Laboutrou is a foot-fetish bar, though I confess I didn’t know this straight-away and had to look it up on the internet. They serve food and inadequately-clad women with elegant feet and have a bar that looks well-stocked from the pictures, though the feet and ankles, often supported in stilettos, rather obscure the picture and made it hard for me to figure out what I thought the food might be like. Plain, I suspected. Simple stuff, probably cooked ok. Nothing special, but then it would still be much better than the place from last night, and it would give me a review to turn in. My editor might frown a little, but I could point out (gently, of course) that this just supported diversity and recognised that we draw our readership from all walks of life. Which is largely bull; people will read it because they’re curious that we’ve got the gall to tell them that such a place exists, and the cojones to go there and find out what it’s like. And as “Jim the Sales guy” knows, some of them will be curious, or desperate, enough to go there themselves “for the food” and then he’s got customers for life. Or at least until they move on to something a little more hard-core.
I turned up wearing my suit and realised that I was little overdressed. The bar had seats at the bar and at well spaced tables, and a catwalk of sorts ran through the whole room. There were two girls out on the catwalk with long, elegant legs and limited clothing, and the tables closest to the catwalk were all already taken. The only two that were empty had Reserved signs prominently displayed. Most of the people in there were men, clad in denim jeans and flannel shirts or heavy-cotton t-shirts and paid no attention to anyone coming in. There was a stag party, judging from the costumers (two cows, a sheep, an inflatable sheep with sunglasses, a fox, and a Santa Claus because there’s always one guy who doesn’t understand that there’s a theme or can’t be bothered to hire the right kind of costume), and there were a couple of women here and there. That surprised me a little, and then I realised that I had no right to be surprised. The bar advertised its food, with the foot as optional, so there was no reason for women to feel like this was a male-only space.
The maître’d took one look at me and ushered me over to my seat the bar without asking my name. I raised an eyebrow and he nodded – I was seriously overdressed. I slipped my tie off and into my pocket, but the room didn’t seem like anywhere I wanted to risk an expensive jacket ending up on the floor.
“What’ll it be, then, dude?” asked a bartender, seemingly appearing out of nowhere. He looked me up and down. “Brandy sends her regards, she’s ill tonight. Got toe flu.”
I tried not to laugh, but I couldn’t control the smirk. The bartender caught it.
“Yeah,” he sighed. “Everyone laughs dude, go ahead. It’s a real thing though, when you’re parading your feet around like they do all night five nights a week. Occupational hazard. You can ask your doctor.”
I managed to get the smirk under control and turn it into what I hoped was a friendly grin. “Right,” I said. “It’s fine, sorry. In my line of work you get all kinds of odd digestive ailments from time to time that people don’t believe are real either.”
“I don’t want to hear about that dude, that’s disgusting! You eating or not?”
Toe flu fine for dinner conversation but Montezuma’s Revenge wasn’t? Well actually, he might have a point there. I picked up the menu and scanned it: bar food seemed about the right description.
“Chicken strippers, onion rings,…” I rattled off seven items and then turned to the drinks list. To my surprise all the beers listed were local or described as craft. After several moments of indecision I realised that I’d already ordered enough food for two, so I ordered three different beers as well. The bartender looked a little stunned.
“All for you, right? ‘Cos you can’t feed the girls.”
I blinked as the image of little signs dotted around the catwalk reading “Do not feed the models” swam before my vision, and then it was gone again. “All for me,” I agreed. “Part of the job.”
And here, dear reader, is the crux of the matter. The food that arrived was so good that I was oblivious to the girls wandering around the room for the rest of the two hours that I was there. There could have been two hobbits chasing Gollum for all I knew or cared, but that food was incredible. The chicken strippers were little juicy goujons of delight coated in a delicate batter that was expertly seasoned and spiced and delivered on the promise that the Colonel made for a distinctly different piece of chicken. The onion rings weren’t slimy, they were crisp on the outside and meltingly soft on the inside; there was a creaminess to them that I eventually got the chef to reveal was a soubise that the onions were dipped in before they were battered and fried. The beers took a bit of working out, but eventually I figured which to pair with which foods and my mouth was rapturous about it. The whole evening was so far removed from the one two days ago that it was hard to believe that I could find two such different establishments in the same city.
When I got home, the Blonde was sitting in the living room with the television off and her lips pur