We’d breezed into the Chiltern Firehouse at 7pm on a Friday night. It’s an inconspicuous entrance as befits a place where there are a lot of loud voices inside who know who they are and who know other people know who they are.
Naturally there was nothing banal on the menu, champagne cocktails presided closely followed by the more de rigeur martinis. I asked for one that wasn’t on the menu: “But only if it’s made with Agave Syrup” I said to the waitress, “Otherwise, a glass of rose please.” “I’m sure we make a good one here” she said confidently.
Our French waiter assured us our pleasure was his pleasure as he placed a scrumptious looking Margarita with crushed rock salt around the outside down along with a glass of white wine for Nicole. We clinked glasses and watched as two Indian gentlemen sat down next to us. I couldn’t take my eyes off the cardboard packet that was placed on the table between them.
One of them spotted me and I took my chance. “May I have one please? Are they cigarettes?” “Ah, no, but happiness is a cigar named Hamlet….if you remember the advert?” “Well, I was a baby” I replied. “But yes.” He offered me one and I accepted, then lit it for me. “Do I inhale?” I asked. “Of course, it would be a crime not to.”
Our food came and we ate, savouring the deliciousness of a May evening outside with the frisson of a ‘place’ to accompany it. We listened to an American gentleman on his phone: “I’m at the Chiltern. Yeah, it’s like, the spot. Look, about the movie, it’s metaphorical, right? I’ll meet him here, that’s all I want is to do is to reach out to James. Perfect. Perfect. Call me. Anytime. Yeah. I’ll be up at 1 in the morning.”
The Indian gentlemen paid their check as I explained to Nicole what life was really about.
Moments later Hamlet man rose to go: “I hope the cigar brings you happiness tonight. And, I listened to your advice.” “About what?” I said. “About life” he replied nodding sagely.
I headed to the Ladies. The sound of a myriad swishing doors opening and closing surrounded me. I spied an ornate gold dish and asked one of the many flat capped doorman where it came from. “It’s the new celebrity dog bowl” he replied. A suave curly haired Maitre’D opened another door, “Quite extraordinary” I replied. “There’s something very 1980’s Versace about it”. He laughed. “Yes, of course Madame.”
We paid our bill. “What’s with the plain black matchbox” I asked yet another waiter. “Oh, we’re just not sure how we want to brand it yet” he said. “The Standard in New York – it took them 10 weeks to figure out the design of the match boxes there.” “Of course” I said, “You have to live in a place for a while first before you know what colour to paint the walls.”