Wednesday, 25 October 2006

Hippies, F*** Buddies and Footballers' Wives

Last night was one of those joyous occasions, my monthly-ish diner a deux with Best Straight Lady Friend. Over the last couple of years BSLF and I have noshed at a panoply of London's swankiest venues, and last night was no exception as we revisited one of our past faves, No. 5 Cavendish Square Normally the restaurant in this members club-cum-hotel-cum-nightclub would be way out of our league price-wise (starters average out at about £12, mains at £25) but given that these prices clearly put off any sort of mid-week customer volume, they lure in the hoi polloi with a £20-for-three-courses menu du jour which suited us just fine. Better still, I'd accrued enough toptable points through my prodigious eating out that I was able to cash them in for my share of the food - no such thing as a free meal my big gay ginger arse.

Kicking off with a couple of cocktails in the bar (a Bramble for me, a Flirtini aptly enough for BSLF) we kicked back and caught up on the mundanities of work so as to be able to devote our over-dinner conversation to the salacious details of our sex lives and recent dates. Cocktails duly necked and each having brought the other up to date on our respective successes at work (thrusting young executives both are we, it seems) we sashayed through to the restaurant only to find ourselves the only diners there. All to the good though in our book; neither of us is averse to a private dining room especially when it's as opulent as this one with all its claret damask, oil paintings and gilt-work, lovingly preserved from the building's days as the Spanish Embassy. Solitude also meant that we could speak freely and at volume about the men in our lives and just what we've been getting up to with them.

Fortifying ourselves with some of the delicious bread and fresh salsa (nice touch) I launched into a moan about the Kit situation, namely that despite our speaking on the phone pretty much daily about anything and everything, I had only seen him once since he unilaterally called a halt to our dating and was beginning to get the distinct impression that he was avoiding me. He says that he’s coming to my party on Saturday but I have a sneaky feeling he will - yet again - blow me out. BSLF – looking stunning, for the record, in a very flattering black roll neck and kinky boots - cheered me up no end by launching into her own tale of dating woe: her less-than-successful second date with a Tree Hugger. She explained that, at a recent after-party (in fact for The Other Ex’s birthday party, of which BSLF’s memory is about as patchy as mine) she had got chatting to a bit of a dude - she did tell me his name but it eludes me; let’s call him The Hippy - who impressed her with his planet-saving credentials. He was recently returned from a life-changing walk across the Kalahari (or somesuch madcap venture) and was now living on a budget of a tenner a day. They’d swapped numbers (his rejection of capitalism clearly not extending to the telephone) and arranged to go to the cinema. That date had gone promisingly, and BSLF took it as a good sign that he liked her enough to accept a lift home from her, given that his principles normally required him to boycott gas-guzzling motors (although BSLF’s nippy turquoise Celica could hardly be said to ‘guzzle’.)

(Speaking of guzzling, by this stage of the conversation we had received and shovelled down our starters, a superb black tagliatelle with prawns for me and a goodly plate of Parma ham and figs for her. We had also ceased to be alone, having been joined a few tables away by a glamour couple comprising a suave and clearly loaded footballer or maybe football exec and his perma-tanned size zero moll; we continued the conversation unabated but a few decibels quieter.)

Date two however had been less of a success. It started well; The Hippy offered to come round to hers and cook dinner, and duly arrived (on a yak, presumably) and proceeded to make what BSLF described as an ‘amazingly good’ Bolognese with chopped steak. Sadly it would transpire that that would the only serving of prime meat she would be getting that night. Several bottles of wine and a spliff ‘or two’ later, things turned amorous and all looked good until The Hippy announced that he wanted to be dominated. Resisting the urge to suggest he try North Korea, BSLF – partial to a bit of subjugation herself but on the receiving end – gamely tried to play the dominatrix role but the heady combination of good food, booze and gear (and no doubt patchouli) took over and The Hippy just didn't have it in him; consequently, BSLF didn’t get 'it' in her. There may or may not be a date three…

Airing our respective disappointments led us neatly on to bemoaning our mutual lack of a good, dependable, no-strings, on-call Fuck Buddy. BSLF had no idea that I had been reacquainted with The American just a couple of weeks before our fleeting encounter at The Wolseley so I tantalised her with every salacious detail of our last dirty adulterous romp, whilst also reflecting that whilst I may be on call for him, his availability to me depends wholly on when The American’s Husband is out of the country. There’d also been The VWE Waiter, but he ruined our buddy arrangement by introducing - eek! – feelings into the equation. BSLF reciprocated by expounding on how much she regretted having ever let go of Big Black Frank, who had filled many a crack in the bedroom when a Rabbit just wasn’t enough to get her off.

