Mean Cuisine

floating restaurants

An old bit of silliness. But fun. You'll never order take out again.

Battle of Gravesend.

Archaeologists have finally discovered the true location of the Battle of Gravesend, the site of a clash between rival Chinese floating restaurants in the Thames estuary.

On a moody day in 1988, two huge maritime eateries rounded Sheerness heading for the fabled dining possibilities offered by the London Docklands development. The 20,000-tonne Jade Palace was fast but lightly armoured, relying on speed and an efficient staff of Cantonese chefs for supremacy in the competitive waterfront-development dining theatre. The Pride of Shanghai was bigger at 40,000 tonnes, but sluggish. Even though she carried a decent selection of French and Italian wines to complement indigenous Chinese beers, she was at a distinct disadvantage in the narrow confines of the estuary.

The two opposing restaurants sighted each other at 4pm, both vessels running light as only a few late business-lunch customers remained on board. Immediately, the Jade Palace raced into the attack, her waiters manning the balconies and sharpening their cleavers in anticipation of an easy victory. The Pride of Shanghai viewed the approaching restaurant with foreboding, but the captain, a veteran of earlier engagements such as the clash between the Great Wall and Magic Dragon in Cardiff Bay, was not a man to be underestimated.

Turning his flank, he gave the Jade Palace a smaller target and prepared to ram the ornate battle diner. Knives, oil lamps and chairs flew. Soon the grey waters of the Thames ran red with the blood of waiters, waitresses, kitchen porters and a coach party from Belgium, who frantically ran around the Pride of Shanghai asking for a refund until shrapnel cut them down like a scythe.

Steadily the Pride and the Jade Palace closed upon each other until both vessels, now ablaze from stem to stern, collided in a sickening impact, a horrific cacophony of blood-curdling screams and snapping bamboo.

Mortally wounded, both ships limped apart and entered their death throes. Bodies, chairs, traditional prints and crispy ducks bobbed in the water, now slick with plum sauce. Within a few minutes it was all over as both restaurants, no longer floating, slipped beneath the cold waters and were gone.

There were not many survivors, but a traumatised few survived by hanging onto the tables, chairs and wooden dragons until finally they reached the north or south bank of the river. In time, they integrated with the communities where they made shore, and this in part explains why there are so many first-class takeaways in Strood, Canvey Island and Southend.

© Tim Brown 2016