You can’t go home. That sounds so final, so bitter. Sometimes, you can’t go home. Or, to be more on point, sometimes home changes to a point where you don’t even recognize it. In this case, home isn’t even home. It is, instead, the place I spent most of my time in my temporary home of London, during the summer of 2000: Mezzo. A restaurant. I’ve written about it before. I’ve waxed poetically about the place to anyone who will listen, and if Facebook could somehow chronicle a Timeline for my mind (a terrifying concept), many Life Events would be connected to the place.
I knew that in the eleven years since I’d worked at the Soho restaurant, things had changed. For one, Mezzo had become Meza, and the place had changed ownership. Despite this knowledge, I couldn’t not visit it in my recent trip to London. On the first night in the city, I showed up on the doorstep of the restaurant, sans reservations and sans club attire. My super-duper fancy dining establishment had turned from the place that introduced me to mis en place and fruits de mer to what was essentially a club, a place that as a civilian, I would never enter. Instead, I was a woman on a mission: to touch base, at least emotionally, with twenty-one year-old me.
Once we walked in and looked at the menu, I had to have a stern conversation with myself: absolutely nothing would be the same and I could either enjoy my dining experience or lament the changes. The former would be way more interesting for my dining companions, so I tried to keep my commentary to a minimum. (This, of course, did not stop me from informing my first-day-on-the-job server that I once was in her shoes, but that on my first day, the building was on fire.) (True story.) (I’m sure that she didn’t care.) (I’ve turned into one of those people, the ones who show you pictures of their pets or grandchildren or announce that in this very building, eleven years ago, I ate a bowl of crème bruûlée in a stall in the server’s restroom so that the security guards wouldn’t see me stealing from the company.)
I seem to be doing it again. Right here.
Anyway, pictured above is fried calamari strips (the real thing; no frozen rings here) served with what could have very well have been a pepper jelly from Ohio’s Robert Rothschild Farm. Not life changing. And not anywhere close to something we would have served… Yeah.
Next up, a pizza-like flatbread that does not seem to currently be on the restaurant’s menu. Pizza? Mezzo would have frowned at pizza.
I do not recall serving burgers, either. But you’ve got to give these guys points for a dramatic presentation.
Crispy chicken and curry-seasoned prawns came together to become my (very messy) main course. I’m not very well practiced at head removal, but managed to salvage whatever meat I could from both options.
The cuisine and atmosphere have changed dramatically, but there was one consistency: detailed service. While I could have done without the restroom attendent giving handing me a towel (and expecting a tip for doing so), I appreciated the discard bowl for bones and the small bowls of lemon water placed on the table so that while I disassembled sea and land creatures for dinner, I could have remain (sort of) clean.
All in all, the meal wasn’t very memorable. With this in mind, I wonder — were the meals that I served eleven years ago also not that memorable? We were just as flashy (in a flaming drink and cigarette girl way), and back then, I was operating with a juvenile palate. It’s something that I don’t want to think about too much. While my present day experiences with the place aren’t life-changing, I still have my memories. And I’m not ready to alter those.