(Speaking of filling, somewhere around this point we hoovered up our mains, stuffed chicken breast for her, red mullet, mussels and cavolo nero for me, lubed with a bottle of Chablis, all very good apart from the cavolo which had the texture and taste of balsa wood. The Footballers' Wife seemed to keep looking over (hard as is to discern facial movement with that much Botox) so we resolved sotto voce to rectify our lack of a decent FB just as soon as we could; watch, yet again, this space.)

The world put squarely to rights, we sweetened our bitter tongues with a cracking - literally and figuratively - berry mille feuille and a bit of small talk about status handbags (we both want) and wealthy lovers (we both so want) before settling the very reasonable bill (they’d forgotten to include the cocktails, or possibly comped them as thanks from the barman for having ogled BSLF's 34F’s for a full quarter hour) and swishing down the marble staircase and out into Cavendish Square. After a couple of hours with Best Straight Lady Friend, as it always does I felt like all was right with the world and do you know what? I think for the time being it genuinely is.

Thursday, 19 October 2006

The grand-a-head lunch

In yesterday’s Metro, their food critic Marina O’Loughlin (who I just *heart*) wrote about her underwhelming experience of dinner at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay which came in at a prolapse-inducing £460 for two. Well Marina I can top that – because yesterday I experienced the £1000-a-head lunch.

The restaurant was located in leafy Bloomsbury, which whilst pretty and historic is a million miles in terms of prestige from Royal Hospital Road. It had not a single Michelin star, or even AA rosette, to its name. It doesn’t feature in any guidebooks (well, maybe a couple of the dodgier ones) and it will certainly not be racking up any ‘World’s Best Restaurant’ awards any time soon or rather ever. To top it all off, it was self-service.

So what did my companion and I feast on for a grand apiece? Beluga caviar, foie gras, Bresse chicken, white truffles? Did we quaff Petrus and Yquem? Er, no. For starters we had a cold collation of Scotch egg, egg mayonnaise, curried potato salad, cous cous terrine and mixed leaves. For our main course we had beef casserole and coq au vin with roast potatoes, carrots and broccoli. I did manage to shovel down four desserts – tiramisu, chocolate cake, fruit salad and profiteroles, all slathered in thick double cream - but given that this blow out was all washed down with water, and tap water at that, how on earth could a lunch so lowly come in at £2000 for two?

Well, the restaurant in question was in the Holiday Inn, where the company I work for had booked a suite of rooms, IT services and catering for an event that day – including lunch for four – but had had to cancel at short notice, incurring a 100% cancellation fee of, you’ve guessed it, a cool two grand. Of course we protested at this, but the Holiday Inn people were not to be moved although they did – I’m sure they thought helpfully – inform us that if we liked we could still have our lunch ‘as chef will have bought the food now’. Woo hoo! So cometh the hour, cometh the man and at 12.30 yesterday I took my best-buddy-at-work Annie down the road to the Holiday Inn and we sat down for our thousand pounds per person lunch. I can’t say it was the best meal of my life although it was far from awful; I can’t say it was the most memorable, because I’d forgotten it all by dinner – which amazingly I still ate despite the four puds. But it was, without a shadow of a doubt, and quite possibly forever more will be, the most expensive I have consumed, and will hold a special place in my heart for knowing that.

Marina, don’t feel ripped off by Gordon’s lacklustre menu prestige; compared to my £2K effort you got an absolute bargain!

