By Ruth Emery.
Sometimes you just know an evening is going to be awful. You’ve had a row with your best friend minutes before leaving the house. You arrive at a party to find another girl wearing the same dress as you. You bump into your ex as you get out of the taxi (he’s all smiles, arms linked with some impossibly-good-looking woman with legs up to the sky, no hint of regret at your failed relationship). You spill ketchup down your new (white, agghh!) top and don’t have time to change before you go out. You’re missing X Factor to see your mean mother-in-law for dinner at Pizza Express. You spot a loathsome celebrity at the same restaurant and realise that a) you’ll have to put up with swarming fans and gushing staff, all in your eyeline, and b) since you don’t like him or his opinions much, if he likes this restaurant, chances are you’re not going to. Ouf.
This last of these scenarios happened to me recently. It had all started so well: lovely friend, lovely catching up, and lovely Malaysian food in a fancy setting.
And then she saw him. I was actually busy chatting away and didn’t spot him immediately. My friend said he glared at me because I strode past him and didn’t get star-struck. The cheek of me to ignore him and not ask for his photo! He had a table by the entrance; this is no discreet celeb tucked away in the corner, this is a celeb who wants the adoring fans and double-takes from passersby.
We had arrived at Suka at Sanderson to try its pop-up street food menu, and to have this TV personality pop up instead and prop up the Long Bar just a few feet from the Malaysian restaurant was not a good omen.
The smiley Suka hosts showed us to our table and luckily the celeb was not in our eyeline. So worry (a) had not materialised. What about worry (b)? Would the restaurant be any good?
It was a big concern, given that virtually everything this man says or writes I disagree with. He’s opinionated, and I don’t like his opinions, nor do I like his taste. He had chosen the Sanderson. Would I like the Sanderson?
The staff were friendly not arrogant. They didn’t bellow at us or want to be bellowed at. They were well-informed and enthusiastic about cuisine from Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Tawau but drew the line at slagging off other countries’ food. Phew, no parallels with the celeb at the bar then.
The decor was beautiful. Water features, colonial white columns, candles and trees combine in a heated conservatory. No tubby bellies or balding heads in sight (unless we looked behind us at the ageing TV personality).
Lychee martinis quickly followed by an impressive array of sharing street food: crispy squid, tender chicken satay, authentic char kway teow (a noodle dish), and spicy Kapitan Kambing (coconut curry with lamb and baby potatoes).
So did our evening transpire to be awful? Well, no it didn’t. Fortunately, the evening surprised us and events had taken a turn for the better. In between our food gobbling, cocktail supping, gasps of ‘it’s so pretty in here’, and our ever-attentive and ridiculously polite waiters, we’d forgotten about Mr Famous and had wined and dined brilliantly, all the while dreaming about Malaysia.
When we left, he had vanished. Lucky for him. Had he been there, I may have taken him outside, rung his family to come down from Oxfordshire and executed him then and there in front of his family. But then again, his restaurant choice had been spot-on. So maybe I'll quietly acknowledge him next time, it could be the best he gets from anyone after his '21,000 complaints' BBC row.
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