Category Archives: Date

Bachelors vs. bellinis

I could have danced all night!
I could have danced all night!
And still have begged for more.

I went to the Alibi Room last night. This Chelsea venue caters solely to London’s singles with not-just speed dating events. Last night they combined the West’s version of a swayamvar with cocktail tasting. I went for the cocktails, and as moral support for my Single Friend who was hoping for a different kind of tasting at the end of the night.

The ladies were seated in groups of three and four across five tables and the men moved from group to group every fifteen minutes. Before each round of conversations, the bartender, sorry mixologist, took centre stage and gave us a little speech about the cocktail.

Round 1: The Bellini

2 parts peach puree
4 parts prosecco or Champagne
Mix. Yum.

In hindsight I’m glad the first lot of guys were as boring as Pension Lawyer James. As a result of James not being able to ask a single question nor give me more than a monosyllabic response to any of mine I remember the name of this cocktail, the history, the root of the fruit… Bellinis are perfect to start off your evening.

Round 2: Pomegranate, Apple, Elderflower Breeze

2 parts pomegranate juice
1 part apple juice
1 part elderflower juice
Large shot of vodka
Mix. More Yum than the bellini.

Round 2 saw the youngest person in the room at my table. Tiny Tim moved to London 6 months ago. He’s an analyst at a bank and works every weekend. Probably not the best way to impress a girl who might wonder when she would ever see him?

Round 3: Tom Collins

1 part lemon juice
1 tsp sugar
Large shot of gin
Shake together with lots of ice.
Top off with club soda.

I am not a big fan of alcoholic lemonade, but the gents on this round were probably more sour than the cocktail. Property Broker Cameron may have been brought up by a mother or sister who told him that he has a sparkling personality and it is quite alright to talk about himself ad nauseam. I feel for the women he thinks he is hitting on.

Round 4: French something

Three cocktails down and I have lost interest in this parade of the Presidents of Dullsville. Even the bartender is getting boring and I honestly cannot remember what the next cocktail is made from. It was clear and tiny and called French something or the other.

Investment Banker Bore: “I work at St. Pauls.”
Me (trying): “Have you been to the new shopping mall near there?”
Investment Banker Bore: “How do you know about the shopping mall?”
Me (still trying): “Borough Market isn’t too far. Do you ever go there for lunch?”
Investment Banker Bore: “How do you know about the market?”
Me (not trying anymore): “So Mubarak finally stepped down.”
Investment Banker Bore: “How did you know?!”

Really? Come on man!

Round 5: Raspberry something

This isn’t strictly a Table for ONE but the rate at which these conversations are going I may as well be talking to myself. Just as I settled down, with a cocktail full of raspberries, ready to leave the moment this round ended, came some entertainment.

Hairdresser Chris (not gay apparently) and Film Producer Gary arrive. Hairdresser Chris likes my Single Friend he met at the table before mine. He spent the next fifteen minutes trying to impress me into giving him her number. Film Producer Gary played along and I finally started to have a good time.

The bell goes, the lady comes around to collect our score cards and we’re allowed to mingle if we wanted to. Single Friend has been cornered by Hairdresser Chris in a last ditch attempt at getting her phone number. Not even the promise of a free haircut would have worked.

I went to the bar for a last cocktail and found myself between Film Producer Gary and his friend I hadn’t noticed before – Tall Laurence. I’m not sure how we went from awkward chat to salsa, but for the next two hours Single Friend and I happily obliged Film Producer Gary and Tall Laurence as they threw us across the dance floor. We had an audience and I had a Bollywood moment.

Single Friend is following a book called The Rules (dating advice by women who clearly never got any, and are now trying to make sure no other woman does either). As a result I will no doubt find myself being dragged to many more The Rules-prompted events like this one. And while my heart did not take flight ala Ms Doolittle, this has been the best night out in a bloody long time.

-p

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Filed under Cocktails, Date, London, Non-foodie fun

This time…

…leaving London was incredibly difficult; coming to Bombay, easier than usual. The entire country waited with bated breath for a US President to mention the P-word. Meanwhile, journalists wasted far too much newsprint on the First Lady’s (lack of) fashion statements. This time, going through the phonebook to put together several tables of two, four and five was easier than usual; finding a Table for ONE, incredibly difficult.