Monday, 16 October 2006

The Wonderful Wolseley

To The Wolseley on Saturday for lunch with Big Rob, my belated birthday treat to him (and myself to be honest.) We started off with a couple of beverages in Rupert Street, as one does, then strolled in the sunshine along Piccadilly to our destination. Was caught slightly unawares by the sight of The American having drinks in the bar but played it cool and gave him a nonchalant wave as we swept past the reception and into the magnificent main room.

I’d wanted to visit The Wolseley for ages having only ever heard good things – a rarity for London restaurants but perhaps unsurprising for the lovechild of Corbin and King, the genius restaurateurs who owned The Ivy back in the days when it was super-cool. The room – a former car showroom – is absolutely stunning, an extravagant but somehow tasteful riot of gilding, chandeliers, lacquer and crystal designed as an homage to the grand cafes of 19th-centrury middle-Europe. There’s undoubtedly a hierarchy to the seating arrangements, with the best tables corralled within a central square, around the outer perimeter of which are the less desirable tables, superior only to the few crammed into a decidedly lonely mezzanine. No prizes for guessing that we were sat at one of the best tables in the house, as too it transpired was The American and the boyfriend he has so meticulously kept me a secret from the for the last year or so.

We kicked off with a cocktail, Mojito for Rob and a vodka Martini for me (natch), both of which were beautifully mixed and kicked like mules. A nice touch was that my Martini was served in a small elegant glass of the type seen in Golden-Age-Of-Hollywood movies; I came across all Lauren Bacall and felt transported back to a more glamorous age. Not that glamour was in any way lacking; the mostly-male staff looked to have been hand-picked for their movie star good looks! The menu, like the décor, stays faithful to the grand café tradition, offering a wide but unintimidating choice of brunch dishes, plats du jour (braised lamb shank on our visit) and fish and seafood to suit any taste and any time of day.

Rob went for foie gras terrine followed by bratwurst; I plumped for the comfort of two of my all-time favourite dishes and started with potted shrimps then followed with steak tartare. The food was very good – which might sound rather anodyne but is meant as praise indeed. What The Wolseley does so brilliantly is to offer familiar food, cooked (or in the case of my steak tartare, not cooked) to perfection, served to a high standard by fit boys (and some pretty girls) in spectacular surroundings. What’s not to love? Prices are on the steep side but not eye-wateringly so; our two courses, plus cocktails, plus water, a lovely 2004 Petit Chablis, coffee, cover charge and service came to just shy of £120 which for the flawlessness of the whole experience just about qualifies as reasonable.

We stumbled out a little tipsy, very well-fed and feeling thoroughly Lucky Bitches a good couple of hours after we arrived, both in agreement that The Wolseley could well become our new favourite place. Off we staggered back to Rupert Street where continuing the day’s decadent theme we ordered up a bottle of Veuve and proceeded to get absolutely smashed; Rob’s boyfriend Rich came to join us only to find me barely coherent and barely upright, a state in which I remained for the rest of the evening, somehow managing to survive a few hours at The Other Ex’s birthday party – of which my memories, unsurprisingly, are somewhat hazy.

On the Sabbath – I rested.

Friday, 13 October 2006

Miss Adelaide's Trauma

Miss Adelaide is not easily shocked, but I received this missive from him shortly after lunch suggesting that the gay goings on in the steam room at Holmes Place had reached depths even he could not condone:

"Afternoon darlings,

Went t'gym at lunchtime. Only just over my post work out hypoglycaemic slump. But my six quid take out from Starbucks has finally kicked in and I've a news flash....

I walked in on some *using fingers to create inverted commas, Marjorie Dawes-style* "Ffffat Love" going on in the steam room. The dirty baaaast*ds... I thought for a minute I'd walked into Chariots on an XXL inspired bear night.. Never seen anything like it in all me life. It was blatant!
My swim was a disaster by the way. Poxy goggles kept filling with water and falling off. Meaning I'd straddle the lane constantly, boot some woman in the fanny and surface with a face full of snot at the end of every length. I ended up throwing them across the poolside in a temper much to the lifeguard, Fernando's (or whatever's ) amusement.


I *heart* Miss Adelaide. Can you see why?

Every Cloud...

