Until now, the London suburb of Woking was best known as the home of the Spice Girls and the fictitious setting for H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds. But thanks to Prince Andrew, the city’s Pizza Express outlet has suddenly gained international fame and sparked a social media frenzy.
Fake online reviews of the restaurant began flooding Twitter and various websites within hours of Prince Andrew’s television interview Saturday in which he addressed allegations about his relationship with American pedophile Jeffrey Epstein. The restaurant has also been packed since then with curious customers and TV cameras stalking patrons for their impressions.
The uproar is a result of the Prince’s remarkably precise recollection of visiting the restaurant on March 10, 2001, a day when he was alleged to have slept with a teenager procured by Mr. Epstein. Virginia Giuffre has alleged that she drank and danced with Prince Andrew in a London nightclub that evening before heading to a home belonging to Mr. Epstein’s former girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell. During the interview, the Prince said the encounter couldn’t have happened because he was at the Pizza Express in Woking with his daughter Princess Beatrice. When asked how he could recall that so vividly, he replied: “Because going to Pizza Express in Woking is an unusual thing for me to do, a very unusual thing for me to do. I’ve only been to Woking a couple of times and I remember it weirdly distinctly. As soon as somebody reminded me of it, I went, ‘Oh yes, I remember that.’”
The comment quickly prompted a host of cheeky online reviews. "I’ve stayed at many a mansion of billionaires and been to amazing night clubs, but I can’t remember anything about them, only my visit to Pizza Express in Woking,” one writer said. Another said: “I can remember every time I have been here and the exact date as well.”
British food writer Giles Coren chimed in with a tweet: “Ask him what he ordered. If he says ‘a sloppy Giuseppe’ you’ve got him. Because they didn’t introduce that till 2006.”
Others mocked the Prince’s response to Ms. Giuffre’s allegation that he was sweating profusely on the dance floor that night. Prince Andrew said he’d suffered from an overdose of adrenaline while serving on a ship in the Falklands War in 1982 that left him unable to sweat. “Love this place. I had a cracking pizza here in 2001. I remember it was 2001 because it was very strange the guy next to me had an American Hot pizza with extra chilies… not a drop of sweat came off him. Very odd,” wrote one reviewer. "Wonderful staff, great food, no sweat!” said another.
Staff at the restaurant would not comment when contacted Monday. But the company got into the act on Twitter with a post that said: “9:00 pm – Switch off computer. 10:00 pm – 120 messages on work WhatsApp group telling you to ‘check Twitter now.'”
The interview has also led students at the University of Huddersfield to call for Prince Andrew to resign as chancellor. The student union has already won support for a motion that says students “should not be represented by a man with ties to organized child sexual exploitation and assault.” University officials gave the Prince their full backing Monday.
There’s also growing pressure on Prince Andrew to testify under oath about his relationship with Mr. Epstein and Ms. Maxwell, the daughter of British publisher Robert Maxwell, who died in 1991. Mr. Epstein died in his jail cell last summer while awaiting trial on charges of sex trafficking dozens of underaged girls at his homes in New York, Florida and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Ms. Maxwell is under police investigation for allegedly grooming girls. On Saturday, Prince Andrew said he’d met Mr. Epstein through Ms. Maxwell, having known her for years.
Spencer Kulvin, a U.S. lawyer who represents some of Mr. Epstein’s alleged victims, said the Prince should come forward to help the investigation. "I don’t think there’s any way that a man who’s been to all three of Mr. Epstein’s homes could avoid seeing what was going on in those homes, with people going in and out and young girls being shuttled in and out of those homes,” Mr. Kulvin told the BBC.
Prince Andrew said during the interview that he was “like everybody else” and would have to take legal advice first. “In the right circumstances, yes I would [testify] because I think there’s just as much closure for me as there is for everybody else, and undoubtedly some very strange and unpleasant activities have been going on,” he added.
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