Starstruck I nearly ate in the same restaurant as ITN’s political correspondent John Sergeant last night. And I got a lesson in how I really should pay more attention sometimes. I was in Liverpool for a birthday drink with Chris and we’d decided to eat out for dinner. We weren’t looking for anything too special, just not fast food. Pre-pub grub. Something you can chug down before you chug down. Finding anywhere like that in the city, 6:30 in the evening is almost impossible. We’d already been in a few places and either they’d finished serving food an hour before or the queue was too massive and the choice too limited for it to be worth it. But we eventually found a place near the Philharmonic Hall. From the outside it looked nice but accessible.
We look at the boards outside. There is a menu and the prices seem quite reasonable. They have Pumpkin Risotto which seems apt. So we hotfoot it up the steps and walk in.
"I'll let you do the talking." Chris says. Thanks Chris.
We're inside. It’s very quiet. Perhaps too quiet.
We stand for a moment. The man behind the bar looks up from his glasses.
“I’m sorry.” I apologise. “Do we need to book?”
“You don’t have a booking?”
“Well, no. We were just passing buy and…”
“Let’s see.”
The barman flicks through what is now obviously the booking list. I wonder if pretending to be Abe Froman, the sausage king of Chicago (from Ferris Bueller's Day Off )might not be out of the question. It begins to dawn on me however what kind of place this is.
"Doesn't matter if you haven't got space." I say.
“I can fit you in.” He says. “But you can only really have the table until the next people arrive. About an hour and a half.”
In ninety minutes we were expecting to be sitting in The Pilgrim pub listening to Hotel California on the jukebox. The kind of food we’re looking for shouldn’t take that long to eat.
“Oh we’ll be done by then.”
”And I’ll have to stick you downstairs on your own.”
Since the place seemed mostly empty anyway I didn’t see this as much of a problem. Someone who in an Ian Fleming novel might be described as a ‘pretty waitress’ appears and leads us downstairs.
We sit at a table. It looks a lot nicer down here than upstairs. Too nice. A chill wind drifts down my back.
“Would you like anything to drink?” She asks.
Chris orders a beer. I ask for some water. Tap water.
She hands us a menu. I start to glance down the list. There aren’t any prices. Until I get to the bottom.
2 courses £19.95
3 coursees £25.95

Yes. I know that isn't too much for really nice food. And it all sounded lovely. But after my birthday splurges this had become the budget for the whole evening. I like food. I like good food. But we’re theoretically going on a pub crawl and the last thing we’re looking for is a la carte. We’re in the wrong place. At the wrong time. Like Tom Paulin at an S Club 8 concert. And we’re about to look very cheap indeed.
“This isn’t …” I try (but fail) to choose my words carefully, “I mean we weren’t expecting to pay … what about the items on the board outside?” The reasonable ones. The Pumpkin Risotto I was looking forward to.
“Well, there’s the specials board...” She says (very patiently).
I look up. This has many nice things on it. Not many prices.
“…and we can negotiate if you just want one course ….”
“I think … we’ll leave it.” I say. “Sorry … erm … well at least we know were you are …” I continue hopefully.
We leave the table. Back up the stairs. Don’t look back.
Outside we look at the menu to try and work out were we went wrong. Two words which didn’t reach an important part of our brain are now perfectly evident on the average prices: “Lunch Menu”
At that moment we look up. John Sergeant is just sitting at a table.
“It’s John Sergeant.” Chris says.
“It is John Sergeant!” I agree.
And we eat at Pizza Hut instead.

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