Having been let down for a third time by Kit, I accepted an invitation (or rather, engineered an invitation) to join The Ex and our mutual chum Legally Binding in The Yard. Not my favourite watering hole it's true but needs must and besides, I was a) pissed off enough to not care where we went and b) already a bottle of Merlot down. Imagine my delight upon arriving to find that The Ex and LB were in the company of a frankly stupidly pretty - but far from prettily stupid young chap called Michael, to whom I took an instant and, apparently, reciprocated, shine.

Readers, I sparkled, I shone, I entertained (and of course, I drank) and before too long aforementioned pretty young thing and I were getting as touch feely as it's decent to do on a Thursday in W1. Things started to go downhill however when LB - struggling under the combined onslaught of a recently broken heart, a current affair with an attached man who shows no signs of leaving his man for LB, and having drunk his own body weight in vodka tonics - left, leaving The Ex alone in the company of A Tongue Sandwich Waiting To Happen. Which, as ineluctably as Victoria Beckham regurgitating her dinner, it did; suddenly, spontaneously and...sadly right in front of my visibly pained ex.

Embarrassed by my insensitivity, I suggested to Michael that now might be an opportune moment to go for a nightcap elsewhere (I say nightcap, I meant snog and a grope clearly) and took the young man off, leaving The Ex with some of his old chums who'd fortuitously arrived just as M and I were getting jiggy. Sweetly, he was cycling home (though the state he was in I was concerned tonight's meeting might be the first and last) so I walked him to Cambridge Circus where his bike was and proceeded to snog, stroke and grope the little stunner for, ooh, about ten minutes, to the cheering - I think it was cheering - of passing cabbies and tourists. When it came to getting on his bike he pointed out that he was being hampered by a not-unimpressive stiffy which was reaching down the leg of his jeans; I took this as an invitation to have a good squeeze, which I duly did, before giving him my number 'so that he could call to let me know he'd got home safely'. Yeah right. See what I did there?

Will this show run and run, like Spamalot outside of which we were making out? Well no to be honest; gorgeous as he is (and boy can the kid kiss) he is but 24 and is, he says, 'smitten' with his boyfriend. I on the other hand am thirty, single and fabulous - how can you compete with that? Readers, watch this space...

Amy Needs Rehab...

Went to see the recording of The Charlotte Church Show last night ('Live from Cardiff' my big gay ginger arse) and Char's musical guest was one Miss Amy Winehouse. All Amy had to do was sit on the sofa between Keith Allen and Rhod Gilbert (no me neither) and read a couple of the pitifully unfunny 'What we learned this week' bits, then disappear to the green room for a couple hours until the grand finale - a duet with La Church of 'Beat It'. Whine-house - already only semi-coherent during the sofa bit - clearly used those couple of hours to partake liberally of the 'fruit and flowers' in her dressing room, because when finally the moment came for CC to announce 'the fabulous Amy Winehouse', aforementioned horse-faced narcotic-Dustbuster walked very, very slowly to the front of the stage, lifted the mic to her contorted mouth to sing and...couldn't form words. She slurred her way through the first take, which Our Lady of Church - taking pity on Amy as one might on a dying animal - cut short.

A couple of minutes later, take two was barely as successful, although Winehouse did at least manage to make Elephant Man-like noises at vaguely the right points in the song - because each time it was her turn to 'sing', Churchy prodded her in the back. No, seriously. Sweetly, at the end of take 2, when Crackhouse was facing away from the camera, Char took the initiative to gently turn her around - a service required on take 3 as well.

By the end of the third take it was clear to all present that there was no way it was going to get any better. If someone at Channel 4 is actually able to edit those three attempts into something even vaguely less car crash than George Best on Wogan, they deserve every award going. My gut feeling is that, barring a re-shoot today (if Char's willing to ever be in the same room as Wino again) we won't actually be seeing our Amy come Friday night (live from Cardiff remember) at all. It was pure, unadulterated, being-there-at-the-dying-moment-of-a-career, genius. To finally summarise just how bad she was in a nutshell: she couldn't even form the words 'Beat It', instead slurring something that sounded a lot like'Beer' at roughly the right moment.

And her with a new single out called 'Rehab'...oh theirony!

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