Yesterday was Mary's birthday and we were able to get a table at the original Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in Royal Hospital Road. They only open the booking for each day exactly two months in advance. That Sunday the phone was constantly engaged all day or out of order. When I got though on the Monday morning the only table for four they had left was lunch at 12 noon. So we both booked the day off and Mary booked a hairdressing appointment with Fiona at Hebe's in William IV Street.
We went with usual suspects Pete&Amanda. I was the first to arrive to discover that we were the very first table of the day and the Maitre D' was still doing the team huddle. Ear-wigging I was impressed by the level of knowledge of each party's special dietary requirements and that the waiters were expected to know and remember when the time came. But then that is what you expect of world class service. Little things like they know which person in which seat ordered what when they bring them out, no need to ask "who's having the lamb?"
When we were seated our waiter asked who was the host and, owning it was I, gave me the priced menu so as as to not constrain the others' choice. As it happens we all went for the "Menu Prestige" - seven course which allows the chef to show (off) what he can do. They then volunteered substitutes so we could taste even more by stealing off each other's plates (which permission of course, a fork in the back of the hand hurts). The menu went like this; simplified as each dish seemed to have a minimum of five or six name-worthy ingredients so imagine they all read "X with A, B, C and a veloute of D".
Amuse Bouche - tortelli with saffron and ginger sauce **** Foie Gras with Sauternes Jelly OR Chicken Terrine **** Scallops OR Lobster ravioli **** Halibut OR Turbot **** Fillet of Beef OR Lamb **** Cheese OR Pre-Desert **** Desert **** Second Desert **** Coffee and Truffles
Every dish was small but perfectly formed - immaculately presented - a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach. Doubtless all from the freshest and finest ingredients. And of course wine with each course: R de Ruinart NV; St Peray (a white Rhone), a half of Condrieu, a Ribero Del Duro (spanish red) and a sweet French desert wine.
I chose the pre-desert, and when Mary didn't want one of her deserts had two Second Deserts. As it was Mary's birthday they brought us an extra souffle to share in lieu of a cake and right at the end a scoop of Mango Sorbet with a single candle for Mary but she declined the offer of a quick chorus of "Happy Birthday" sung sotto voce.
An interesting comparison to eat in two different Michelin Three Star restaurants within such a short time window [Daffodil Dining Club at Le Gavroche (2006)]. The service here was just as silkily smooth and efficient and, we agreed, more friendly. Our waiter(s) seemed less formal than La Gavroche and ready to chat about the food, the cheese and react to our banter with a smile. Plus they all managed that, so hard to do, balancing act between hovering intrusively and not being there when needed.
The entire leisurely meal lasted four and a half hours but the table was ours for the session and we never felt rushed. They actually managed to get two sets of covers on the next table but that was the only one. I do not think Mary's would allow me to mention the final bill (US: check) but it was an obscene amount of money half of which was on the wine. However if you want to celebrate a birthday in style in one of the best restaurants in the world this is the place.
We got off lightly in Thursday's winds. One tree down and it was one we had wanted to remove as it was three quarters dead. Ours fell sideways and landed on the garages at the bottom of the garden. I was able to wrestle it back into the garden as it was only 8 in (23 cm) diameter. Next door's was three or four times that size and took out a lamppost in the street, they were lucky it fell sideways as well.
Nature has saved us the cost of a tree surgeon but it did leave us with the problem of disposal. As luck would have it we were going down to the cottage this week end to start the rubbish clear our - better to chuck it that move it - and so I brought the chainsaw up to London. Boys', big-cheesey-grin, kind of work.
The logs will go to Bob&Lynn next time we go down to the cottage.
Wallace and Grommit watched from the safety of the shrubbery.
Much the usual band of suspects, again: there was me, Tony Korn, Simon Hargrave, John Warren, David Pelta, John Patient, Carolyn MacDowell, Tony Hazel, Roy Thompson, Barry Wilton and Anne Carter. Apologies from David Martin and Paul Toledo (not yet on the mailing list). A good turnout - thanks chaps.
I learnt from the last time and got my food order in early, I just can't take drinking on an empty stomach like I could in my youth. I remember in my mid twenties when I worked at Coopers & Lybrand (as they were then) how a crowd of us went drinking regularly after work. I always used to tip the lemon from the previous Gin and Tonic into the next so I knew how many I'd had by counting the slices. At least in those days many city pubs shut early (sometimes as early as 7:30pm) which probably saved our livers.
By the end of last night transport demands has whittled the crowd down to a hard core half dozen all of whom worked for Inforem which was subsequently acquired by CSC. We got all nostalgic for those glory days and it set me thinking.
