Fine food, flavoursome wines, exquisite company, jazz, whisky and taxidermy – all were elements of my 30th birthday feast, and each one critical! Except perhaps the taxidermy.
In the evening summer sun on Wednesday night I strolled leisurely from the office along Buckingham Palace Road and fended off the culinary wiles of the Cornish Pasty Shop, for there was a bigger mission afoot – a trip to Boisdale of Belgravia. The doorman was nicely defensive, although I had the magic password in the form of “reservation for Standing” and through I went, spotting Charlie who was warming up over a bottle of Rose. Evidently I'd forgotten to brief Craig & Kate on our general dress code, although whilst a little sniffy the place did seem to have a bit of a come-as-you-are feel to it (based on the proviso that you could safely offer that policy due to the fact they wouldn't let any weirdos in) and highly conducive to just shilling out and soaking it all up. Richie, Paul, Hannah, and The Puzzler made up the complement, and soon enough we were seated.
Being a onetime student of document design I'm always conscious of functional layout for things such as menus and I can't honestly say what about the Boisdale menu was hard to get a grip on – whether it was the rush of information, the unfamiliar idea of listing all of the kitchen team by name, or just the font that they'd used – but the menu managed to swirl ethereally about in front of me, tantalisingly hindering me from actually making a selection. Once the waitress glided up to our table-edge though the swimming vapours of indecision coalesced into roast wood pigeon, followed by rare sirloin steak with mash and spinach.
Such a flavoursome meal I've not had in a while – hardly an amazing statement as I tend to buy most of my fare from the Marks & Sparks downstairs from the office these days… and slightly unfair given that I went to Marseille a couple of weeks ago. OK, recent exceptions aside, it was a bit of a cuisine landmark, set off nicely by the wines expertly selected by Richie (“Oh, this one looks yummy. We'd best get 3 of those”). About 2/3 of the way through mains the jazz band fired up, which was pretty well perfect timing, and a fine quartet they were too ! It was hard to tell from where we were sitting, but I swear there was a Norwegian Blue mounted on a perch adjacent to the band as well.
The last element of the meal – and the one which had drawn me to this place in the first instance – was the extensive selection of whisky. Craig, Dan & I sampled a delectable & light Rosebank 12, while Richie went for the slightly spicier Springbank 10. Paul seemed to spin his wheels for choice momentarily (hardly surprising, given that the list had about 130 drams in it), and Richie adroitly suggested that as we were having Springbank and Rosebank, Paul might like the Commonwealth Bank ?
There were only 2 moments of what you might call adrenalin rush – one being when the jazz singer started singing a peppy little Happy Birthday tune, then got to “Happy Birthday dear…” and it suddenly became apparent that Siobhan was having a birthday there too. I hope you had a nice night Siobhan, whoever you are. The other one was whilst fumbling for change in a semi-inebriated state after the cab ride home: it turns out the putting a 9 volt battery in your pocket with your keys and change isn't always the best of ideas, and the least opportune time to discover a lump of acid wrapped in 60 degree hot metal is in fact when you're a bit tipsy, have your arms full of birthday presents, and are struggling to find another 5 quid to give to a steadily getting testier minicab driver.
That all aside however it was a memorable and decadent night out and a classy way to usher in the third decade of my life. Plus one always gets a little bit of a buzz about paying more for a meal than for one's most recently purchased car, although whether this is more a statement on the calibre of the marques I've driven thus far.
In a more general sense, on the topic of birthdays – a mahoosive thanks to everyone for all the cards, emails, phonecalls, pressies, voicemail messages and SMSs. It really is possible to make someone feel loved even though they're on the opposite side of the Earth.
Now the challenge is to make it to the next one I suppose. Well if it's anywhere near as much fun as the last one, the bring it on!