First-Hand: My biriyani with Keanu (and how I paid the bill): Monique Roffey on a disappointing dinner with a dreamboat

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Indy Lifestyle Online
IN NOVEMBER 1991 the big gossip among my circle of friends was that Mathew, a television researcher, had met Keanu Reeves. Not only had he interviewed him for a television programme, but had also been asked to show him around town.

So when Mathew rang that week, I didn't beat around the bush. How was Keanu? What was he like (apart from the obvious - achingly handsome and deeply cool?). Where had they been? Did he have a girlfriend? (Apparently not.) 'What are you doing with him tonight?' I asked. 'Going out for dinner,' he replied nonchalantly. 'Want to come?' I ran into the street to hail a cab.

When I got to the restaurant (Khan's on Westbourne Grove, near Bayswater), they'd already sat down: Mathew, a young blonde woman who I didn't recognise, and . . . Keanu. It was hard not to stare (though no one else in the restaurant seemed to be doing so). As I threaded my way towards them through the rows of tables I realised he was probably the most attractive man I'd ever seen in my life. Long dark dirty hair, great smile, chiselled jaw. Completely sexy. A babe.

I greeted them with what I hoped was a cheery 'hello' and Keanu responded equally cheerily. The blonde blinked, and Mathew, who I immediately saw was suffering from a bout of 'don't cramp my style I'm with a movie star'-itis, merely nodded.

A bad start, but I wasn't going to be put off. Keanu seemed friendly. 'How was your day?' he asked breezily. I was sure it had been boring so I muttered something banal. Then, out of nervousness, I asked him back. 'How was yours?' This had the effect of striking him mute. I felt panic rising: was this too personal a question? 'OK,' he mumbled eventually. I decided I would have to plough on with the natural approach. 'What are you up to at the moment?' A complete blank. This seemed a very simple and innocent question. 'Actually I'm making a multi-million dollar gothic romance with Francis Ford Coppola,' would have been a reasonable answer. What was the problem? I suddenly wondered if I was supposed to act like I didn't know who he was.

As small talk was out, it seemed unwise to attempt proper conversation. So I let the others lead the way into restaurant chat. The blonde woman continued to say nothing. She was an American: it turned out that Keanu had picked her up in a bookshop the day before. Mathew, usually a gag-a-minute lad, remained silent. He was too worried someone might say something uncool (which I had). I had also stopped talking. Which just left Keanu.

'Hey, I like your ring,' he said, pointing to a big poison ring I was wearing. 'It's really cool.' I smiled and told him where he could buy one. 'Hey, she's really neat,' said Keanu suddenly, looking at someone at the next table. I looked around to see a bald person (actually a man) in dungarees.

So it went on as we ate our biriyanis. Keanu made a lot of unconnected and bimbo-ish remarks about people in the restaurant, life, clothes and surfing and said 'radical' a lot; Mathew humoured him; the blonde never ventured a word; I became more and more irritated.

It was clear that Keanu was actually very like his Bill-and Ted character (from his teen hit movie) in real life: a handsome surf blockhead who got lucky. He seemed very uncomfortable with being famous and the awkwardness was rubbing off.

When it was time to pay the bill, Keanu got out his card. Mathew, like an idiot, began insisting he would pay, as he was supposed to be entertaining Keanu. Being skint myself, I sat back and waited for them to sort it out. Mathew won. Then he turned to me. 'Mon, do you mind getting this?' he said. He'd left his wallet at home. I wrote the cheque out in disbelief. I, who was broke, was buying dinner for four people, one of whom was a millionaire movie star. I knew that Mathew would forget to pay me back. I was livid.

Outside it had begun to drizzle, so we began to look for taxis. For some reason I started humming 'Singing in the Rain' which mysteriously brought Keanu back to life. He began singing the song, did a little tap dance. As he walked off I noticed he was pigeon-toed.

Keanu Reeves's film, 'Speed', opens here on 30 September

(Photograph omitted)

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