Thursday, 26 April 2012

Dinner at... Joe Allen

I was asked on Yesterday whether I'd like to go out tonight. For dinner. Oh yes. Actually, the idea had been floated at the weekend, but was going to include a friend of my friend that I was yet to meet, but had been looking forward to. If that makes sense. Still, Wednesday is a quiet night in Contrary Towers when my flatmate is doing her songbird thing, so who was I to object.

Of course then I was asked the most ridiculous question ever "where would you like to go?". Well I don't know, I never do, unless I'm eating alone, or, on odd occasions have a sudden desire for something. What I really like when being asked is having a place suggested I've never been, I really and honestly don't mind where, I like trying new things.

Anyway. We agreed to meet at 8 in Covent Garden and take it from there. At the very moment that decision was made the gods sniggered and pressed the sod-you-Victoria button. Nasty bits of work. First issue... The Hammersmith and City Line had issues... Not a problem, so I trotted down to Holland Park. And just missed the lift because some cretin decided the sole entry barrier was the best place to chat with his mate. Which meant I missed the train. Which meant I waited.

Now waiting in London I've found is relative. Three minutes is roughly equivalent to a millennia, and not a good one either, it's the kind of millennia where all the bad stuff happens and you wonder what feast of punishment drew you to exist at this point. 4 minutes is beyond impossible.

So I waited three minutes, got on the train and relaxed, shutting down my mind and entering a calm place. Until the next station.

"Sorry ladies and gents but we're held up by a problem with the train ahead"

Of course we are. I've arranged something and need to be in Contrary Towers by a specific time so I can change and get back out to Covent Garden. And I'm already late. Okay. Breath... Waits. Breath... Waits. Breath... Beep-beep-beep-beep-beep. Thank goodness for that. Off we went again with hold ups (not those sort) and further station stops. The 8pm meet looking about as likely as me being the next Pope.

Finally... I reached Mile End, wandered out and... Oh you cheeky gods you, a 277, D7 and... a 323! OMG, I was considering buying a lottery ticket at that point, I mean, it was almost too good to be true. You see the 323, as well as being quite mythical, also stops really close to Contrary Towers. Which saves an awful lot of time. But it wasn't really enough. Best I warn him...

...and then get showered. Ugg. Wet weather. Warmish. High moisture content. Horrible. And it takes me an age to cool down. Little delays but they were starting to add up. I really was going to be horribly late. We had a revised meeting time of 8:15. Which I felt might be slightly unrealistic as I sent a text at 8:12 to say I was leaving. Oops.

And then missed a bus. Gah! At 8:25 I could finally say I was on my way properly and from then on it went smoothly, predictable, not too awful. How good is that! So nearly an hour late I turned the corner of Bow Street to walk down to the Opera House where we'd decided to actually meet, a place I knew well *and*, at that time of the evening, almost devoid of people as they would be in the Opera House.

It's always lovely to see a friendly face, and when you get a really nice smile of greeting it's all the better! I was given a choice of where to eat, but settled on Joe Allen as the way it was described was fabulous. And I'd much rather go to somewhere a little quirky! It's a fabulous place, hidden away on Exeter Street, very subtle, I'd been told it was originally famous for its burgers, but had gradually changed it's menu to match changing tastes.

The obvious thing, apart from it having the right level of quirky, was how busy it was. Now this was definitely not pre-theatre crowd, I was already horribly late, so it was a genuinely popular place. Plus, the majority of people didn't look like they were the tourist crowd, which didn't entirely surprise me given how hidden it was. This had to be a good thing!

The greeting was very warm, even given we'd not booked, a really nice young man took my coat and we were shown to a nice spot, near the bar, but able to easily see into the larger room beyond. Fabulous for people watching. As we sat and chatted, it did occur to me that there were an awful lot of suits, and my companion did explain this he used to often visit here with American bankers. I'm sure that's not a euphemism.

The waitress was lovely, genuinely smiley and really friendly. And agreed with me that the addition of a TV screen, showing the football, was perhaps not the best idea. Not that it stopped my companion from watching, I really am losing my touch. That's unfair, he was fine, and meant he could at least keep an eye on whoever it was playing *uninterested face*.

Some time later, we realised there may be an issue, still no starter. Now this only mattered to me as I was going for the black pudding because, frankly, I'm disgusting and Northern and if I had to choose between that and dress size... Well, no contest, black pudding every time. The order seemed to have been mislaid in the kitchen, it happens. But... The calf liver was off the menu. Grr. Oh well, a rare fillet then. *sighs*

On the plus side, the waitress did say they would only charge for the calf and... The black pudding (with egg and what have you on top) was simply astounding. I. Was. In. Heaven. Really, that good, sublime taste and texture. I was a happy bunny. And the steak was good too, so really, a little mix up wasn't going to be a problem. I skipped the desert, I'm more savoury and spice than sweet, unlike my companion, who whilst is quite sweet I have a sneaking suspicion he's really a dirty old man, but lovely with it. And, by way of apology, the sweet was on the house too. Better and better!

All in all, I really liked the place, and even with the hiccup would happily go again. At the end of the evening, now way past 11, the waitress went as far as saying how lovely it had been to meet us, and it did sound totally genuine. Fabulous.

By now the persistent rain had eased off, so it was a pleasant, arm in arm stroll down to Temple tube and the District Line home, the conversation never really stopped, at least until Tower Hill when my companion had to get off and then, sadly I was all alone...

...Except for some dirty, nasty looking bloke who kept eyeing me up. Oh great. Fortunately the carriage wasn't empty and I studiously avoided looking his way, but could see out of the corner of my eye. Okay, I was a little more than nervous and apprehensive. And for stop after stop he was still there and we were getting closer to Mile End. By Stepney Green I was ready to leave, I knew which side of the train the doors would open, so, as we pulled in I waited a moment and... Dashed off the train without a single look. Until the stairs. Phew, not there!

I know that plan B would have been to find one of the many police people that hover around Mile End. Just glad it wasn't needed. I was definitely spooked though. And, to add to my woes, no bus! At least not for ten minutes. And no taxi. I really didn't want to hang around Mile End at midnight... I walked, really, really quickly. As I marched in to Bow Common Lane I heard a throat being cleared somewhere behind me, oh great. Walks really, really, really, really quickly. At least it's so well lit down there I could see any shadows getting close. And, not to put too fine a point on it, I would probably be okay if anything was to happen, somebody would get a very nasty surprise, but really, I didn't want to be in that scenario.

And then I was home. Electronic door releases are wonderful things, no worry of fumbling with keys in locks when nervous. Phew. I also managed to get in without my usual the whirlwind-has-landed exuberance as I really didn't think my flatmate would appreciate the joke, even though I'd only see her light go off pretty much as I arrived.

As I lay in bed pondering the days events of the day, I realised, discomfort of the last part of the journey aside, it had been really quite successful. Adapting to a revised lifestyle, way of life even, is always going to be full of little steps. Things that I'd done for many years without too much thought or concern and, indeed, things that others do everyday with the same level of consideration, but a change in life is like watching a performance in the theatre twice from different sides of the auditorium, the same thing, but an altered view.

That takes some getting used to.

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