Last Thursday, if you checked your DayRunner, you noticed it was Karen’s birthday. Not just any old birthday, mind you. The big 3-0.
So we had a night out. The theme was ‘Relaxing in Holland Park’. The idea was to have a simple, quotidian evening. . . that is, quotidian if you live in Notting Hill and have a gazillion pounds.
So we started with a really cute pub, the Windsor Castle, which not only had Leffe on tap along with some great bitters, but served up Karen the best Winter Pimm’s we’ve found yet, along with some of Kettle’s Mango Chili potato chips. The place also wins points for having four-foot high doorways you have to duck through to move from room to room.
Then we took a stroll over to a really cute spa, Cowshed, for Karen to receive a much-needed back massage. As the school term draws to a close, the stress has definitely mounted, so this was key to the relaxation component. The massage was made all the better since it was a surprise gift from her close friend Stephanie — again, living like rich people. What could be more posh than going up to pay for your massage and having them say, “Thank you, but that massage was on Stephanie. . .” Rock.
The genius in my scrupulous planning (if I do humbly point out) came next, when we walked across the street to a little outcropping of cute shops and there, seemingly out of nowhere, was an adorable restaurant. where the restaurant was. Julie’s Restaurant is tucked away in a quiet neighborhood, but it’s been around for decades as one of the city’s premiere spots for a romantic dinner. I admit it was hard for me to pass up on some of the city’s new Michelin-starred restaurants for this special night, but something told me this more intimate and classic experience would fit the evening’s tone. It was right on: the food was actually very good (especially the guinea fowl — who knew?), all the better when enjoyed in another quirky, candle-lit home filled with antique charm.
Though Karen was now officially over the hill, we were both impressed to find that we were ready for more action, so we decided to save dessert for the next stop. I had instructed our East European waitress (all restaurant service is Eastern European in London these days) to put a candle in the dessert to celebrate the birthday, so she was pretty confused when we told her we didn’t want any dessert after all. Her solution? A lone birthday candle on a tiny plate accompanied our bill.
We’d noticed a really hip looking gastro (that’s short for gastropub â€” basically pubs that turn the lighting a bit low, play some music in the background and serve gourmet food for hip people) on the way in, the Prince of Wales, so we went over to check it out. I think it had the same owners as the Windsor, because not only did it have Leffe on tap as well, but it had Früli on tap, a delicious strawberry beer. Went perfectly with the chocolate pudding we ordered. . . But again, when I asked the stocky East European barkeep to stick a candle in the dessert, he had his own ideas. He nodded wisely and rushed over to the table where Karen was sitting with an enormous candle taken from another neighboring table. Happy birthday, indeed.