Sunday, January 16, 2011

Remembering Dublin's Trocadero

"You lucky, lucky thing!  But you absolute fiend!  And how we envy you.  The frocks are terrific; so classic my dear, black, with that lovely rich purple trim. Those gold crosses and rings. And, when you reach the top, as you most certainly will, you get to wear that fabulous Big Red Hat!" 

One of Dublin’s most beautiful men had announced his intention to join the priesthood.  His ‘goodbye social life’ party was held in the Trocadero restaurant. How we roared when one of his friends, dressed for the occasion as Oscar, complete with green carnation, began his speech with the above.  In my celebration of daft nights in this legendary restaurant, that evening was in a class of it‘s own.

Since the picture of Alan Rickman appeared, I haven’t minded if people were late meeting me in the Trocadero. They could be as late as they liked. That black coat and those eyes. 

But all the pictures are special, as I was reminded the night I was obliged to hastily leave down my knife and fork, when a walking stick was thrust in across my plate. A voice said, "Ah look, I knew it was around here somewhere.  There you are!" 

I looked up to see Ulick O’Connor grinning apologetically as his friend - Ben Kiely - tapped the photo with his stick, said "good evening" to me, and left the restaurant.

The Trocadero decor has been described as being a bit like a theatre. It certainly produces theatrical behaviour.  There was the woman who, fully intending to take a taxi home, parked her car in a tiny lane around the corner. After much dissecting, re-living and hooting at the carry-on at the hunt ball, our fearless heroine decided, at two in the morning, to drive herself home.  She got into her sports car, and hey presto, found herself flying through the back door of one of the little shops which front on to Wicklow Street.

There was the night that somebody knocked over a cup of coffee and the ensuing row ended up downstairs in the gents with one person yelling at the other: "you hate me because I'm gay! You've never liked me".  Then the other person shouting back so loudly, that the women in the ladies next door could clearly hear: "I don’t hate you because you're gay. This is a very expensive suit!”  A pause, and then “Jesus, I never even knew you were gay." 

The mid-week night, and a wedding anniversary when my husband had forgotten to book a table and the staff squeezed us in, making things incredibly awkward for themselves really.  They didn't seem to mind in the least.  The atmosphere was just the same, magic.  It certainly wasn't the fault of the Trocadero that we, sadly, divorced years later. 

One evening, a worthy discussion was going on about whether a trek over India would be a valuable, life enhancing experience.  One of the women, running her hand through her magnificent blonde hair said, "Well, yes. I've always wanted to do that, and I would love to go of course.  But then I think, well, what about my roots?”

I once woke up to find myself in the back of a taxi, the driver asking "which road is it now, love? The chap at the restaurant said to drive to the sea and take one of the first turns.”  Large ‘thank you’ card dropped in to Robert and staff next morning by mortified woman with big red face... 

Lord Henry Mountcharles and some friends dropped in one packed night and there were no tables available.  They waited with the rest of the queue. The people at my table were English and absolutely amazed.  They weirdly thought that perhaps someone would be moved around to accommodate the party.  We explained about Henry, his restaurant at that time, the castle, the concerts, and above all, about him being human.  Gasps from the English assembly.

A marriage loomed.  Hearing the words ‘two conventional mothers’, feeling the young bride and groom were perhaps under enough stress, and most importantly, not interested in the slightest in the whole affair, I went to the Trocadero with Bill, old friend through thick and thin. As the first bottle of wine was opened Bill remarked ”you were right; who would want to go to a wedding and miss all this?”  Lutz kept the bottles coming. We ended up in the Coach and Horses - closed now - watching an Italian movie. Enough said. Excellent evening.

There was the night I met a charming individual known as Miss Candy; the two of us got tipsy together and I discovered that the only lipstick to use for staying power was Princess Marcella Borghese.  My partner, when he came in to collect me described the two of us as "looking like something out of AB FAB". He went away again and the rest of the evening remains a haze.

Trocadero stories would not be complete without Frank.  Whether it was a casual meal for two women friends, a romantic celebration, a business meeting or a noisy crowded table, Frank added to the evening, giving it exactly the right note. There he was, dressed in those impeccable black tails, the white starched dinner shirt and bow tie, his splendid white hair perfectly groomed. You knew you were in for a very special night if you were lucky enough to get a booth in Frank's section of the Troc. 

We lived near each other and I often shared a taxi home with him. Frank was inclined to issue warnings to taxi drivers not to dare to drive away until ‘the Lady has gone in her front door, and closed it behind her!’

According to the staff at the Trocadero, his spirit lives on in the restaurant. I agree. When I was leaving Ireland to come and live in France I had one of my farewell dinners in the Trocadero, at a table in Frank’s old spot. It was the best of evenings and in the early hours I tottered happily out, as I had been doing for years. This time, the friends in the taxi waited to see me safely in my front door.


  1. What a wonderful picture you paint! Enough to make me wish I had a better head for alcohol ;-)

  2. Super! I remember Frank well and the lovely piano playing. He was a wonderful man and will always be remembered fondly by anyone who had the pleasure of meeting his acquaintance. I love the Troc, just as much now as I did 25 years ago. I love Robert, Claire, Jackie and the entire team that make it such a wonderful experience every single time. The best restaurant in Europe as far as I'm concerned and maybe even the world! P.S. The monkfish is to die for! ��

  3. What a wonderful piece Jane , Candy is still alive ( BARELY !!! HA HA ) , I'm still doing Charity lunch once a Year , Think you will enjoy this