Thursday, 4 November 2010

Café Sensorium - Friday Flash

The seats in the bar fulfilled their function through being wholly impractical. They were the brainchild of an award winning designer, or possibly an ex-member of military intelligence with a penchant for torture interrogations. For the seat backs stretched on for ever, so that it was virtually impossible to nestle in them. If one managed to, then the pain in the fully distended calves and hamstrings made any protracted sitting back unbearable.

At the opening night press conference, the designer had defended his execution of the brief. Stating that the bar was a realm of leisure and pleasure, in contradistinction from the office. These seats demanded a different posture from the workaday sedentary, one that resolutely wrung out the spasmed musculature sculpted by the swivel chair. One of his interlocutors challenged him as to how such logic applied to the manual worker, he who laboured by the sweat of his brow and almost certainly uprightly. The designer just blinked the question back incredulously, with the crystal implication that manual workers would not be welcomed in this bar and perhaps more pertinently, would be unlikely to afford the cover price.

Whatever the body and class politics of the seating ergonomics, they did ensure all conversations were conducted with the sitters perched forward on the end of their chairs. Thereby projecting them slightly more confrontationally towards one another then might be the usual proprieties. However another feature of the venue, was that on securing privileged entry, patrons were handed special house lip salve tubes. They were encouraged, though not compelled, to apply these to their labia, whereupon the alchemy contained within served to pronounce the lips, while also blanching out the facial features bordering them. The overall effect was to foster a series of disembodied mouths paddling the air as they exercised themselves in speech. A sort of shoal of oral glowsticks. One might even suspect that the salve's chemical composition were actually hallucinogens. Only for the fact that all reported this hanging mouth phenomenon, rather than fall prey to their own personal imaginings.

A further sensory disjunction wrought by the bar's arrangements, concerned the co-ordination of eye and ear. Like any bar, it had music accompanying the buzz of live chatter. Plainsong, Buddhist chanting, all manner of liturgical airs ancient and modern gently palpated those more prattling devotions beneath the vaulted ceiling. Yet the giant wall-mounted video screens, with their sound turned off, showed frenetic musical performances from thrash and death metal bands. At no point could one match the tempo of the two sets of musicians. Evoked tonsures grated against flying long-hairs . While their flying V-guitars brandished with desperate, uncoiled violence, chimed against imagined genuflected benedictions soothingly conveyed by the august tones. Of course for all the severance between the two, patrons couldn't but stare open mouthed (as it were) at the giant screens even while they conducted their small talk.

Thereon into the restaurant itself, for the ultimate part of the experience. Having chosen your food when placing your initial drinks order at the bar, one was summoned by the groping hand of a blind waiter. For the interior beyond was pitched in total darkness. Impossible to see your own hand in front of you, which is why the entire waiting staff were blind in order to assist guiding you through your own loss of sight. The intention was to have the other senses sharpened by way of compensation. Really to experience the taste, texture and aromas of the food perhaps for the first time in an absolute age. There was no cutlery, one ate with one's hands. Rooting around for its location somewhere on a plate in front of you. Your fingers chose what item you would start levering into your mouth. Hot soup however was off the menu. Who could object if you picked up your plate and licked it clean to ensure you had indeed concluded the repast? There is no etiquette in darkness, other than you must surrender your mobile so as not to cheat by utilising its light.

Such were the enervated appetites of the chic and swanky, Café Sensorium was booked solid for two whole years in advance. It superceded the previous trendy hot spot of Café App. And yet the drinks came from the same made to measure optics. The food was nothing particularly amazing. The conversations of the rarified were the same as they always were, only laced with bromidic observations about their immediate environment and how it worked. Those unable to prick their own senses, now required an establishment to execute it for them. But it couldn't tell them whether they'd actually had a good time.

20 comments:

Tony Noland said...

This is more or less how I'd imagined one of those "eat in darkness" places to be. More art than cuisine.

Gracie said...

Only you could describe pitch dark so well we can actually see it. :)

And the way you show us the attitude of the architect is superb.

Excellent stuff.

Eric J. Krause said...

I think I'd pass. Too trendy for my taste. I'm glad I can simply read about it here rather than actually attend. Good story!

Mandy K James said...

I'm with Eric on this. Wouldn't want to eat there your description of the whole experience was enough.

You are truly a gifted writer -won't be long before you hit the big time...of course asssuming that's what you want. :)

Icy Sedgwick said...

God, I've actually seen adverts for places like these. The defence of the designer for his chairs made me giggle. And funnily enough, we have a similar scenario in the pub where I DJ - we're playing 80s rock and metal, while 1970s pop videos play on the TVs with the sound off. Trying to get Michael Jackson to lip-sync to Slayer is hilarious.

Rebecca Emin said...

Amazing descriptions, as always. I felt as if I was walking through this place and could imagine it all. I agree with the others who said I wouldn't actually want to go there.

Great piece though, really makes you think.

Deanna Schrayer said...

"shoal of oral glowsticks" - just one example of the amazing quality of your descriptions Marc. As others have said, I could easily feel myself there. Fantastic work!

P.S. I'm gonna have to whoop Icy for now I'll have the image of Michael Jackson dancing to Slayer in my head all day. :)

Marisa Birns said...

Have been to a place in New York City that had the same designer. My right leg fell asleep at the bar because I sat on it to get comfortable.

Hobbled to the table for dinner and almost fell down a flight of steps because of the darkness.

Really don't know what I ate but it was vegetable!

Yes, did have a good time. :D

Adam Byatt said...

*throws devil horns in the air \m/ while watching Michael Jackson lipsynch to Slayer*
The descriptions were so sensory that I imagined myself in that place. Too (s)wanky for my humble palate, but an awesome piece of writing.
Adam B @revhappiness

antisocialbutterflie said...

This is fabulously crafted. It is a spot on description of pretentious jackwads without actually describing them. I like it.

Maria A. Kelly said...

Wonderful descriptions of the chairs and the bar. I've never been to one of these. I'd like to see what I eat. Though the musical venue sounds hilarious! Great piece of writing.

Linda said...

The labia salve got me. Wonderful descriptions per usual, and I'd probably go because... why not? Different experience. Peace...

alisonwells said...

Fascinating descriptions of the psychology of sensation, mismatches and sense making so that it all becomes an acceptable part of this sought after experience. Emperers New Clothes. The lip salve, the blind eating and the contraindicated sound and visuals were my very favourite touches. The last line is classic.

Carrie said...

It scares me how effortlessly you wield large, uncommon words. Well done Marc.

Kath said...

I've never been to a restaurant like this but feel as if you took me there, just now. Such a great piece of writing with terrific descriptions - "shoal of oral glowsticks" is brilliant and seems to sum up the kind of clientele this place would attract - the über-trendies looking for something different and unusual whether or not it's actually any good. Love your last line - perfect way to end it.

Alan W. Davidson said...

You had right from the opening few sentences about the impractical chairs. Excellently written with just the right balance of humour and sarcasm.

A. S. Boudreau said...

wow. The descriptives to me are very good but to me also this kind of place would be horrifying. I'd never ever want to go to a place like that.

Harry said...

The Cafe Sensoirum does not sound like my kind of place, which works out quite well since I likely would not be welcome there.

Very creative and wry, vivid depiction, shades of something Rupert Thomson might concoct.

Bukowski's Basement said...

Great piece, Marc... Gimmie a greasy spoon any day of the week!

PJ said...

I love the balance of sarcasm in your tone. What a terrific description. This does not sound like my kind of place, particularly the eating area.