I have just taken my wife "up" to London for a big night out. She is a fabulous mum to our kids and puts up with me arsing around the world pretending to work while she does the real stuff. "Time to spoil her," I thought to myself.
I asked a couple of foodie friends for recommendations as to where I should take her, because I always go to the same places – J Sheekey, Maroush, the Groucho Club. It was time to branch out and go somewhere new that we'd both enjoy Ω push the boat out a little.
My friend Adam suggested Marco Pierre White's Criterion restaurant on Piccadilly Circus. "It's a gorgeous room and it's Marco – you know it's going to be good." I rang, and, after some mutual miscommunication with the very helpful, possibly Albanian, speaker on the other end of the line, I managed to get a reservation for two that evening.
First, though, I had to do a reading at a carol service in Mayfair. It was a lovely affair, über-tasteful and packed with establishment types. I felt very out of place seated next to Sir Terry Wogan and a couple of Downton Abbey sorts. Despite my nerves I survived my reading, and, after a couple of celebratory glasses, hopped into a cab to head off to the Criterion.
When we got there it appeared that we didn't have a reservation. I eventually worked out that "Mr Gally" must be me and persuaded them to let us in. We sat down in the admittedly beautiful room and looked around. The place was packed. We were given a menu, some bread and a bottle of water as we chatted away. Then we waited... and waited.
After 15 minutes of nothing happening, we gave up and I suggested we go somewhere else. Stacey had already had some bread and water and was worried that this would constitute a "dine and dash", as Canadians so quaintly call "doing a runner". I was less worried. I'd tried to organise a special night out and the Criterion was proving to be a huge disappointment. So we walked out (please feel free to send me a bill for bread and water) and headed to a bustling yakitori joint on Old Compton Street, where we had way too much sake and a superb meal.
As we sat, sated on grilled chicken livers and other culinary delights, we talked about other runners or dine and dashes we'd done in our lives. Both Stacey and I had each done one in our student days – hers was in Toronto and mine in Paris. We both admitted to feeling very guilty about our past misdeeds.
As we left the restaurant we spotted the warm, neon glow of Ed's Easy Diner on the other side of the road. This mock American diner is something of a Soho institution and I suggested to Stacey that she might, perchance, fancy something to soothe her insatiable sweet tooth. I didn't have to ask twice and we ended up, slightly tipsy, chowing down on waffles with lashings of vanilla ice and chocolate sauce.
I don't know what the secret to a happy marriage is. I just love the fact that we'd started in a poncey restaurant and ended up happy as Larry in a late-night diner, eating ice cream.