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More Litvinenko weirdness

Until recently, there was a shop named popXpress in Piccadilly near the Ritz hotel in London. This was a little store devoted entirely to selling Apple iPods and iPod accessories. When it was opened, people who analyse this sort of thing found it an interesting experiment, but were not terribly optimistic about its success, at least partly because it was situated only a short walk from the London flagship Apple Store in Regent Street. Higher hopes were held for the other popXpress store near Liverpool Street in the City of London, which was close to many cashed up City workers and far from an Apple Store. Thus it was not a terribly great surprise when parent company Computer Warehouse announced in March that the Piccadilly store was to close (the store in Liverpool Street remains open and quite possibly profitable). Upon learning this, most of us would have said “Oh”, and then gone back to sleep. However, the explanation, when it came, was stunning.

Next to the popXpress store in Piccadilly was and is a sushi bar, a branch of a chain named Itsu. This is what is known as a “fast casual” restaurant: a bit more expensive and with food a bit tastier than McDonald’s, but designed for people in a hurry or on their lunch breaks who want a quick meal and do not want to spend too much money. Itsu belongs to Pret a Manger, probably the king of London fast casual dining (and, incidentally, 30% owned by McDonald’s) . There are a couple of Itsu outlets near where I work in Canary Wharf, and from time to time I eat lunch in those outlets myself. The food is not bad, but it is not exactly worth writing home to Mum about either. I have never eaten at the branch in Piccadilly, and I suspect that few people who know the area do, because the (possibly Japanese government subsidised) Japan Centre at Piccadilly Circus is just down the road, and this manages to both be inexpensive and to serve some of the best Japanese food in London.

However, the Itsu restaurant in Piccadilly gained notoriety last November as the place where Alexander Litvinenko had lunch with his Italian acquaintance Mario Scaramella, where it was for a time believed he was poisoned and where traces of Polonium 210 were later discovered, leading to many radioactive sushi jokes.

As I mentioned, a couple of months after this, the popXpress store next door announced it was closing. Few would have thought there was a connection, but when asked, management explained that that had received “an offer they couldn’t refuse” from Itsu, who wanted to expand their store. Apparently, business had been absolutely booming since the Polonium 210 incident, and they wanted to expand the restaurant (no, I will not speculate as to why this offer could not be refused, and which if any isotopes were involved). Apparently Itsu also brought forward plans to open their first store in New York, as the publicity was apparently a godsend. It would seem that all publicity is good publicity, even when you are a change of restaurants and the publicity was that your food might be radioactive.

Actually, that may not be entirely true. Or at least it can be further tested. For come to think of it, another chain restaurant in London was in the news recently. At the Strand branch of pizza chain Zizzi, a man recently entered the restaurant at dinner time, obtained a knife from the kitchen, and used it to sever his own penis in front of diners.

Upon walking past that particular restaurant a couple of days later, I will confess that I was struck by a strong urge to walk in the opposite direction. Really, though, I should go in and ask management what the publicity has done for business. For I may want to take an interest in the business next door.

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14 comments to More Litvinenko weirdness

  • Aaagh! There is a link that says “sever his own penis” and it’s broken. What a tease!

    I can’t say a Polonium 210 tainted restaurant would be my first choice for dining, but presumably there can’t be any danger or they’d have been shut down by some government agency or other.

  • a.sommer

    At the Strand branch of pizza chain Zizzi, a man recently entered the restaurant at dinner time, obtained a knife from the kitchen, and used it to sever his own penis in front of diners.

    A wierdo is much less likely to reproduce, and no bystanders were harmed in the process. Hooray!

    What’s the problem? Nobody wants the knife used to prepare food anymore? Put it up on ebay- he’ll get more than the replacement cost, I’m sure.

  • Midwesterner

    he’ll get more than the replacement cost, I’m sure.

    Err… cost to replace what? The knife? Or…

  • Nick M

    Let’s assume a. sommer was not considering the cost of replacing a tadger if only because I can give you a quote off the top of my head for a DirectX9c GFX card or a kitchen knife but I’d have to think long and indeed hard about the cost of a new Johnson. Or a second-hand Johnson, I suppose. Does it matter if it’s in a “used” condition or where and how it’s been used? I mean is Rom Jeremies’ stain-stick worth more or less because of the years and mileage. BTW my wife once met the legendary “woodsman”. They breakfasted together in a Florida motel. She didn’t have the presence of mind to ask him for his Hancock though. Would’ve made my honeymoon. It would’ve been almost as good as meeting Mr T. Which, like Homer Simpson, I’ve never quite managed.

    So, ultimately, it means that we’re talking about eBaying a knife used by a mentalist to cut off his old chap. Cripes that really would sell!

    And just as Itsu can testify it just goes to show that quite frankly, every cloud does indeed have a silver lining.

    I Pity the Fool!

  • Nick M

    OK, I’m not belittling the poor mad bastard who cut his cock off. But, quite frankly, he was a mentalist.

    I mean no sane person does that? Well not in a chain restaurant, anyway. Lord almighty, he might as well of emasculated himself in a Bella Pasta! And that’s only one step up from a Pizza Hut.

    When I publically cut my richard off I vow it’ll only be somewhere with Michelin stars and it will be YouTubed.

    Davina McCall may even present, or perhaps Ant & Dec. I haven’t quite decided.

  • guy herbert

    Since “zizi” is an Italian diminutive for “cazzo” (with about the same tone as “willy” as far as my limited grasp of Italian informs me), did he think there was some coded instruction in the name “zizzi”, I wonder?

  • Or a second-hand Johnson, I suppose. Hell, who counts.

  • Nick M

    Seeing as the bloke in question was Polish (bloody immigrants coming over here and…) then somehow I doubt it. You are to be commended though on your knowledge of the old Italian. Well, commended more than the idiots who named their restaurant chain after the Italian for “willy”. Although in a similar vein do ya know what they called the website of Powergen’s Italian enterprise?

    Italy. A great place to do business. Innuendo guaranteed.

  • RobtE

    Nick M –

    An urban myth, I’m afraid. but still a good story.

  • Terry Wrist

    Japan Centre, Piccadilly: Know the owner personally. We lived in the same village in Oxfordshire before I emigrated. Japan government subsidised? You need to check your facts before disseminating unsubstantiated rumour. Why not call in and ask Mr. Tokumine.

  • I don’t think that “possibly” is a very strong assertion, actually. It has the feel of a place designed to be somewhere that Japanese people in London can go and feel comfortable, Foreign governments sometimes help create such places. In truth I am delighted that Mr Tokumine’s is a private business, and he has my compliements for running such an excellent one. I might drop in for lunch tomorrow.

  • If this hypothesis is true, then presumably business for The Polonium Restaurant in Sheffield should also be booming.

  • steph

    which reminds be of this great line from Michael Z Williamson’s home page on things one should not do in the millitary.

    “I will not douse myself with the contents of a chemical light stick, then knock on a door and tell them there’s been a terrible accident.”