Allez, allez, allez. Guess what, it’s France v South Africa.
The location is Le Garrick, a French restaurant in Covent Garden.
I am supporting France. The tension is high; both sides need to win to even stand a chance of progressing to the next round.
Le Garrick is quiet. It is the afternoon so that is to be expected. A handful of customers and the majority of the staff are intent on watching the game. Most of them are French, must be a good sign.
The games are being shown downstairs in an atmospheric ramshackle cellar, with booths for larger groups and little wooden tables for two. I make a mental note that, with all the nooks and crannies, this is the perfect venue for some candlelit seduction (possibly not at the same time as football, although that may depend on the seducer). Exposed brickwork, arches and French posters give a cosy interpretation of casual Parisian decor.
This is the gaming experience for me: a delicious glass of house white. Forget beer and chips, this is the life. The screens are not too big. To be honest, there isn’t enough wall for a huge screen, but a giant screen isn’t needed because you’re relatively close to one of them anyway.
With a somewhat guilty feeling, we order food. The menu is traditional French fare, thus wrenching the poor chef from the table next to us where he is watching the match to go cook our steaks.
Twenty minutes into the match and I find the reason for not watching every game in a restaurant.
Tucking into my steak (medium rare, as only the French can do properly) I miss the first goal! My companion is disgusted. I am a football fraud, more interested in the béarnaise then the ball.
South Africa are 1- 0 and at 25 minutes in, the match goes even worse for France as they get a red card.
South Africa score again. The restaurant staff groan, I and my companion decide that if things do not improve we will have to cheer ourselves up with dessert. Things do not improve.
It’s half time; time for some crème brulee, which is delicious and has passed the spoon test (this being that a proper crème brulee should require a tap on the top with the back of a spoon to break up the layer of toffee, rather than feebly disintegrating under the side of said spoon).
As the match begins again I have that hazy glow that only comes from good food and wine. Maybe it doesn’t matter if the French go home early. France is lovely; they have some really good steak to look forward to. Maybe that is why they are not winning, they are missing French food.
The French however seem to have a different perspective and attempt to fight back, finally scoring 70 minutes in.
However it is all too little too late. The final score is 2–1 to South Africa. A disappointing result for both as neither gained enough points to progress to the next stage of the World Cup.
I am not bothered. France lost but as the French say: “C’est la Vie.” At least the food was good. Le Garrick is delightful. The food is of high quality and the restaurant feels authentically French (even though the meat is sourced from Scotland).