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The International Writers Magazine:

Criterion Restaurant
224 Piccadilly
London, W1 Tel: 020 7930 0488
• Tracey Doxey


People come to the restaurant with affects - tiny brass objects attached to the back of their shiny shoes, pleated skirts with ruffles, keyhole backed dresses, children who whirl around in the revolving door for at least twice wearing fake fur coats and glasses, women carrying things that I didn’t even know existed like portable ashtrays for inside their handbag (yes, really) useless stoles in the shape of circles, metal Romanesque hair bands like women used to wear in Roman times or in the films.

As I wait, the couple to my right kiss each other as if they are in bed. They break off from their kissing but without breaking their conversation, she gets her vanity mirror out of her hand bag, pokes the corners of her eyes, clips it shut, puts it away then resumes holding his hand again.

People from all over the world enter the restaurant through the whirling revolving doors and they’re the same kind of people. Everyone smiles at me as they enter. I am at the first table in the bar area with my book and a pot of earl grey. They smile but I think that they think that I work here because we really don’t look the same species. I am multi-layered, they are elegantly thinly-layered and are a fascination to me.

The elegant Russians sit behind me in the comfy chairs waiting for dinner. The skinny fantastical Chinese woman enters all in black with fringes and diamonds hanging down over a skirt the size of a postage stamp. Elegant daughters with professionally curled hair and polished shoes and immaculate coats, clutch bags and subtle jewellery all fit neatly inside.

Anyone without a reservation is apologetically turned away. The restaurant is brimming, the door constantly revolving.

Because of the sheer numbers of people arriving, the coats temporarily get hung on the tallest black screen I’ve ever seen with literal brass knobs on. Men pull out chairs for the ladies, help them on with coats and stoles, hand them bags and pay for dinner. The ladies wear demure high heals whilst all around is charming conversation and impeccable manners.

I recognize a Chanel 2.55. but this one is real. The only reason I know what it is is because I bought one from China for Patti and although hers was bought as a fake, it is as real as they come. (except ours came from behind a secret door in Zhuhai)

The Chinese, Russians and Americans take family photographs with the restaurant as a back drop. I refrain from offering to take their photographs for them. Three times I’ve stopped myself, but I realise that I could, for one night, do a part-time, in-house photographer job here after all these people are on holiday, it is Christmas Eve, and this is Piccadilly Circus in London and it would be a good brief entrepreneurial partnership for me and the restaurant

I remind Patti of the couple behind me who have been sitting on the comfy sofa waiting for a drink and with impeccable politeness, she apologises for their wait and I hear the best customer service that London has to offer.

Criterion, Piccadilly Circus -  it’s not physically the same as 'M on the Bund' in Shanghai but it has the absolute same flawless feel.

I sit and watch Manuella tie an older ladies knitted winter scarf for her and while Patti walks away from me with that tall elegant walk of hers that I have never been able to emulate, I hear the couple behind me say how lovely she is.

I, however, have always known this.

Happy New Year to everyone
© Tracey Doxey Jan 2009

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