By Patrick Evenden
NEVER listen to Craig David’s Born To Do It while you’re eating beef stroganoff. Nothing out of the ordinary will happen. It’s just a really shit album. There are certain types of music that lend themselves to dining and unfortunately for Craig, his brand of laid back UK RnB is not one of them.
However, if you are reading this Craig, which you undoubtedly are, do not dwell on this thought for too long. There are entire genres of music that we should instantly dismiss come dinner time. No one wants to tuck into salmon en croute whilst listening to industrial metal. Similarly, I highly doubt anyone has ever served a soufflé to UK grime. I once went to an Indian restaurant that eschewed the exotic sound of the sitar, in favour of Mariah Carey, and I haven’t been back since.
Getting the music right is essential for a dining experience, and second only to the food and drink. I’d even put it above the service. It normally takes most of the evening to fully establish that you’ve got a rubbish waiter. It takes me around three seconds to recognise and become irritated by the sound of Paul McCartney’s voice.
A lot of people rely on Jazz. It doesn’t demand your attention and instead leisurely meanders along in the background. But then it is incredibly tried and tested and fairly predictable. Unless we’re talking about progressive Jazz. But you don’t want to open that can of worms, not unless you’re entertaining Belgians.
More recently the tendency has been to fragrance the air with the sounds of far-off places, to intoxicate guests into believing that they are not actually in Lower Sydenham. Twenty years ago, this accounted for the staggering success of the Gypsy Kings and meant you couldn’t get a Viennetta past your lips without hearing Bamboleo. Now, thankfully, the focus appears to have switched to Central and South America, as dining room conquistadors explore the continent’s rich musical treasures.
On Wednesday I had the good fortune to head to Emporio Sao Paulo in Parsons Green, a splendid new Brazilian café-bar which has started catering for those looking for the live Latin American experience. Already popular with the local community and Brazilians across the capital, the café is now playing host to musicians from Argentina, Brazil and Cuba. It was a great evening and it is not difficult to see why the sounds of South America prove so in demand.You only hope for the sake of our cultural reputation that there isn’t a backstreet bar in Buenos Aires playing host to Craig David, who is busy telling a group of bemused Argentineans what he gets up to in the week. Hopefully, he is much further away than that.