Saturday, 9 May 2009

The Wolseley, the Alcatraz and 25 years of marriage.

We started thinking about how to celebrate the first of our 25th wedding anniversaries about a year ago. (We have two - a story for another day) One thing I knew for a certainty, I did not want to throw a party. Selfish, I know, but I'd come to the end of my party-hosting days. This was somewhat of a shock to everyone, although I think friends and family should have noticed that the previous vodka-party-organiser-of-the-year had become a little more subdued in the last few months...ok we'll still throw a crayfish party (with schnapps) and possibly a small vodka-themed gathering for Finnish Independence Day, but I am no longer having midsummer parties, children's birthday BBQ's or Christmas parties. So, we had to think of something else to do to celebrate this a most unexpected of milestones.

Travel, that's obvious. Except there's the weak pound which hardly buys a thimble-full of wine on the continent, nor will it go very far to fund my NYC shopping habit. South Africa, Australia, I hear you shout. Yes, except I didn't want to leave daughter alone for weeks on end to face her finals, and husband had very little of something called holiday days left in his new position as salaried person. And with me selfishly having given up my paid career to pursue another much less successful one, I perversely had all the time in the world but little funds. We were in a very difficult situation indeed.

What else to do but to book a weekend in London. A nice hotel, excellent lunches, free evenings to do as we pleased. Sounded wonderful.

We started on Saturday at the excellent St John's Bread and Wine in Spitafields. We'd been there once before. The journey up from Wiltshire was as usual fraught with bad traffic, a couple of accidents and roadful of obnoxious drivers. While going around the roundabout near White City for the fourth time, determined to wait for the ignorant traffic police to open up the A40 after an accident, I did wonder if coming up to the city had been a good idea. We both spend a lot of time up here, but are usually so rushed that have no time to enjoy it. The food, friendly service and a good bottle of Rioja at St John's convinced me we had, after all, made the right choice.

The hotel was not such a success. For a change, I'd booked us into Andaz near Liverpool Street Station. It was supposed to be trendy and luxurious, and above all it was walking distance from Shoreditch House. The bed was huge and sumptious and breakfast was outstanding. They even had skimmed milk. A very difficult ingredient for some hotels to source. For the rest: the hotel staff, decor and organisation I'll just say that my husband of 25 years named it Alcatraz. Aah, but I forgot, cocktails in the restaurant were very acceptable. My Bellini was as good as I've had in New York. They were served by a genuinely enthusiastic barman, who infused the liquors to create his own drinks. We had a second round of strawberry Martinis with rosemary infused gin. They were absolutely mouth-watering. As predicted we spent the rest of the evening in Shoreditch House. The food there never fails to satisfy and the floor show is pretty good too.

On the Sunday husband had booked us into the Wolseley. Neither of us had been before, but heard good things about the place. Again it didn't disappoint. Very festive. Their Bloody Marys cured our cocktail hangovers with a flash, and when the waitress found out it was our wedding anniversary the kitchen made a celebratory shortbread biscuit to go with our pear tarte tatin. Afterwards we spent the sunny afternoon strolling around the pretty streets in Mayfair without rushing from one appointment to another.

In the evening we went to see Shifty at the The Soho Curzon and afterwards drifted to Soho House for a quick bite and a bottle of wine. The film was everything I like about British cinema. Good writing, honest acting and excellent direction. The economy of words and action suited the plot of a young London drug dealer, which moved from sad to tragic to funny. The tension in the action felt genuine, as did the setting.

Soho on a Sunday evening of a bank holiday weekend, however, is not a pleasant place to be in. Must be my age, but I found the many groups of drunk people a little threatening. Of course it's the same in any city late at night. Returning to the Egyptian cotton sheets at Alcatraz was a relief.

The drive home was accident free, first time in dozen or so trips up and down on the M4/M3. I am now looking forward to our second anniversary in early June, which we'll be spending loved and scrubbed as opposed to canned.


Anonymous said...

What do you mean by not hosting any more parties?

It is a Finn's solemn duty to host parties!

Helena Halme said...

Aah the Kaleva code of party hosting.