When I look at the friends I have made and kept in contact with they come mostly from specific groups. For example I am not in touch with friends from school, nor college, nor my first two jobs. But I am from my time at BIS Applied Systems and my time at Inforem. Something about working with a set of similarly educated, trained and dedicated professionals. We were good at what we did (I think I can say that), we enjoyed it and worked hard at it. There was a real sense of camaraderie and that is why we are still in touch.
That reminds me I must given the BIS crowd a call...
Also, in a piece of brazen and shameless self-promotion, I promised a link to our holiday home - now available for rent. http://www.trulli-puglia.com/ (don't forget the hyphen).
We have accepted an offer on the Cottage so, subject to survey and contract, we will be selling and moving on after 13 happy years there.
We went down to the cottage on Saturday to meet the purchasers and it was a most satisfactory meeting. Moving house is not just a financial transaction, it is an important emotional transaction as well, especially with a house of such history and character as the cottage.
Andrew and Karen were charming and understand the need to care for old things; they are Morris Minor owners as well. Is is good to feel that it is going to sympathetic new care-takers for that is how we consider ourselves.
Now we need to set the wheels in motion for all that moving will entail. High on the agenda is what to do with all our furniture. The house is Wandsworth is fully equipped and now we have a three bedroomed house to merge into it! Some stuff we will include in the purchase price like short wardrobes that fit in the low-ceilinged bedrooms, some we will try and find good homes for and the local auction house will be taking much of our overflow.
I have friend, let's call her - say - Danielle Byrne, who is a vegetarian. On flights her veggie meal is usually accompanied by some kind of tisane or herbal infusion. Her reaction is along the lines of "What is this? Bring me red wine!" Just because one might be vegetarian that does not mean one is also TT.
Last night I was finishing off a bottle of 2004 Saint Joseph when my attention wandered to the back label. There I spotted a large "V" and the legend "Suitable for Vegetarians". Phew. that's a relief then!
As if any dead animals went into the making of wine, honestly what an egregious bit of labelling. See also [Full of Fruit Goodness]
Chatting to JohnP over lunch I mentioned ICE and since he had not heard of it I thought many others might not have either. Very simple idea:
In your mobile phone book include an entry with the name ICE and the number of someone you would want to be contacted in case of emergency e.g. when the paramedic scrapes you off the road after an RTA.
The original idea came from a Cambridge paramedic [full story / further tips]. I have two programmed into my phone: "ICE Mary" and "ICE Parents".
We had a good last day for May and Duncan's visit on Tuesday. We took them to Simpson's in the Strand for dinner and then saw Porgy and Bess at the Savoy - an excellent production.
Wednesday we dropped them off at Heathrow and headed straight to Grayshott Spa for four days of detox and relaxing. My project decided on the cost-saving idea of making all contractors take a mandatory three week break: good for them but not for us. So we decided to make use of the enforced down time and take some time out.
The Health part consists of not eating so much and only drinking a glass of wine a night instead of a bottle a night. Mary has gone completely dry for a few days. Though when I say dry that is not counting the gallons of water; it may be good for you but it don't 'alf make you pee a lot.
Also we are getting up at 7:15 every morning for the pre-breakfast power walk through some lovely NT countryside which will make the Monday morning alarm less of a shock.
Not sure how much it is doing for my "beauty" but is is very pleasant to have various massages and scrubs and being forced to lie about doing Su Doku and crosswords. Do I really have to go back to work Monday?
We had a pretty good NYE. Six of us went to Albannach on Trafalgar Square for a gala dinner with ring side view of the revellers outside. The food and wine was excellent as were the band, apart from we were sat next to them and had to ask to be moved to enable conversation to resume.
Me and Mary's mum, May
The restaurant showed the fireworks on a big screen and they looked pretty darned spectacular.
We got a taxi in OK but the return journey was a little more problematical. After booking we discovered that most of north of the river was due to be closed to traffic. No problem: get the tube to Waterloo and get the taxi to pick us up there.
Unfortunately the crowds were such that the police were restricting access to Charing Cross Station. We had a chat with the constable on the barrier and explained that we had not one but two registered disabled with us. They let us through and, as luck would have it, a Waterloo East train was due in about 5 minutes.
Then the taxi driver phoned to say that he could only get as close as Lambeth Bridge and could we get there. No chance with May's conditions! When we got to Waterloo there was only one train showing, leaving for Wandsworth Town in 10 minutes - another result!
So we got home about 2:15 am. A little later than intended but May coped incredibly well under the circumstances. Next time we will arrange something closer to home. That is if we are not in South Africa for Christmas as we hope; we are planning a trip there for this time 2007/8.
Sixty-something retired IT consultant living in London. Married to Mary and enjoying a dinky lifestyle in one of the greatest cities in the world. I do not blog political commentary, my work or my inner emotional life. That leaves my life really and the world around me. Enjoy it or not as you wish. For more see my Blog Manifesto