Do you ever wonder if there is a secret camera filming everything as it goes so unbelievably awry?
In fact, I was convinced that was the case on Friday night and spent some time peering at the restaurant ceiling to spot it.
‘I think we’re going to end up on Saturday Night Takeaway’, I whispered to my friend, L, making sure that I sported a perennial smile and showed my best side to the camera at all times – or would have if I could pinpoint its whereabouts.
My three friends and I had decided on a meal out. There were several restaurants to choose from on the village high street, but having decided on curry, our choice was limited to three. As we had stopped outside one of the three to have our discussion, it seemed an easy choice to just walk straight in.
Far be it from me to cast aspersions, but for the purpose of this post, let’s call the restaurant ‘Cumin’.
We were shown to a round table set for six by the window where the radiator was on full blast, so our first priority was to turn it off. We had walked all the way, and were already warm!
The first, older waiter arrived to take our drinks order.
‘A bottle of Prosecco, please,’ I said.
He gave me a strange look.
Surely we didn’t look underage?
Then, having contemplated my words, and having possibly become overcome by confusion at the rareness of the request, or indeed the complexity – I know not which – he opted out. Frowning, he said, ‘My colleague will come to take your drinks order.’
A few minutes later, said colleague arrived with a smile.
‘May I take your drinks order, please?’
This time I said it slowly: ‘Pro-secc-o, please. A bottle.’
No. He didn’t get it. There were questions.
‘Large or small? What size?’
I gestured at the company and pulled my hands apart to give an indication of the shape and size of a bottle. ‘A bottle. A normal bottle.’
‘No.’ I pointed at each member of the group. ‘For four, please. A bottle of Prosecco for four of us.’
The waiter and the bottle eventually arrived and he set about opening it, possibly a brand new experience for him. This was taking so much time, that he began to participate openly in our discussion, but all the while, quietly, he threw separate questions at me:
‘Do you have a man?’ (still pulling ineffectually at the cork)
‘Yes, I’m married.’
‘I can provide you with complete satisfaction.’ (grimacing and pulling)
My eyes became wide.
‘Do you have children?’
‘Two. Grown up.’
‘I see you come in the restaurant a lot.’
‘What’s your name?’ (sweating and pulling)
‘What’s your other name?’ (panting and pulling)
‘I am going to find you on Facebook.’
Our tongues were, by now, hanging out, like dogs lost in the Kalahari.
‘Try twisting the bottle, not the cork,’ suggested my friend, G. We all echoed her suggestion and out popped the cork.
He then shook everyone’s hands around the table and introduced himself formally. He had had plenty of time to get to know us, and now it seemed as though we were old friends. As he practised our names, going round and round the table in a feat of memory, it seemed that we all now shared the surname ‘Badry.’
He put the warm bottle on the table and left us.
A few minutes later, an ice bucket appeared at the side of the table. I say ‘ice’ bucket; perhaps that should be ‘bucket’. There was water in it. I stuck my finger in. It was tepid.
Still no glasses.
Eventually, we asked for some.
‘Three?’ asked our friend.
I pointed at each one of us in turn. ‘No, four, please. There are four of us.’
Four huge goblets appeared. Our new friend poured a soupcon in each at such great speed that the fizz nearly overflowed. We asked him to chill another for later. When he left, we then topped up the glasses ourselves leaving the bottle empty.
Next, we ordered food. We decided on a few sides and two main courses to share.
‘And we’d like onion bhajis,’ we said.
‘Three?’ he asked hopefully.
‘No. Four.’ I pointed… You know the drill.
‘How many poppadoms would you like?’
We suggested four, as there were ‘four of us’.
By the time the poppadoms had arrived (five of them), we had finished our drinks, so went through the rigmarole of ordering another bottle. It was colder than the first. Result!
‘Would you take a photo?’ one of my friends asked.
The waiter was thrilled, and manoeuvred himself behind us, putting his arms around us and beamed at the friend holding out her phone. Obligingly, she took one with him in it. Then someone else asked if he could take a photo, and he posed again, looking at her.
‘We’d like YOU to be the photographer, not one of the subjects!’ someone eventually said. This seemed to upset him slightly.
The rest of the food arrived, and was very nice, as well as surprising. There was a chicken dish no one had ordered, and things we had ordered were not there. Our third bottle of Prosecco was perfectly chilled; the waiter seemed very pleased with himself.
At the end of the meal, we were the only guests left in the restaurant. Waiter One offered us free drinks. By now, they knew what Prosecco was, so a few of my friends had that. I had a limoncello. Then Waiter Two came and also offered us free drinks, so we had a second batch.
As we left, they gave us a great send off and asked us to come back the next evening.
‘We’ve still got three bottles of Prosecco left!’ they reassured us.
Saturday was going to be someone else’s night!