Letter from London - Behind the Scenes on Eastern Promises

Source: Clarin

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© Buen Ayre.
 
My steak restaurant is located in a small street called Broadway Market, in Hackney, on the east side of London. This is a typically low cost area, but it has been changing lately mainly due to rocketing housing costs in the city.

A few weeks ago the small street suddenly became a movie set. Honestly, we knew nothing about it, so imagine the surprise of two of our Buen Ayre waiters when they arrived on the first day of shooting and they saw Viggo Mortensen going into the hairdressing salon next door to start the day's shooting. When the waiters shouted: "What's up, cuervo botón?", Mr. Mortensen saw them, saw the sign in front of our restaurant (Buen Ayre) and gave a slight smile.

That same night, after they had finished working, he came with David Cronenberg, the great director, to have dinner and he was wearing a San Lorenzo soccer shirt. And I... I had gone home because the previous day was my birthday and I was still suffering from an awful hangover.

The following night, while I was still mad because I had missed the most star-struck day in the life of our humble steak restaurant, a guy showed up at Buen Ayre with a packet of Rosamonte yerba maté, a dozen alfajores Havanna (type of cookie) and an autographed photograph of Viggo Mortensen. Of course, those of us who were there quickly ate the alfajores, and told everyone else that, to our amazement, Viggo had sent us a photograph and a packet of yerba. But lies are soon found out, and ours only lasted a couple of days.

Two days later, a guy rolling his own cigarettes showed up at the bar, very shady character, his fingers full of tattoos and with a sinister look. "So who is this guy?" I asked myself while I tried to get some rebellious chorizos (pork sausage) under control on the grill. Then, I'm suddenly shaken to hear the question he is asking Javier, someone who never eats less alfajores Havanna than we do: "Did you get what I sent you?" "Yes, thanks for the yerba" Javier answers innocently and naively. "And the alfajores...?" Viggo blurts out. So it was that we embarrassed ourselves in front of the rest of the staff, although if it is true that the actor lived in Argentina for 10 years, he wouldn't be too surprised by the disappearance of the valued sweets.

Viggo is more or less the antithesis of what you would expect from a Hollywood star. I'm not saying he dresses like a beggar but, unless he is rehearsing for a new version of The Prince and The Pauper and he takes the "method actor" thing more seriously than Marlon Brando, the truth is that the guy looks more than modest when it comes to clothes. He told us a couple of very funny anecdotes from the time he shared the Susana (Gimenez) show with Diego (Maradona).

After that, he came two more times, always dressed in the San Lorenzo colors or with something related to the club (he brought the flag twice, and he used it as a tablecloth...), until one day he made a reservation for the "end of shoot dinner". So he came again with David Cronenberg and a group of people who don't seem to sleep very often, to wrap up the shoot. What's more, towards the end of the night I played some music by Ray Barretto, and Viggo shouted at me from his table: "Acid!" For a moment, I froze because I thought he was asking for dessert, but then I remembered that Acid was the name of the Barretto disc I had just started playing, which is not only one of my favorites, but also one of his. Twin souls, shall we say.

When Cronenberg left, I suddenly became shy and I did not ask for the picture de rigueur. When I went back into the restaurant, I shared this with Mortensen, who told me not to be an idiot and asked me to go outside with him. There, he called the legendary director before he got into a taxi, and we took a picture, on the street in front of the restaurant.

It seems that our 15 minutes of glory may be extended. It looks like we've become longtime friends with Viggo (he brought all the things that were left in his hotel, including half a bottle of brandy and I don't know how many chocolates!!!), and he promised to invite us to the movie premiere, if it is in London. What a great guy!!!

This is our story.

John Rattagan and all the Buen Ayre staff
www.buenayre.co.uk
Last edited: 3 August 2007 14:24:15
© Clarin. Images © John Rattagan.