In a few week’s time, two of my closest friends and I will be turning 40. We were born within a few days of each other, and although our mothers never said we could be sister and brother, and none of us is called Deborah, over the last decade or so, we have fallen into the habit of celebrating together. We had a big old blow out ten years ago, hiring a venue and having a bit of a disco, and we didn’t really want to let another milestone go by without at least some kind of acknowledgement.
Things are more complicated now than they were in 2004 – ah, those halcyon, sepia-tinted days of memory. Although I still live in the same house, one friend now has a son who occupies most of his spare time, and the other lives in the Hague. It has, therefore, fallen upon me to find a venue fitting for such a momentous occasion. We’re likely to have around about twenty people join us in the celebrations, and I’ve been scratching around a little to find a venue that is both:
a) Nice enough. I’m old enough not to want to slum it on my fortieth birthday.
b) Big enough to be able to accommodate us all
There’s the added complication that one of my friends seems to want to eat at around 4pm. For me, this is neither lunch nor dinner, and most restaurants seem to agree. His rationale is that a lunch leaves us a lot of drinking time in the afternoon, and that dinner will be too late because we will have spent all day drinking. A meal halfway between the two, for him at least, strikes a happy balance.
I spoke to one restaurant that seemed to fit the bill, but they wanted me to commit to a miniumum spend of £2000 (plus 12.5% service), and that seems steep, so I kept looking. I’ve just found another possibility that has a private room available for a meal from 5pm and has an excellent cocktail bar onsite too. Promising, I thought. They helpfully sent me some menus that would be available for the day, and I thought I’d better look to see how well they catered for my vegetarian friends (in fact, both of my fellow celebrants are vegetarians).
There are a couple of vegetarian options (although it has to be said that “humous and couscous” doesn’t sound all that promising as the only vegetarian main, but as it’s an excellent restaurant, I’m sure it’s delicious). One starter in particular really caught my eye: “veal tartare with foie gras”. Wow. That’s pretty much the anti-vegetarian dish, isn’t it? Cow taken straight from the crate and served raw with a grotesquely swollen liver from a forcefed goose nailed to a board. If you wanted to put together a dish to outrage, then that would probably be right up there with baby seal steaks (ethically clubbed, obviously), polar bear cub carpaccio and a particularly delightful tiger-meat bourgignon.
Is it bad that I’d consider ordering that?
The veal tartare, I mean. The others basically all taste like chicken.