Friday, 7 June 2013

Road Trip 2 - Dinner, Cameras and the Innocence of Youth!

... so we headed off to the boys' Godparents a little before lunch. My heart was heavy as I knew this as going to be a long, long trip...

As we took to the country lanes that link Kent with East Sussex the nephew suddenly announced that he suffered from motion sickness... "Don't you dare be sick in my car." I jokingly said, thinking he was being 'humorous' in that way only teenagers can be.
"I'm serious," he replied, "I really get car sick."
'Then don't you dare be sick in my car!" I shouted, "Seriously, that smell is one that can never be gotten rid of. If you are going to be sick, let me know and I'll pull over."
We spent much of the rest of the trip to East Sussex with the nephew looking slightly green whilst TJ gazed at him in awe desperate to watch a grown up throw up.

Well there was actually very little traffic and after an hour and a half we pulled up the drive to the Godparents, one furry and one fairy as we like to call them, (I'll let them decide which one is which). Everyone had a good stretch as I unloaded the boys' plethora of belongings, sleeping bags, cases, teddy bears, blankets - it looked as though they were staying for a week, not an overnight sleep over - but I was to learn later that they ran out of clothes anyway! We had a cup of tea and a chat and after much hugging, kissing and 'be good's later we got back into a much roomier car and headed back up the A22 towards the dreaded M25.

The journey to the motorway was actually uneventful but we hit the M25 at 3pm and stayed there until 5pm... "Can you imagine how bad it would be if we hit it at rush hour," I said. "You mean this isn't rush hour?" the nephew asked. Inwardly I smiled knowingly, after all I did try to warn them and now we were going to join the queue of traffic heading down the M4 towards the nicer side of London.

But I was proved wrong and it actually wasn't that bad. We ended up arriving at the hotel just before 6pm (after a detour as some woman in a 4x4 cut me up on the roundabout and I ended up going the wrong way). So we had an hour to freshen up and then head over to the Fat Duck.

we were just going up to our room when the nephew suddenly said, "We'll leave a bit early so you can park." I looked at him with a cold hard stare that would have impressed Paddington Bear. "We are getting a cab," I said, "There is no way I am driving again tonight and besides I'm going to have a drink."Yet another fun part of the trip was that of the four of us in the car I was the only one who partook of alcohol and the only one who could drive my car - which is ridiculous. Whenever Papa and I go out and driving is involved we both end up drinking fizzy water - much to everyone's amusement. The amount of times people say "You mean Papa doesn't drink and doesn't drive - you certainly got that the wrong way round!" My, how we laugh!!!!  Again, Papa's reasoning is that if he learned to drive he would essentially be a taxi everywhere for me and my drunken friends - I guess he does have a point...

So we arrived at the Fat Duck, an unassuming little restaurant in the picturesque village of Bray - it really is lovely, just like the villages you see on Poirot or Miss Marple - straight out of the 1950's.

We went in and nephew asked about his reservation. They couldn't find it... I saw the look on his face and immediately wished I had brought my camera.... Then suddenly they found his name on the list and all was good. If they hadn't have found it he would have been walking home... to Singapore!

Which brings me on my next topic. Taking pictures of food! I may be old fashioned but I really don't understand the need to photograph everything that sits on a plate in front of you, however,  I can forgive the occassional snap with a sneaky little mobile phone - although being ridiculously old fashioned I put my phone in my jacket and gave it to the waiter. Again, I don't really understand why you need your phone when you are having an evening out with friends and family - unless of course you are a brain surgeon or dreadfully important - which none of us are, but who am I to judge?

However, nephew took it one step further and pulled out the biggest camera I have ever seen, complete with zoom lens and popped it onto the table next to him. The inner snob in me shuddered and Papa looked at me furiously as I had told him on no account was he allowed to do anything as uncouth as take his camera to dinner. I noticed the other tables looking over (I think some of the more famous clientele were worried nephew might have been a member of the paparazzi - in which case he was pretty bad at it as he wasn't hiding anything!) The waiter winked at me and I knew that either they were quite used to this or I had pulled... I think it was the former.

So the first courses arrived and as I'm sure you already know most of  the menu due to the amount of times it's been on TV - If you havent just check out my nephew's facebook page - its all there in glorious digital technicolour!. I won't go through it all but I can tell you that despite my initial misgivings about it only being the sort of place people went to 'be seen', it was actually an amazing experience - and there was an impeccable sense of theatre, each course accompanied with a presentation on how to eat it, how it was made, the inspiration behind it - it was a brilliant evening. Of course, we had to stop every time the plates were put down in order for my three Singaporean companions to take photos of their plates and then each others plates - to be honest the only thing they didn't take a picture of was me!!!!  But everyone was having a good time and that was the main thing.

After about the third course though I noticed a change in the atmosphere - instead of being a bit snooty - as everyone was when we came in (apart from the staff - oddly enough), nephew had set a trend - suddenly people were taking pictures of their food quite openly - the lady behind us who had snuck a couple of shots on her i-phone was now standing up and taking distance shots of her and her footballer husband (don't ask me who he was, I just know a footballer when I see one and more importantly a footballer's wife) and the staff got involved too, encouraging Papa to put the seashell from the seaside fishy dish to his ear while everyone took photos. Then the waiters posed for a shot - suddenly it felt like we were in TGI Fridays as opposed to one of the most exclusive restaurants in the country. And it was great fun!

The innocent camera work of a young man had loosened this place up and everyone was having a great time. 'Well done' nephew -and a big pantomime 'boo' to snooty old uncle!

One thing that did impress me though was the level of service and for me great service comes from making all of your guests comfortable - and they certainly did that. They even laid my cutlery out left handed between each course without making a fuss. My mother would have been horrified - she never let me eat left handed at home as 'I wouldn't be able to eat like that in public' so I learned to eat right handed, apart from spoons which I just switch over - but here, here they practically encouraged me to eat left handed - I felt very naughty!

Four hours (and one massive bill - thank you sis) later we got back in the cab after a fantastic evening and headed back to our lovely hotel for a night cap before bed and the drive back the next day.....

It was then that I thought about the kids... were they ok? Had they been good?.. Oh well, we will soon find out! But until then I was going to enjoy the rest of the child free evening with a brandy... or two!

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