Robert Pimm

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When kissing in cafes is forbidden

My famous Vienna Cafe Reviews note the alleged “no kissing” rule in the Cafe Malipop; and promise a story from 1986.

Here it is.  It concerns the Gmoa Keller, right here in Vienna.

Back in 1986 I looked something like this

In the 1980s, the Gmoa Keller was a tenebrous place, damp with history and rich with atmosphere.  It was run by two elderly sisters from the Burgenland, Grete Novak and Hedi Vécsei.   Grete had been in charge since taking over from her uncle, Andreas Herzog, in the ’60s.  He in turn had run the place since 1936.

Late one night, my girlfriend Nicky and I took refuge there from a bitterly cold, wet evening.  We ordered beers.  We were the only guests.

The beer, and the safe haven of the Gmoakeller, warmed us up.  A hint of kissing arose.  Nothing ostentatious: a nuzzle, perhaps, a cheek to a neck.

Grete shuffled across to where we were sitting.  She leaned down to my ear almost as though she were about to kiss me herself. (more…)


P G Wodehouse: 5 wondrous quotations from “Thank You, Jeeves”

My blog How to read P G Wodehouse: a practical guide praised Plumtopiaa P G Wodehouse specialist, for its advice on precisely this subject.  I thoroughly recommend the site.

More recently, in my blog How to read P G Wodehouse: a new prescription, I savoured the fruits of recent roaming of the Plum pastures; and cited juicy quotations from the outstanding Ring for Jeeves.

Indeed, I have been struck by the poverty of many self-styled treasuries of quotations when it comes to Plum’s oeuvre.

So here, without further ado, are a few additional succulent fruit, assembled by me with pleasure from Thank You, Jeeves.


The cover of the Folio edition of ‘Thank You, Jeeves’

Thank You, Jeeves strikes me as one of the funniest of the Jeeves tales (quite an accolade – Ed). Jeeves himself has oiled off elsewhere for much of the action, but in his absence, Bertie Wooster’s ability to get into scrapes is exploited to outstanding effect.  Such scenes as a night in which Bertie repeatedly fails to find a place to rest his head are (more…)

Austrian cafes: the truth about 1986

My original Vienna Cafe Reviews story, published in March 2017, included a story about a customer having a bad experience trying to get the bill, back in 1986.

A couple of my Austrian friends sprang to the defence of the waiter.  Sure, Vienna cafes had a charming, the-waiter-is-always-right serving ethos, they said.  But who wanted subservient waiters?  The attitude of Vienna cafe waiters was all about the dignity of labour, and standing up for the right to be treated as a human being.

I recommend the Cafe Schwarzenberg, which is not the cafe referred to below!

I was not so sure.  Indeed, these comments reminded me of my 2004 Financial Times piece “When dinner becomes the last supper“, which begins: Friends from Paris, Madrid or New York often ask me: “Why are German waiters so brilliant?”  It’s a satire, by the way.

Indeed, I have been in many Vienna cafes (the Sperl, the Bräunerhof and the Tirolerhof spring to mind) which are as traditional as they come, but where the waiters go about their business is an efficient and thoroughly satisfactory way.

Is there any contradiction between efficiency and tradition?  I’d welcome your views.

Meanwhile, I thought readers might be interested to read the full story of that 1986 experience.  It goes as follows.

I had been invited to lunch by a friend from the Vienna Town Hall (the mayor at that time was Mr Zilk).  My friend suggested we go to a certain cafe, famed for its traditions. (more…)


The Laughing Halibut

‘One of my favourite restaurants in London is the Laughing Halibut,’ I say as we eat our lunch in Vienna.  ‘When I first started eating there in 1979, it was run by this Italian guy, and one of his sons used to work there, a young bloke.  Now, the son is still there, he seems to run the place, but he has become a much older man.’

’40 years is a long time, I guess,’ my friend says.  ‘The Italian has aged.  But you have stayed the same.’

‘Correct!  It’s like that Joe Walsh song, Life’s been good to me so far.  Great lyrics.  It’s tough to handle this fortune and fame, he sings.  Everybody’s so different, I haven’t changed.  Best fish and chips in central London.’

A delicious portion of chips from the Laughing Halibut – RP

I often think of the Laughing Halibut, and would recommend it to anyone visiting or living in London.  In fact, I like it so much that it features in a key scene in a novel of mine, which is on ice at present but might see the light of day in a couple of years.  The scene also features a phlegmatic Italian waiter.

The scene (which I have lightly edited, for reasons too complex to explain here) is as follows.  Angus Fairfax, the protagonist of the book, is meeting his wife Rosie for lunch.

Excerpt from an unpublished novel

Rosie and I had instituted regular Monday lunches when she was promoted – again – twelve months before.  ‘You must be in the diary,’ she’d said.  ‘Otherwise, I’ll never see you.’

She’d been right.  These days, most of our conversations seemed to take place in the Laughing Halibut in Strutton Ground.

Strutton Ground was a curious street.  (more…)


Austria unfriendly? I don’t think so

I was bemused recently to see a news report headed: Austria ranked by expats as one of unfriendliest countries.

I have lived in Austria for years and have numerous friends.  Who are these expats who say Austrians are unfriendly?  And who is doing the measuring?  I decided to investigate.

It turns out that the report is based on the “Expat Insider 2017” survey carried out by the “InterNations” network.

Austria has a lot to offer – as well as friendly people – Photo RP

“Internations” is a company which works to help expats settle in and get to know other expats (slogan: “Wherever in the world life takes you, our InterNations Communities help you feel at home”).

Its full report, which you can download in full from the link above, is packed with interesting statistics.   (more…)


2017: 10 best blogs

I shall not try to summarise 2017 (thank God, I hear you cry): every journalist on earth is doing that.

Instead, I have chosen my favourite ten posts, out of the 47 I published in 2017.  Which is your favourite?  Let me know.  And feel free to re-post this on Facebook or to “like” it – if you do.

A novelty this year was my Picture Quiz – not including this picture from Cuba. Spot the Che Guevara tattoo

It wasn’t easy choosing a shortlist.  I’ve left out many favourites, including my account of how, aged 8, I used to electrocute myself regularly with my girlfriend Barbara in Wonder Woman and Wartime Moral Confusion; or my recent review of The Last Jedi 3/10: the galaxy’s most shagged-out designers? (more…)


The Last Jedi 3/10: the galaxy’s most shagged-out designers?

What a brilliant movie!  Full of breathtaking, blow-you-away moments, unpredictable plot-twists, and unforgettable images and ideas!

I speak, of course, of the original 1977 Star Wars.

I love movies and adore sci-fi.  The original Star Wars sent me into a drug-like high when I saw it in Dolby Sensurround at the Odeon Marble Arch in 1977.  So did parts of the original Guardians of the Galaxynot to mention the hilarious Galaxy Quest.  I gave a strong review to the last Star Wars outing, The Force Awakensdespite initial misgivings.

So when someone takes a massive budget, an epic back story and the expectations of millions and turns out something which is 80% as dull as ditchwater, I feel personally betrayed.  Here are 7 reasons why The Last Jedi is, by the standards of what could have been, an inter-galactic train-wreck:

(i) it is beyond boring.  In fact, it is the first movie in which I have actually fallen asleep in the cinema, ever.  The scenes of Rey and Luke discussing obscure stuff on an island go on and on and… dear God, please can something happen soon? (more…)

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