottle of champagne. This was much more their style. Mine too.
La Bodega Negra gets mixed reviews from Bloggers. A Rather Unusual Chinaman and Lay My Table have interesting perspectives. A sexy alternative for dinner in London is the Playboy Club – yes, it’s back, complete with bunny girls! You don’t have to be a member to use the restaurant. If you are in the mood for something naughtier, check out the Evening Standard’s guide to London’s sexiest places for illicit liaisons. The Evening Standard also has guides to the sexiest places for exhibitionists, fetishists and….intellectuals. Have fun!