It’s not so much the ageing that bothers me; more the stress of organisation. This year, at the tender age of 28, I decided, finally, to relax and just…let it happen. Balthazar, The Boundary, The Painted Lady, Pizzeria Pappagone,The Old Dairy, many delicious friends and several delicious cocktails helped me have the best birthday of my life.
Beautiful Sarah took me for a very special birthday brunch. I have been meaning to go to Balthazar again since I was 21; I had the most amazing dinner at the original New York branch. Now Balthazar has opened in Covent Garden, there’ll be no stopping me. The pastries (we got ‘Le Panier’, £15) were other-worldly – croissants, pain au chocolat and CHOCOLATE BREAD all featured. The Mimosa was a citrusy glug of divinity and the Eggs Royale was meltingly buttery; the best I've ever had. I thought I’d have to be rolled out of there, but somehow managed to leave with my dignity in tact. The waitress politely smiled at our ability to polish off all the pastries! Balthazar was chic and sophisticated with slick, excellent service; everything I remembered from the New York experience and more.
After a brief Zara whip-around (the Covent Garden branch is one of my favourites) I met up with my friend Gemma and hit Kate Spade and Opening Ceremony. I was very tempted to get the Kenzo Vans but resisted temptation. Avoiding the rain, we nipped into the National Portrait Gallery and the headed to my favourite London rooftop bar, the Boundary. I introduced Josie to the bread basket and she reciprocated with another delicious cocktail; something lemony and elderflowery this time, strong enough to forget specifics.
Then it was on to the Painted Lady, a retro styling salon on trendy Redchurch Street. I've had myriad manicures at the salon (very good ones at that) but I was keen to try their famous hair styling service. The people who work at the Painted Lady have a wonderful way of making you feel welcome and looked after straight away. I needed a coffee after the cocktail and they met that need. Even the cup and saucer were vintage. I’ve been trying my hand at victory rolls for ages, with varying degrees of disaster. Belinda explained that the key to perfect victory rolls was preparation. She painstakingly tonged every piece of my hair, pinning each section to my head to cool. Then it was on with the rolling – there was a bit of backcombing before to help each perfectly formed cylinder stay. About half a can of hairspray later and I had been fully transformed from modern gal to vintage vixen; it felt wonderful.
It was time for a quick spruce-up later and I donned my Vivien of Holloway dress before heading to fave restaurant Pappagone for a good old-fashioned Italian feed-up to line our stomachs for the night ahead. I opted for Linguine alle Vongole which, although delicious, was a little too spicy for my taste. The waiters make a big fuss of you if they get wind that it’s your birthday. I was ceremoniously presented with a suggestive banana arrangement, which I had to bite with my hands tied behind my back.
Our penultimate stop was The Old Dairy, a gorgeous pub on Crouch Hill. It’s a fun, lively place; one of my favourite London pubs. I was appointed a marvellous area for 25. Sometimes you can feel a bit ‘away from the action’ in private areas, but this one was situated right in the middle, conveniently close to the bar and the DJ booth. We all had a great time; the DJ played some great music and we danced until 1am when it closed.
Our final stop was Caipirinha on Highgate Hill, a great little club with live music, fab DJs and really, really cheap Jagerbombs. I’ll leave it at that.