It isn’t that I was never single in Bombay. I just never had to be alone. I met my first boyfriend through a neighbour. We hung out with groups of common friends and one day realised we were dating each other. The next few relationships followed a similar pattern. With the exception of one short-lived relationship (that is now a very strong friendship) I don’t remember going on a date in the city. Bombay is a frighteningly sprawling metropolis; but scarier still is how small it is. It is nearly impossible to walk into a restaurant or bar and not sit next to someone you know. And more difficult is to get set up on a blind date. Everyone seems to know everyone already.

That is, until you decide to pack your life into two suitcases, swap BEST for TFL, Indian Idol for X Factor and build on your collection of recipe books in a kitchen far, far away.

I have come back to India to find that Ma knows someone who sort of knows someone who is interested in “meeting a few girls”. Then there is another someone; and the possibility of a third someone, for when I come back in December. It clearly pays to get out of town… or does it?

The date was fine. We had tons to talk about but I spent most of the evening picturing several other people sitting before me. I won’t be able to keep that up for another meal so there will be a date No. 2. If I were doing this in London it is unlikely I would have told anyone about the date. And when I was done, if I chose not to write about it, I could spend the rest of my life never having to discuss it again.

But I am in Bombay and surrounded by friends who insist on asking questions. I love it! When I left the date I had 3 missed calls and a few text messages asking incredibly nosy questions. No matter how peaceful and fulfilling my life is in London, I know I will never have these friendships there. I needed reinforcements before I could convince my friends that I wasn’t being my “usual self” in turning down the sweet man. It’s a rare day in Bombay that I find myself on my own… Table for ONE, here I come :-), finally.

I cannot remember the first time I went to Bade Miyan. I also cannot remember a trip to Bombay that doesn’t include Bade Miyan. The chaos at this street vendor is more organized than the service at most five star hotels. I ordered a sheekh kabab roomali roll (Rs. 90) and wait for it to arrive, double parked behind a few other cars, also parked illegally. The tiny, filthy lane is fragrant with the smells from a feisty tandoor; my mouth waters inevitably.

Bade Miya was started in 1940 by a 17 year old immigrant following his dream all the way to Bombay. My fellow-blogger and lovely person Sam often talks about chasing dreams. Something he wrote recently has always fascinated me. He says, “The tricky part is that you’ll never know whether a person is walking away from you or walking towards (someone/thing else).”

I’d like to stand still for a while.

-p

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Filed under Bombay, Date, Indian, Street food

Three tables for two

I have just finished reading Gouri Dange’s The Counsel of Strangers, a charming presentation of six stories that come pouring out at one big Indian wedding. Something one of the characters said in the book stayed with me all week. The near-suicidal Nurse Sajani at one point in her story said: “So then, tell me, as the fellow says in his book, When I die, who will cry? But I have a more urgent question. When I am living, who will laugh with me?

The dreariness from the week before has continued to creep into the rest of the month. I’ve been on crap dates, fallen ill, still haven’t found joy in the promotion, and saddest of all, found out that the Coffee Shop Guy is married. I needed a miracle to lift my mood… but thank you Universe for sending me three!

Rahul was in town on business and pulled out a few hours to buy me a Skinny-Dry-Extra-Foam-No-Sugar-Chocolate-on-Top-Cappuccino at my local Pret A Manger. I have known Rahul for as long as he’s been married to my best friend Lina and over the years he and I have developed a tremendous affection and respect for one another. I have heard and experienced too many incidents of “socially acceptable” inflections that quickly escalate into uncomfortable conversations and consequently, the death of friendships. But in the 15 plus years that I have known Rahul, I am relieved that not once has our friendship turned even mildly flirtatious, and not once has my friendship with Lina ever soured. Lina and Rahul, collectively and separately are havens of joy and love and I am grateful for them in my life. That day I laughed a lot with my favourite married man.

It is week one of the grouse season and there was no question that I had to book a restaurant that served grouse. Scott’s in Mayfair, before the refurb was the epitome of traditional elegance. The renovations brought a few naff additions like the art on the walls, a mile high island bar to display their oysters, and way too many diners in grey tee shirts. Fortunately the food is still top-notch and my handsome companion wasted no time devouring the menu. Madison and I settled for 18 oysters – yes, 18, the Roast Grouse for him and a Bannockburn Rib Steak for me. We paired our oysters with a rosé from Sancerre and the mains with reds from France and Argentina. Madison orders with his eyes and so of course we had dessert (that we couldn’t finish) – honeycomb ice cream with chocolate sauce and a scoop of the mint chocolate chip. Date two is with handsome Madison. I have only known him a few years but continue to be joyously surprised by how effortless our times together are. We glide from gossip about ex lovers to Ugly Betty, from developments in the Indian hotel industry to non-political books by daughters of politicians; I cannot remember the last time I had so much to say to a straight man. That day I laughed a lot with one half of my favourite gay couple.

