As dear old Bob Tickler made it abundantly clear he was not staying in Brighton, we killed two birds with one stone when he invited me to the Chichester Festival Theatre for a matinee performance of Miss Julie and Black Comedy and I wanted to check out the local restaurants for my Sussex Guide: Daffers dining on the Downs. Our first choice, Marco’s, had no availability so we went to Murrays, the restaurant at the Ship Hotel.
The fusion of restaurants and hotels has been a happy one. The big chefs have opened up restaurants, but lesser names like Tosi have established themselves in hotels and 64 Degrees is taking the same route. Dining in hotel restaurants in the old days could be a dull affair, lacking in ambience. Murrays occupies a comfortable and elegant space in the hotel and, as with 64 Degrees, our waitress was extremely helpful and friendly and soon caught Bob’s eye. We had scallops with carelemised black puddings. I’m almost scalloped-tired of this dish, it’s so ubiquitous – I first sampled it at Aquashard. Afterwards we chose calf’s liver, which was as good as I have ever tasted, with crispy bacon and the rich jus which suffused the mash was quite delicious in flavour. Bob was on cloud nine when the waitress, a photography student from Suffolk, who had followed her boyfriend to Chichester, confessed he had made her day. Poppet number four was clearly registering on Bob’s radar, but as the plays were soon starting I warded him away from his prey.
As a teen actress I can recall auditioning for Black Comedy in the deb role, so I was familiar with the Peter Shaffer play. I prefered to it to Miss Julie. The Strindberg play, of a young woman’s sexual desires crossing the class divide with a servant, might have been audacious for the 1880s but did not resonate with Daffers who, at the time of her brush with Black Comedy was having a rare old time of it up and down the Kings Road, as bit of a “goer” and partial to ‘rough trade’.
Neither of the two plays had much of an effect upon Bob, other than to set him off to slumber. “Nothing like Strindberg for my afternoon nap ..” he commented. Dressed rather absurdly in a velvet burgundy smoking jacket with black tassles, he looked more like a Ruritanian courtier than Noel Coward and gently snored through both plays.