YOUR modern pop singer is essentially a businessman. Any cash left over after the accountants and the cocaine dealers have been paid off goes into unit trusts, pension funds and water shares. Bill Wyman, the Rolling Stone more recently famous as sagging groom to a leggy child-bride, Man- dy Smith, is of a gentler, Aquarian age, When it was the duty of a conscientious rocker to give something back to his People. What Bill has now given us is a cafe restaurant in Kensington.
Like others of its kind Sticky Fingers is What the marketing men are pleased to call a theme restaurant. Except that the only theme here is the owner himself, and so, as if this were the bedroom of some Stones- fanatical teenager, we eat against walls decked with the signs of Jaggerophilia. Here is a collection of Stones posters, circa 1972, there a newspaper clipping showing Wyman at his Sixties toothiest. In the middle of the longest waIl is, encased in glass, the very guitar that Bill inadvertently forgot to smash during that unforgettable concert in Hyde Park — or at Shea Stadium or the Marquee or somewhere. Wyman is justly proud of his achieve- ments as a musician: not only do the walls serve to remind us of almost three decades of raunchily revamped 12-bar blues, but the menu is there to follow the memory through. Bill is no longer a young man, but he can still remember quite a bit of many of the numbers he helped make famous. You toked along to Goat's Head Soup? Well here's Goat's Head Gumbo, a fishy, chick- eny, prawny stew and, writes Bill, 'almost a meal in itself which is probably true if your idea of a balanced diet is a pre-gig bottle of Scotch and a couple of joints. You got on down with `Jumpin' Jack Flash'? Now eat to the beat with Jumpin' Jack Flesh: 'Cajun popcorn... crispy peppery crayfish bits with a hot mustard dip' and with, mmmmm! that unforgettable Student Union taste of left-over fish cakes. You get the idea.
But for all that, the Wyman motif is emblazoned over everything motif-able, the restaurant itself could be the product of, let us say, a. used car trader with fond memories of a patchouli-scented night in 1969 and some liquid dosh to invest in a burger bar. The floor is from the stripped- pine catalogue: the overabundance of tables, pattern-book, mahogany-stained, semi-rustic. Change the posters on the walls and rejig the menu and the place could equally convincingly be La Bamba (`Capture That Tex-Mex Mood of Richie Valens with Good-Time Guacamole') or even Henry Hall's (`the English Eaterie where we always say, "Here's to The Next Time"').
The youngsters seemed to like it, though, or, as Bill had it (and if Bill didn't have it it just wasn't haveable), 'The Kids are Alright'. Not that any of the customers seemed old enough to remember Bill at his peak. Indeed, I doubt if many of them were up to much more than gurgling when `Brown Sugar' came out; and the party of pre-teens noisily wolfing birthday hambur- gers at a long table were strictly of the Kylie Minogue generation. The canned music didn't help to rekindle what dormant Stone-age memories any of us had: it was solid Tamla all night long.
Regular readers will by now have noticed that I have not undertaken my usual encomium on the subject of the food.
This is simply because there's not much to say. In his years with the Stones, Bill has travelled the world: Japan, Europe, Au- stralia, the States. If his interest in food has led him to collect exotic recipes on his travels, then it doesn't show here: trans- lated, the menu reads: burgers, steaks, chicken, chili, salad and sticky puddings. I had the spare ribs, which in all honesty made up half the ribby complement of a single baby pig and lay glutinously across my plate like something from The Flint- stones. When I had eaten my fill there were still some dozen ribs spare.
Why do I bring you this intelligence? Partly it's because the theme restaurant is where much of the high street catering business is going nowadays, and I feel some of you need to know what you're missing. The main reason, though, is that I recently received a note from a young reader whose name I would give you if I hadn't thrown his letter away. 'Why is it', he wrote (as far as I remember), 'that The Spectator offers a special student discount on its cover price, but never mentions restaurants to which a student would want to go?' Sticky Fingers, gentle reader, is why. And anyway, at £32 for two including a couple of cocktails but no wine — you should be spending your grant cheque more productively.