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The Origins of Astray Buffet

Born of the lack of a quality all you could eat restaurant in 1930’s, depression-stricken London, the Astray Buffet first flung open it’s doors on Fleet Street in 1931 (in the process, injuring a sleeping drunk who’d set up camp in the foyer, according to the Associated Press).

With it’s prime locale — merely metres from the Royal Courts of Justice and a short stroll from the Headjob and Handbrake — the original Astray Buffet soon gained notoriety for all the wrong reasons. In short, those who could afford to indulge in it’s delicacies — namely, the legal professionals and journalists that frequented that quarter of London — would never get the chance.

Queues form outside the original Astray Buffet

Queues form outside the original Astray Buffet

And delicacies they were. Giant Alaskan crab, caught, iced and shipped direct from the Bering Sea, individually, hand-washed Estonian caviar from the icy waters of the Baltic and black, summer truffles freshly barrowed from the Dordogne Region of France. No expense was spared, no rock left unturned in the pursuit of culinary distinction.

The Astray Buffet’s owner and founder, Cartwright P. Moochjeenie Senior, a trail-blazing entrepreneur and philanthropist had attained his wealth in Meat Oil Cream, following the Saggy Neck Skin (SNS) epidemic of the 1890’s.

Ironically it was the Fleet Street press that had first hinted at the SNS outbreak in 1882, fuelled it’s flames well into the new century and finally pissed on the coals of the the story in 1907 with their incessant praise of the wonder-cure, Moochjeenie’s Meat Oil Cream.

It was a story completely based on bullshit from the outset. A story that had made Moochjeenie a millionaire over and over again. There were no real losers. Moochjeenie’s Meat Oil Cream was ridiculously overpriced, making it affordable to only the top echelon of London Society. The cream did nothing in the way of reducing the effects of SNS but made those who applied it, almost irresistible to the slobbering advances of lap dogs — of which the top echelon of London society loved and owned many. They may as well have slapped Senor Pooch — the dog food for fussy eaters — on their saggy necks, such was it’s effect. It was a situation made entirely of win.

By 1930, following the stock-market crash of the previous year and with the great depression taking a stranglehold on the capital, Moochjeenie’s ambitious plans for an Astray Buffet had begun to take shape. By the following year, AB was a reality.

A fanfare signalled it’s opening. Dignitaries, politicians and socialites queued for hours on a misty December morning, waiting to be seated and treated to a feast the likes not before sampled in London. None were granted entry.

It was the sleeping drunk who’d been smacked in the head with the door, who was the first to be offered a table at Astray Buffet. His name, Jeremiah S. Quarterpouch. A name later given a second squirt at fame as the main protagonist in Credence Clearwater Revival’s gibberish hit, Jeremiah was a Bullfrog. Reputedly once quizzed on the Bullfrog reference, Jeremiah replied, “fuck if I know!” before asking for a slug on that vodka.

Moochjeenie spent the following 90 minutes walking the streets of Aldwych and Covent Garden, dodging puddles of piss and extending an open invitation to every prostitute and panhandler he passed. By six p.m. the Buffet was filled to capacity with all manner of social degenerates, drunkards, sinners and reprobates. The aristocracy was outraged, the Buffet was swinging and not a penny had changed hands. An institution was born.

Moochjeenie’s plan to rid himself of his Meat Oil Cream wealth had begun well. His annual cash burn operating the original Astray Buffet was comfortably into six figures. He opened another in Greenwich in ’32 and a third in Clapham in ’33. All we’re gobbling cash like there was no tomorrow. The homeless were employed and receiving top-flight training and ridiculous wages, feeding their vagrant friends top class cuisine and fine wine for free. It was a plan that couldn’t fail.

By early 1945, with the war still dragging on and almost entirely out of his Meat Oil Cream cash, Moochjeenie took it upon himself to kill Hitler. A feat he achieved with the aid of a German Luftwaffe uniform, a novelty dog pooh for diversion and a BB gun. He expected to return home via the parlours and coffee shops of Amsterdam to foreclosure and repossession notices by the dozen but it wasn’t to be. Instead, his accountant informed him that he was in fact now, richer than ever.

It seems that, although a great deal of the Buffet’s patrons over the years had been too drunk to scratch, many who had gone on to find their feet, had recalled Cartwright J. Moochjeenie’s generosity in their wills. One brilliantly disturbed gentleman who had died of late, left a personal fortune valued at 7.4 million pounds to be split between Moochjeenie and his cat, Mr. Twinkles ‘The Traindriver’ Purrington.

Cartwright P. Moocjheenie
dine@astraybuffet.com
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