I first met Aditya in 2004. I remember like it was yesterday, an autumn evening when I had a sudden attack of the butterflies. We flirted for years. I dithered, then he did, and at one point we just stopped; flirting and dithering. Today even though there is no hope for a romance, nor a desire for it, Aditya is still my favourite single man because he still gives me butterflies. That night we went to a restaurant he had never been to before. Goodman is a New York steakhouse in the heart of Mayfair and I am delighted to report that no steak lover will ever be disappointed here. Aditya visits London every few months and always, always makes time to meet me. He lets me know that I matter. That night I laughed a lot with my favourite single man.

My three miracles arrived like strapping life guards on a stormy beach. I’ve been reminded of the love that surrounds me… even if not from exactly next door, and all is right in the world again.

-p

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Filed under American, British, Cafe, Coffee, Date, London, Restaurant

Date 2: the technology guy

If I were in a bar and liked the look of someone I could do one of four things:

  • Very brave: Walk over and buy him a drink
  • Less brave: Make sure he sees me, smile and play with my hair
  • Coward: Hope that he sees me and wait until he comes over for a chat
  • Loser: Absolutely nothing

When you are dating online, your choices are slightly different:

  • Very brave: Send him a sparkly email inviting him to get to know me better
  • Less brave: Add him to my ‘favourites’ so he knows I’ve noticed him
  • Coward: Hope that he finds me
  • Loser: Absolutely nothing

Date 2 is with the only person I have met online who sent me an email first. He also sent me his phone number and a request to meet, all within 2 days of first noticing me. Ladies and gentlemen, please meet the Technology Guy:

– Charming, genuine, intelligent, kind, warm, loyal, interesting, sensitive and quirky

– Impeccable taste in clothes

– Loves comedy and thought provoking movies

– Would love to find someone who has her own teeth

Having learnt from my date with the Property Guy, I was not expecting him to look like his picture, or be any of the above. He wanted me to pick a place and I chose an All Bar One. This is one bar chain that I actually like. I frequent the one on Regent Street for lunch and drinks after work. The large, airy room with lots of mirrors and a library of wine bottles is safe and bright even on the most dreary day.

It has been a dreary week. The adrenalin rush from my sky dive and the joyous high of my promotion have finally died out and instead of seeing miles of opportunity all I seem to be facing is a lonely road ahead. I now find myself heading a department that didn’t exist until a few weeks ago. I don’t have a team and instead a dotted reporting line to eight Partners who believe that tough love is the only way to encourage someone. I’m not panicking at the challenge, nor do I want to sound ungrateful, but I am beginning to question what I get out of a life, out of a job, that is only taking me farther away from everything that is familiar, and everyone who loves me. I am seriously beginning to question if I will find any reference points so far away from India.

The Technology Guy in real life looks exactly like he does in his online life. Promising! And then we begin the tedious process of getting to know each other from scratch. How are you, how was your week, siblings, favourites…

Him, “Do you play a sport?”

Me, “I used to enjoy squash. Unfortunately a knee injury 10 years ago doesn’t allow me hard surface sports anymore.”

Him, “That’s a shame. I could have whisked you off to my squash court one weekend for a game. I love squash. Just the other day, I watched this documentary on Pakistani squash champion Jahangir Khan who….”

Me, “Do you go to the cinema often?”

Him, “I went the last time I had a girlfriend. Maybe two years ago?”

Me, “Oh, you don’t like watching movies then?”

Him, “I like movies that make me think. Movies that are deep and moving. I also enjoy comedies like Borat. Just the other day, I watched this documentary on Sacha Cohen…”

Him, “Do you live on your own? Renting?”

Me, “Yes, and on my own. I used to share but I didn’t enjoy sharing the TV remote control and oven after a while.”

Him (not even a smile), “I bought my house in 1997 and am now saving for a loft conversion, so I share. I have a lovely garden – its so important to have a garden, to be able to nurture nature. (I am trying very, very hard not to roll my eyes at this point.) Just the other day, I watched this documentary that said a house without a garden is like a relationship without children…

Me (not even pretending anymore), “So I’m guessing you want children then?”

