Peter Hain’s documentary begins at Marikana, the site of last year’s horrendous massacre in which 34 miners lost their lives. But Hain ranges far and wide in search of answers, finding some good cheer – sport, for example seems strikingly unified – but much more misery. As usual, the problems are, at their root, economic – the free market struggles to generate a living wage or any real choices for manual workers, while the unions are apparently in bed with the governing party.
Throw in corruption, the increased stifling of press freedom and the kind of race-dictated poverty that was assumed to be a thing of the past and an ugly picture emerges. Still, in historical terms, 20 years is a drop in the ocean; Hain’s natural optimism just about survives this dose of reality. But one senses it’s a close run thing.
Imagine an Orient Express dining carriage, exclusive in the best sense, trundling through Mittel-Europa not long after the fashion for the Grand Tour has ended. Picture that, but with Jarvis Cocker playing with his Würstchen to one side, and Salman Rushdie in discourse over his Gugelhupf on the other, and you’re on the right track. But this is not one of those odd dreams where you’re naked at a dinner party, this is Fischer’s in Marylebone, and our fellow diners were as unexpected as this restaurant’s USP. It’s only the most foolish of restaurateurs who would open an old-fashioned Austrian restaurant in the centre of London. Or, the most confident. The pair behind the venture, Chris Corbin and Jeremy King, have good cause to be sure their less-than-fashionable choice of cuisine is worth backing. These two elder statesmen of London’s restaurant scene have previously opened The Wolseley, The Delaunay, and – way back in 1990 – reopened celeb hotspot of the following two decades, The Ivy (now no longer theirs). Celebrities love these restaurants not merely for their two-track booking system (fast-track for slebs; sidings for the hoi polloi), but also because they exude an ageless elegance. The interior of Fischer’s is another permutation of the European Grand Café that Corbin and King have made their signature, but with some 20th-century modern-art touches that evoke a sense of place: the Vienna of Gustav Klimt and Art Nouveau. The menu would be familiar to anyone doing a whirl
Venue says: “Evocative of Vienna in the early twentieth century, Fischer’s is a little slice of Austria in Marylebone.”