Wednesday 1 September 2010

The Luckiest Man in the World

No idea, 12.0 units. Every Tuesday I circulate my weekly newspaper column to more than 100 cheapskates who claim to enjoy reading it, but are too mean to pay 50p for a copy of the paper (or, if they live outside its circulation area, £60 for an annual subscription to its excellent online edition). Last Tuesday I took the opportunity to ask if anyone happened to be at a loose end in Newcastle the following evening, and might fancy a pint; this week I asked much the same question about last night in London. In both cases I was rewarded with a positive response, and so shortly before 7 o’clock I found myself wandering into the 1707 Wine Bar at Fortnum & Mason to meet The Luckiest Man in the World (TLMW), who had already bagged a table and acquired a bottle of St Veran and half a dozen oysters. The staff fluttered about him as though he were their oldest and dearest friend, which he may well be. But then in the course of the evening he also turned out to be the oldest and dearest friend of the maitre d’ at the Dean Street Townhouse and the proprietor of the new restaurant that has opened upstairs at The French House (or the York Minster, as I still think of it) across the road.

I was lost in admiration. Even when I was a very moderately successful London financial PR man, entertaining just about every lunchtime and many evenings, there were never more than a couple of restaurants in the capital where anyone actually knew who the hell I was when I walked through the door. And I have been to enough other places with TLMW over the years to know that he had not just chosen these three to perform a favourite party trick. Added to which, he demonstrated further in-depth knowledge when he eased a couple out of their seats at the bar of the Dean Street Townhouse by giving them comprehensive advice on the other restaurant to which they were heading for dinner:

“The best thing they do are the vegetable-based dishes.”

“That’s handy since we’re both vegetarians.”

How could he possibly have guessed that? The jammy bastard. I wonder if he has extra-sensory powers?

“Go low on the wine list – they’ve got some really fantastic stuff at the cheap end that is excellent value, but the top end is overpriced.”

“Thank you so much. Do have our seats here – you’ve earned them.”

“Have you ever actually been to that restaurant?” I asked after they had departed.

“No, never in my life.” (But I knew he was lying).

Unfortunately we only had a minute or two to enjoy our place at the bar, because Polpetto texted to say that his table was ready. I reflected that, if it had been me, we’d have been kept waiting until I had drunk myself into oblivion.

All in all a most entertaining evening, though I was slightly aggrieved by his cynical interpretation of my heartwarming “My Dad” story: “Mrs H must have been training him like a dog all the time you were away.”

Aggrieved, of course, by the niggling feeling that he might just be right. Let’s face it, as befits, TLMW, he usually is.

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