“What do you mean he’s not here?!!!” I shrieked. “Where on earth is he?!!”
PJ the bartender looked slightly taken aback. “Um, he’s in Ireland drinking Pina Coladas.”
“What! Doesn’t he care about his London restaurants anymore?!!” I demanded.
Anna sat on the bar stool beside me – just smiling, a bit too smugly I thought. When she’d suggested a late night viewing of Rubens and His Legacy at the Royal Academy with an orchestra and cocktails, I had immediately agreed. It was only on arriving at the exhibition and being handed a single pink rose and a matching chocolate that it hit me: Valentine’s Day.
Oh well, in for a penny, in for an evening of pink and red and all the accompanying schmaltz.
Unlike the Rembrandt, Reubens on a Saturday night gave space to the Old Masters. With a distinct lack of crowds the paintings could breathe. One could wander across and between rooms freely, have a seat now and then and just ‘be’ with the pictures. What a wonderful feeling – just like the old days. Every so often a violin would start up or an operatic Soprano. Despite being on my feet all day, I was not exhausted – but elevated.
“They said there’d be cocktails here” Anna told me looking around.
“No, they went off that idea – I just asked. But, why don’t we go to Corrigans for one – it’s close by?” I suggested.
“Yes, but the restaurant in Swallow Street is nearer?” Anna said.
Richard Corrigan’s Bentley’s was packed with dressed up couples and the Irish diaspora. There was definitely no room at this inn. We sat outside under heaters with plaid blankets wrapped around our legs, but thankfully within minutes were called in.
Once settled at the bar Anna informed me “I’ve been here a few times. In fact on the last occasion I even got drinks on the house courtesy of Richard himself.” My eyes widened. “You know that Middelton whiskey?” I said I didn’t. “Well, it’s very expensive – £20 a shot – that’s what we were drinking. It was so much fun!!!”
I tried to look calm, maintain composure and compute this information. This, the man that had not responded yet to my business card ‘note’ on a recent visit to Corrigan’s of Mayfair.
“He’s from Cork you know – near where I live” she continued.
“Ah!.” Here I had her. “Well actually Anna, he’s not. I happen to know for a fact he’s from near my hometown – a place called Ballivor.” She looked surprised. “And” I went on, “He is married you know.”