Sunday, 11 May 2008

Claridges...

So Claridges then, what can I say?

I mean it was all I expected it to be and more.

So don't consider this a review,

it's more of an impostors view of life on the other side.....

the £10.00 Gin and tonic
another one?
oh no I don't think so....
I have rent to pay


"Would sir and madame care for an aperitif?" asked the pretty French woman as she seated us.

And with that I fell in love, not with the pretty French woman, but with Claridges. I also had to resist the urge to tell her there was nothing wrong with my teeth and was there any chance of a drink. But Belfast jokes needed to be left in Belfast.

As we waited for our drinks we scanned the room for celebrities, I know I know but I'm shallow that way. There were no celebrities. We ooh and aaah'd at the majesty of the dining room. The subtle lighting and hushed voices of the many waiters, managers, and others made the place feel calm and relaxed. There was plenty of laughter around us, not at us I should add, and my worries about Claridges being stuffy were soon dissolved.

We spent the first twenty minutes simply pointing out features, such as the detail on the lights, the crushed velvet, the art deco features, and the quality of the uniforms and so on, to each other rather than chatting. This spell of awesome wonder was only only broken when the waiter came to take our order. We opted for the a la carte menu over the tasting menu as neither of us are fond of fois gras. LMM went for the seared beef to start followed by the belly pork and finishing with the chocolate fondant. I ordered the lobster and salmon ravioli with the John Dory for my main and the assiette of rhubarb; crumble, syllabub and mille feuille.

LMM kicked me under the table as we started our pre-starter course of cold pea and creme fraiche soup. I immediately assumed I was doing something wrong and just froze. But my elbows weren't on the table and my fly was up (standard Manuel issues). But as I looked at her to see what was wrong it became very apparent why she had bruised my shin. For there on the other damn side of the restaurant looking mean and as if somebody was just about to get it, in a Glasgow stylie, stood one Mr Gordon Ramsay. We both giggled like school girls. After that it was a race to get to the toilet first to text this fantastic news to everyone in our phonebooks. I never saw him leave so I choose to believe he cooked my dinner and if anyone contradicts me I'll hunt them down and force them to take it back!

At no point did I feel out of place. I was never worried about being outed for a working Joe. I'm not saying the rest of the guests don't work hard for a living but I'm sure they don't get their hands very dirty whilst doing it, well probably more metaphorically than actually dirty. Plus I was rather dapper and LMM simply stole the show.

But I did squirm a little when the sommelier handed me the wine list. "List" doesn't really do it justice. It was more a telephone book with only the names and addresses changed, the numbers remained pretty much the same. There was a very definite touching cloth moment. I was well out of my depth and the big French fella knew it. I opted for a £30 bottle of the 2006 GrünerVeltliner. Now where I work if you order a bottle of wine for £30 you are treated like royalty, other people get moved to ensure that they aren't allowed to dirty your air, we have even been known to crack open a new box of glasses for them! But buying a £30 bottle in Claridges is about as impressive as driving round in a top of the range Ford when everybody else is in Porches. So shit, it was damn tasty, as they probably don't say in France.

Food came and went. Each course served with a flurry of waiters each with their own part to play in the ritual. Some just carry, never speaking a word. Some don't carry, instead they announce and serve. Then there were others to fold your napkin and more again to ensure that at no point did you have to suffer the indignity of being without a half full glass at all times. There was another for water and yet another to scrape the crumbs from our table with the precision of a barber with a razor. But here's the genius of it, at no point did the service ever feel fussy or overbearing. It felt light and was performed with a deftness of touch that makes what I do feel clumsy and oafish. Cunts.

These were a-list waiters, the best, they have probably never said no to a guest in their lives. But it's horses for courses and all that. They were truly a joy to watch. The effortlessness with which they moved and the way they make you feel relaxed, sommelier aside and if I'm being honest I would be exactly like him if I was in his perfectly polished shoes, was inspiring.

The food was exceptional, as I expected it would be but it was the service and the way they make you feel so relaxed that truly made the night. We laughed and loved as if we were at home on the sofa watching TV. We forgot about the super rich around us. It was just LMM and I........and our 8 waiters of course. The evening seemed to whirl by. And by the end of the night we seemed to have forgotten we were in Claridges.

Then the bill came and I was reminded, very sharply, that I was in Claridges......

17 People trying to get Manuel's attention:

ellie said...

£30 wine is nothing compared to a £10 G&T! Was it Gordons?

Sounds like a wonderful evening, I'm even more jealous now.

bendersbetterbrother said...

"...a deftness of touch that makes what I do feel clumsy and oafish. Cunts."

Did you pick up any tips?
And where did you go for the rest of your stay?

Manuel said...

ellie: hell no! Tanqueray....and it was good but....

bbb: rest of the London trip coming tomorrow......as for tips.....i left more than i got.......and badges.....hehehehe

jen said...

Meal sounds fabulous. It's making me hungry and there's no food in the house except for cereal...

And Mr Ramsay himself made an appearance, eh? Cor.

Nice to hear that it isn't stuffy and pretentious. Another place to put on my wish list...

Sam, Problemchildbride said...

The truest sign of real class in a person (or a place) is that they never make you feel in the least bit uncomfortable about your class, income, accent or any of that. An excellent host will behave impeccably but naturally to everyone and, by setting the tone and, by example, will disallow any inter-guest snootiness.

It sounds brilliant, Manuel. I'm going to have to put that on one of those "to do before you die" lists. Very cool. Lovely to hear you forgot yourselves there and it was just you and LMM for a while - sounds like perfection.

Medbh said...

It freaks me out that he's Mr. M's age and looks soooooo much older. That's what the chef lifestyle does to you.

It sounds like you and the lovely LMM were well taken care of that evening. Bravo.

savannah said...

what delicious meals y'all had! raising my late night g&t to you, sugar! xox

Manuel said...

jen: well worth it for a bit of well deserved luxury....

sam: that's it exactly......

medbh: it was so very sweet......

savannah: right back at ya!

Queenie said...

Hmmm, alright for some....while you have been swanning around the Smoke, the rest of us service fools have been up to our sweaty armpits in gravy/custard/soup.

So did you take my advice on the Hotel? I didn't get any reports of drunken behaviour by little fat blokes with Belfast accents.

Manuel said...

queeni: oh hello! No we booked into an apart-hotel called base2stay.....brilliant!

Anonymous Boxer said...

I think it all sounds lovely.... except for the bill part.

lorraine@italianfoodies said...

delighted you enjoyed it so much, it sounds fab, def on my "to do list"!!

Mudflapgypsy said...

So, is LMM pimpin' yer ass to pay for the meal then?

Did you steal any tips to help pay for the meal?
Sorry, couldn't resist.
I can be cruel at times.

Glad you had a fun time, does you good to let loose once in a while.

How much vinyl?

Anonymous said...

Lovely writing, thanks!

John Ferris said...

It's the Ramsey way - he somehow manages to make you feel at home. When we went to his NY place it was filled with people who looked like they wiped their arse with $50 bills but we still felt the same as you - like we were in our own we world enjoying life. Damn, I wonder could I somehow convince the boss to send me to review...

Sharon said...

How wonderful. I'm glad you enjoyed your time there.

I had the same experience at the other Ramsay place. We were clearly not accustomed to such standards but still were so welcomed and cared for.

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