Echoes of John Lewis: Piazza at the Royal Opera House reviewed

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The Piazza is not a piazza – an accomplishment that is always irritating – but a restaurant in the attic of the Royal Opera House, now revamped and open to those without opera or ballet tickets. If it were honest, Piazza would be called Attic or Eaves, but the Garden, as the idiots call it, has long been a slave to the most boring delusions. (It’s no longer a garden in the wreckage of Inigo Jones’ place. I wish it were.) I would happily dine at a restaurant called Eaves – my favorite place is a hole in a wall near Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem and my favorite restaurant was a man with a fish in Jamaica – but, in London, even granaries aren’t what they should be.

Once I spent a week behind the scenes of the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, watching the ballet dancers not eat, and in the attic I found a cemetery of pianos, a cemetery of tutus and, more far away, a cemetery of musical scores. These are eaves to be proud of, but people there are still obsessed with the siege of Leningrad, when a German shell hit the cupola and snow fell on the theatre: less that’s what they told me. I want to believe it, but I love Piotr Tchaikovsky for the violence of his flounces.

Here at the Garden That Isn’t a Garden, they don’t have such a dedication to their mythos: they seem to crave John Lewis instead. It may be something uniquely English, but it’s not Englishism that I admire. I don’t understand why the people who run the opera remove whatever magic they can find.

Piazza is a new carpeted nadir. Upon entering the ground floor, you are stared at, searched, then admitted: the days of lazy wandering through London’s public buildings are over. You need a QR code to approach a Rembrandt these days. You then go up the stairs – I dare not take a look in the auditorium, the atmosphere does not invite it – then go up what seems to be the longest escalator in the world: the one you find in Dubai , or a dream of Terry Gilliam. At the top there is a sea of ​​neutral carpet and a bog with 200 very clean seats. If the Ghost is there, he was blinded by the Pledge and bourgeois values, and probably locked himself in a closet to die.

In a small restaurant with neutral colors, you find the kind of people who visit Covent Garden during the day: that is to say pensioners who think that the proximity to the opera is chic. You ask to sit on the terrace, which is better, but it is glazed: you can see the vaporous towers of Holborn.

The food, of course, is chic, which means too stylish: the chef is from Per Se in New York, who terrorizes diners with minute, neurotic food. We eat tiny Dorset mackerel and a piece of purple smoked salmon. It seems likely that the heritage beet has gotten there – gang warfare on a plate – and it’s not happy. It looks like a fish bruise. I don’t see the point in serving anything heritage trying to invoke John Lewis, but this restaurant is not for me. It’s so people want to spend £200 on two courses and look at new mats and then go home to look at their own.

The bone-in beef is better, and I have to admit the truth: I’ve never had a triple-fried fries that I loved until now. But beaten by the carpet and the attic of the world’s most uninspiring opera house, we’re too moody for pudding. The Garden of all places should know better. Where is the drama?

Square, Royal Opera House, London WC2E 8HD; 020 7212 9254.

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