Him, “Oh yes. At least three. It is so important to have siblings you know. Just the other day, I watched this documentary …

The thought of my children being forced to pluck weeds and watch documentaries was more than enough for me to politely decline a second drink and run home. At least I didn’t waste my good shoes on this one.

-p

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Filed under Bar, Bar food, Communal tables, Date, London

Date 1: the property guy

Nobody ever tells you how difficult Internet dating is.

At first glance it seems almost too good to be true: you register on a site, write a few bits about yourself and upload a sexy photo. Or if you’re lucky, like I was, good friends will do it for you. My friends Matt & Erica wrote lovely things about what a fantastic person I am and how lucky the man who “gets” me is going to be. Then all I had to do was punch in a few superficial requirements (age, location, photos yes/no) and I got back a veritable buffet of eligible, single men.

When I say buffet, I don’t mean the meagre breakfast spread one gets at a stingy B&B. This is a full on buffet at a Gujju wedding, or at the Bombay Gym New Year’s Eve party. I had a choice of men from every age and stage. Directors and musicians, bankers and consultants, IT guys and property guys… the list is endless, and each one is “tall, handsome, and an absolute catch”. I would be lucky if even one of these would agree to a date.

Too many days of writing to random strangers later I have finally struck up an email conversation with not one but four different bachelors. And I was about to find out what happens in real life.

Date 1 is with the Property Guy (pointless trying to remember their names). If you squint (a lot) he could almost, almost be Mr. Darcy. See for yourself! According to his profile he is:

– An independent soul
– Incredibly genuine, warm, and down to earth
– A country boy
– Likes chatty women
– Is 6’2” tall

In all his emails he has been witty, interesting and thoughtful; then, for our date, he picked a French wine bar I had never been to. I was more than ready to give him many points for originality and initiative. I asked my gay friend what to wear, my married friend what to talk about, and my anti-men friend how to get out in a hurry if I needed to. I was all set, and then the day began:

  • I had to rush to the dentist and have painful cavities drilled and filled
  • Just before the date, I washed my face only to realise that I had left my concealer at home
  • It started raining while I was waiting for him – outside the bar
  • He turned up late and looked like Mr. Darcy’s distant cousin, twice removed

I fought my impulse to run. Most women say “looks don’t matter” (bullshit), so here I was, trying desperately to not let looks matter.  He was also nowhere close to 6’2” tall and I began to wonder what else he was not. Turns out he has father issues, brother issues, sister-in-law issues, confidence issues, looks issues, and we spent more time talking about why I wasn’t constantly out on dates than about anything else.

But every cloud has a silver lining and my silver lining this evening was Le Beaujolais, a tiny, cosy wine bar that is run by two Frogs with Brit accents. And I had a more enjoyable time discussing the wine list with them than my dating opportunities with the Property Guy. Le Beaujolais is also the friendliest bar I have ever been to; everyone spoke to everyone, especially if they were strangers. This made our disaster date a lot easier to tolerate.

The interiors are a mishmash of furniture from the 70s, wine bottles from French wineries and football scarves from… uh, I don’t really care about football. For a wine bar they don’t have a tremendous list of wines by the glass but the owners speak about each one with such fervour that you don’t quite notice that the menu is so limited. I ordered a cheese plate that they didn’t charge me for so I had zero complaints about the service. I only wished that I had zero complaints about the date.

Ok, fine I went in with high expectations… obviously nobody other than Colin Firth will ever be the perfect Mr. Darcy. But that aside, if I had to be honest with myself and with you, I really wasn’t asking for much. I would have liked him to have not lied about his height, and to have remembered conversations from our emails. I would have preferred it if he had not told me, at least five times, how he finds it “difficult to show my feelings and emotions”. And I would have really, really been impressed if he had asked me a single question about me.

I was sparkly, smiley and dressed sexy (ish) – all it seemed to have done was intimidate him and he went running.  But I have to believe that men with balls exist, that I won’t have to subdue my spirit to attract a spirited man, that my gay friends were wrong and a straight man may actually fall in love with me some day! And to help me along, I have the IT guy, the PR guy and the Finance guy to look forward to…

I only wish I had not wasted these gorgeous shoes on someone who did not even walk me to my bus stop.

-p

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Filed under Bar, Date, French, London