In a week when I tipped my gilt-coloured chair to close in on the narrow gap separating me from the exquisite singing of Maltese tenor Joseph Calleja at a private performance, I also spent half the amount an immigrant paid to drown in the Mediterranean, in a trendy London eatery.
Stumbling into a cacophony of noise, we negotiated our way through the crowd, like stepping around an airport lounge of cancelled flight passengers. The family of four next to us echoed our own deluded sense of occasion as they sat in jackets and ties and pretty dresses while the yoga-clad, skinny elite around us had not bothered to brush their hair. While still determining whether this was pleasant or simply miserable, I felt a vibration of air current to my right when I realised that my daughter was talking to me. I bent my ear down to her chin and concluded it best to stare at her moving lips and guess at a conversation instead, with occasional village idiot grins of incomprehension while apologetically shrugging my shoulders in ignorance.
The office party behind us whoop and whooped loudly in Facebook-mannered approbation, then all twelve whoopers dropped their drinks, propelled their chairs to the side and concertinaed into a mass of straining arms and ecstatic cries around Pharrell Williams in the open corridor behind us. Much crowd gushing ensued and hysterical pandering. How to let him know we were not part of the same human race.
And as charmingly professional as he was at the subjugation of more whoops and squashed grins against his rather beautiful face in at least twenty selfies within fifty seconds, he was equally professional about the speed in which he vanished. What a pro. One office employee diner fell back on her chair and screamed at her mobile screen for ten whole minutes, then furiously stabbed fingers at it to gain more ether friends, ignoring the £35 price tag attached to her three centimetres of smoke-infused crab taco perched on her trapezoidal plate.
Our own food arrived and became progressively mediocre until the sautéed shrimp tasted like Benihana, circa 1985. The bill, however, climbed to stratospheric heights of obscenity.
I recalled our cab journey there earlier, and our faces, full of anticipation of a special meal after a few stressful months, while celebrating a birthday to boot, and the driver telling us how fab this internationally-renowned establishment was meant to be. Today I'd like to find him and put him straight, for the sake of all those future lemmings heading off a financial cliff for some sea catch that is best left to live on.
The next day I woke up with an overwhelming sense of stupidity while still burping last night's over-salted umami-ness. We'd been had. I have been obsessively thinking of better uses with my money; feeding a family of refugees for six months, saving Devon's wounded moles, or better still not having to find the sum that we never had in the first place but that will now appear as a canker sore on our credit card bill at the end of the month.
Some places are simply too expensive for their own good, with an unwarranted reputation for culinary expertise that long ago perished under the founder chef now running an empire elsewhere. Moreover, a residual feeling of something close to shame punctuated my day. Visions blurred my traffic-congested journeys on newly detoured Central London streets, as I imagined replacing the motorised sieve with a boat for those wretched souls who never made it past the open sea around Lampedusa. Annoyingly, this will haunt me for a long time; a "feel-goof" with guilt is not exactly the abiding factor a restaurant should leave us with.
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