Magazine article The Spectator

Restaurants

Magazine article The Spectator

Restaurants

Article excerpt

Now, let me see if I can get this right. My sister's husband has a brother who has a friend who is friends with a couple in Zimbabwe who read The Spectator and are 'very big fans' of mine. I think that's it. Anyway, might I email them, just to say 'hello'? They'd be really chuffed. So I email and say, naturally, that should they ever find themselves in London they should get in touch and we'll go out to lunch and, blow me, if they don't then turn up in London (on holiday) saying: 'Well . . . ?' It's not them who worry me.

I'm sure they are the most delightful people, as they prove to be. It's just that whenever I am introduced to 'very big fans' of mine, it doesn't take long for these 'very big fans' of mine to realise that I am the most boring person ever and, oh, the look of disappointment on their faces. It's just the look children get when they open a Christmas present and find it is both wooden and educational. Seriously, I am so boring that I myself nodded off mid-thought the other day because I just couldn't be bothered to get to the end of it. If I were a rooster, I would rarely, if ever, get to the 'doodle-do'.

Anyway, lunch it is, with Rory and Mel, the poor things. The venue is up to me so, in the end, I plump for the dining room at the Goring Hotel. This, I think, is a good bet because it has won zillions of awards lately, offers a thoroughly British menu and is just round the corner from Victoria Station, should Rory and Mel suddenly decide they need a quick getaway. I am even, actually, thinking of starting a support group for boring people. I'm not sure how it will work exactly, but we'll probably just sit in a circle and read our books.

Now, the Goring first opened in 1910 and was the first hotel in the world to offer guests a private bathroom along with their bedroom and if that fact isn't dull enough for you, don't worry, there are plenty more to come. It was also, for example, the first hotel to provide all guests with central heating in their rooms.

From the outside, the hotel does look rather formal, with its Edwardian façade and doormen in tails. 'Oh no, ' you would be forgiven for thinking, 'it's going to be one of those starchy hotel dining-rooms full of rich grandmothers with nothing to say to their little grandsons overdressed in suits.' However, as you draw nearer, you will note that the doormen are wearing shocking pink ties decorated with cartoon sheep. Funky!

Into the lobby, which is a cocoon of Edwardian gentility, and then the restaurant, where I am told that my guests are waiting in the bar. The maître d' calls me 'Mrs Ross', which is OK, although if I were truly Mrs Ross, I'd be my mother and would have to play bridge a lot. I'm escorted to the bar where I find Rory and Mel, who obviously don't yet know what they are in for. They have bought me a gift, a bottle of excellent champagne, which I quickly snaffle away into my bag before they can realise it is much, much more than I deserve. Rory, now retired, used to run a chemical company in Harare while Mel is a radiologist. The current situation in Zimbabwe understandably breaks their hearts. They used to have a small farm which now lies in ruins. Inflation is such that a loaf of bread costs 50,000 Zimbabwe dollars.

There is next to no meat in the shops. That vile and disgusting Mr Mugabe. They should let me at him. …

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