Nothing ever seems to go right for me when I plan a gourmet holiday. Shops and markets are never open on the days I want them to be; restaurants are always booked up. I can’t count the number of times my schedule has been waylaid by mysterious ‘private functions’, which crop up with unnerving regularity whenever I dare to make a booking inquiry.
Have I told you that the queen ruined my honeymoon plans last year? Well, she did. We’d been planning to go to The Waterside Inn on night one ever since we got engaged and the whole week was arranged around it. So desperate were we to guarantee our table that I rang them up the very second the booking window opened to make sure we got in.
“I’m sorry sir, but the restaurant is closed that evening for a ‘private function’. Would you like to book for another day?”
Turned out the royal family had reserved it for some sort of celebration.* We were forced to reorganise the entire bloody week!
Naturally, as I shuffled hotels and restaurants around, more issues cropped up. We couldn’t get into Gordon Ramsay. Then we couldn’t get into Le Gavroche. I had no problems booking Alain Ducasse – which was always on the itinerary – but when I rang them up a few weeks beforehand to inform them of my wife’s dairy allergy they said they had no record of the booking at all!!
The guy at the end of the phone fortunately agreed it was the restaurant’s fault and sorted us a table anyway, but he didn’t manage to do so before my head exploded, splattering big gooey lumps of excitement and good will all over my bedroom wall.
The original plan had been to do all the country’s three-star Michelin restaurants in a week, in this order: The Waterside Inn, The Fat Duck, Gordon Ramsay and Alain Ducasse (with a night at The Dorchester).
After a month of headaches, we eventually settled for: Hibiscus, Goodman, The Waterside Inn and Alain Ducasse (with a night at The Dorchester). Not too shabby really, but a bit of a pain to cobble together.
Annoyingly, I’ve been going through the exact same pain again as I try to set up another gourmet holiday in London this June. It’s gone like this:
We wanted to spend the last night with a room and dinner at The Ritz.
The Ritz was unavailable.
We booked a night at The Dorchester instead and tried to get into Le Gavroche.
Le Gavroche was unavailable.
I uttered the following phrase: “God this is irritating. Ah well, at least we won’t have a problem going back to Goodman – who books a steak house so far in advance?”
Goodman was unavailable.
I uttered the follo… actually, that probably doesn’t bear repeating.
I just seem to have no luck with these things; no luck at all. I know these places are popular, but when I go to book them as soon as is humanly possible, I’d expect to hit more often than not. It’s not like I’m trying to get into an El Bulli or a Next or somewhere where you might have to pay a few hundred quid on eBay in order to be sure of a reservation.
I know two different couples who are going to Le Gavroche in April and booked without a hitch. How is it they got in so easy? I expect the Jubilee has something to do with it. Yet again I’ve been thwarted by the queen with her sodding celebrations!**
Anyway, I should probably stop complaining. If there’s anything to be learned from going through this experience again, it’s that you should always have a back-up plan for this sort of holiday. And the great thing about London is it’s pretty damn easy to come up with a back-up plan that’s just as full of awesome.
My restaurant itinerary for the four-day trip is as follows:
Dinner at Hawksmoor Seven Dials
Lunch at The Ledbury
Dinner at The Square
(we’ll eat here when we stay at The Dorchester)
There should also be time for a visit to Borough Market…
…and a macaron raid on Pierre Hermé.
I’m pretty happy with that!
It’s almost inevitable that some things will go wrong when the week actually comes. Lowlights from last year included a three-hour train delay on the way down and a ‘meal’ at an Angus Steakhouse.
But as long as the latter doesn’t happen again, I think we’ll be alright. I’m very much looking forward to it!
*Or at least I’m fairly sure that’s the case. It’s certainly a more interesting story with the queen involved, so let’s stick with it…
**I don’t mean that really. I love the queen. She can thwart me all she wants.