Rocking back to the Hard Rock

Last Updated on : 15th June 2022

They say nostalgia aint what it used to be, but hey I was willing to take a chance on a stroll down memory lane (or was it more a saunter up amnesia alley,) by revisiting the venue of one of my very first dates, Piccadilly’s Hard Rock Café. Said date happened sometime in the summer before my last year at university, and in my mind’s eye it was the perfect evening of blue sky, cool drinks, flirtation, and food.

I returned a few times over the subsequent years, and each visit was still partly suffused with the golden glow of that first encounter. Now nearly 20 years since my last visit, I was coming back to see if the magic could be rekindled.

The first big change was that these days you don’t queue to get into the Hard Rock, you make reservations online, like everywhere else. The second big change was that this time I was not accompanied by an attractive young lady I schemed to get on her own for the best part of 6 months, but by my friend Mick who I have seen in a state of undress even though I didn’t want to.

The interior to my eyes looked the same, two big, interconnected dining rooms surrounded by a lot of memorabilia. Some of this seemed to have more star wattage than I remembered, there now being jackets worn by the Beatles rather than the Bay City Rollers boots. The audience that this collection was silently playing to did seem quite different to how I remembered it.

The Hard Rock used to be, well in my experience at least, somewhere that had equal pull for both locals and tourists. On the night that myself and Mick attended, we might have been the only two there born within 50 miles of the place.

Now big groups of tourists walk in and are shown to their massive tables with the same sort of enthusiasm I show filling out a tax return. The menu which used to be a thing of beauty with its own flowing type face on a pale-yellow background, now looks like something that Wimpy would throw out for being too generic.

We had a short wait in the bar prior to being seated at a table close to the front. This was nicely situated with a good view over Piccadilly and the park. We shared a starter of something called ‘one night in Bangkok shrimp,’ which was pleasant without being great, crispy shrimp in a coconutty sauce, which had a nice acidic citrus tang.

For drinks we had a large Hurricane cocktail each, which at £15 gives you nearly a pint of cocktail. Whether anyone needs a pint-sized cocktail is debatable, as was whether I was still capable of pronouncing debatable once I’d finished mine.

For main courses, myself, and Mick both had variations on what were billed as the Hard Rock’s legendary steak burgers. For Mick this was the Spicy Diablo burger, two patties with various chillies and spices and of course cheese. This looked well cooked and was according to my friend tasty and filling.

My legendary steak burger though seemed to be more of mistake burger. Having campaigned long and hard whilst ordering not have bacon added, the bacon had managed to sneak on anyway. What had happened though to the beef patty was anyone’s guess as mine apparently had been replaced by a beermat that had spent too long in the toaster. This combined with fries with the allure of a love island contestant and a bun who might have been big in the 80s, I was quite happy to vote my meal a miss.

The Hard Rock these days might be an even bigger tourist trap than it was, but that would be forgivable if the food was good. My thoughts are that the food was average, whilst the bill was premium. This again wouldn’t be an issue if there was an atmosphere, back in the day that’s half of what you were paying for. Now however with locals not venturing near the place and tourists apparently visiting from a sense of duty rather than a sense of fun, the atmosphere was more reminiscent of a remote service station than a central London restaurant.

As I regretfully slammed a fist sized B52 cocktail into mouth and considered the £110 bill for 1.5 courses and drinks, I realised that no matter how much you try, it’s impossible to recapture the past and that golden summers night of so long ago would now never be repeated…so perhaps next time I’ll go to the Big Easy instead.

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