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No. 16: Cantina Laredo, London
Today we are still celebrating my wife’s birthday. I would love to say how well the week has gone, but I can’t.
Firstly, I attempted to buy my wife a birthday present last week. I had been trying hard to pay attention and remembered that the bracelet I had bought at Christmas was one of those things you can add bits to. (Not sure that is exactly how their marketing campaign goes.)
Anyway, I went to Links of London and bought four nice ‘baubly bits’ for the charm bead bracelet. Selection had taken about half an hour, as the girl in the shop wanted to show me everything. Wrapping was even more painful, that took a whole chunk of my life, as she added boxes, tissue paper, gift labels, ribbons and I am sure a spray of ‘essence of ripped off man’.
Result! As my wife opened her present on her birthday I saw a curly thing on her face, I didn’t recognise it at first, but then of course I realised, …..it was a smile. Oh yes! At long last I had got something right!
Sadly, my elation did not last long. My wife tried to put the charms on her bracelet, and they did not fit. Apparently, she has a ‘Love Links’ bracelet, and the Links of London bracelets are completely different. How is a bloke ever supposed to get anything right.
Wishing to once again witness the curly thing on her face, I trotted of back to my smiley shop assistant at Links of London. This time I came home with a (more expensive) bracelet, and had yet again endured the full shop tour and the excruciating wrapping process. In fact I got very close to banging my head on the counter a number of times. Another cheery smile from my new friend and I was on my way home.
As I leant over to give my wife my second attempt at her birthday present, it was a bit of luck she didn’t have a cup of tea in front of her. Ah, yes she did, and the hot fluid dramatically hit the keyboard, all the papers on the desk, the carpet and the dog. This was not going well.
After a clean-up campaign and nice shampoo for the carpet, my wife settled to open the next wrapped master piece. Now, …….how was I to know bracelets come in different sizes!
You’ve guessed it, ……it didn’t fit. Inside I was screaming like a banshee, but I stayed calm. ‘Do you like it, though?’; I asked. After a long delay, ‘Not really’; was the somewhat guilt reply. ‘Get your coat’ I said.
In no time we were back in my nemesis of a jewellers, again greeted by my new found smiley friend. They both got on well, and my wife enjoyed the obligatory full tour, as I sat on a chair wondering if life really was this complicated. Finally, they were back, with a different bracelet and the curly thing on both faces. ‘I like this one, but it’s a bit more expensive.’ At this stage I would have given the shop my house and car just to go home, so paying some more cash to get out was no problem at all. As the wrapping paper came out, I bolted for a cigarette outside. During my time standing on one High Street spot, I bought a ‘Student Rag Mag’ for £3 and spent another couple of quid on a ‘Big Issue’, neither of which I intended to read’.
As we returned to the car my day got a little bit better, a nice man had left a ticket in a plastic wallet. Only £70 to pay, or £35 if paid in 7 days. How my wife rationalised that we were now saving £35 I am still trying to work out.
Anyway, back to today, we are off to see ‘One Man, Two Guvnors’’ at The Haymarket Theatre in London. On arising from her beauty sleep my lovely wife was a bit sheepish. Normally, she is just desperate for a cup of tea. ‘Ermmm’; she said. ‘Ermmm what’; I replied. ‘You know the other bracelet?’, ‘What the one I said I liked?’, ‘Yes, well I couldn’t sleep last night, as I preferred that one.’ I simply smiled, with my teeth so tightly clenched that I could have hung from a banana skin dangling from the top of big ben. ‘It is your birthday, and you shall have whatever you want my love’, I somehow spat out.
Our leisurely morning now became a rush to include my now daily visit to Links of London. Arriving at the shop my smiley friend saw me, and this time had more of a grimace than smile, ironically my grimace was very similar. To break the ice I simply said; ‘I really don’t know if this is more painful for you or me.’
Being a girl, she seemed to think it was quite rational that my wife had changed her mind, so I was able to quickly pay some more extra money, and thankfully leave the shop insisting I didn’t need the bracelet torturously wrapped. Having got to know my new smiley friend quite well by now, I wasn’t sure if it was appropriate to kiss her goodbye or not? The sound slap to my face indicated to me it wasn’t.
On our way to the station I presented my wife with her fourth new bracelet, and she happily added it to her other birthday gifts from friends. New sandals, new top, and new bag, the only thing missing were a few candles behind her ears and a slice of cake in her pocket.
Next year I plan to give my wife my wallet, and access to my bank account, and she can buy whatever she wants. Surely this will be cheaper, and it will certainly be less stressful. Men are simply not designed to buy presents for complicated species like women.
At long last we made it to Waterloo Station, and before seeing any West End show, a good meal is of course in order (& surprisingly, but not evidently, the real point of this story). From the carefully constructed list of six dining options I had prepared a few days ago, (I worked hard on this birthday you know, in fact a sainthood might be in order?), my wife had not selected the most elaborate or fine dining options, but instead had chosen, Cantina Laredo, a gourmet Mexican restaurant near Covent Garden.
Arriving at Cantina Laredo the décor was modern, with a friendly welcome, and Latina background music creating an immediate atmosphere. The restaurant had a crisp and classy feel, and the cocktail bar seemed a place you could while away many a happy hour or two.
At the table the menus caused much lip licking and indecision. Our waitress, (who wasn’t wearing a bracelet) recommended the house speciality, ‘Top Shelf Guacamole’, to start. We agreed, and also ordered, a bowl of Warm Tortilla Chips, with Roasted Tomatillo Salsa and Roasted Tomato Salsa.
For drinks I went for a Lime Margarita ‘Casa Rita’ with premium blend of El Jimador Blanco Tequila, Cointreau Orange Liqueur, strawberries and freshly squeezed lime juice. My wife chose the El Cubano which consisted of Bacardi Superior hand-muddled with fresh strawberries, raspberries, passion fruit and apple juice, with a hint of vanilla. The prices were around a tenner each, but the glasses enormous, drinks delicious, and actually worth the price.
A bit of table theatre soon followed, as the Avocado and Lime sitting in the bowl on our table when we arrived, were transferred to a mobile table that had appeared next to ours. Soon the fresh fruits were opened and added to the bowls of Chopped Tomatoes, Red Onions, Coriander, Jalapeño Peppers and Spices, …and ‘da-da’ …the guacamole was magically created and served in front of our eyes. We didn’t need any excuse to tuck straight in.
Our next courses were soon ready, and it was already evident that the portions were generous, and we may have ordered too much. First came the Botanas Platter, a taster dish consisting of Tacos Al Pastor, Chicken Fajita Quesadillas, Chili Con Queso, Stuffed Jalapeños and Grilled Beef, Tiger Prawn & Vegetable Skewers. We also had, Brisket Tacos which were Slow Roasted Beef Brisket with Marinated Onions and Coriander in two Soft Corn Tortillas, and Soft Tacos containing Chicken Fajita with Fresco Cheese, Avocado and Poblano Drizzle in Tortilla. As if this was not enough already, some idiot had ignored his wife’s advice not to, and had also ordered a portion of Sautéed Prawns.
The feast commenced, and it was soon clear that each and every ingredient was of the freshest quality, and dishes that seemed on the face of it quite simple, had magic touches that made them exquisite. The combination of fiery dishes and dips were perfectly complimented by more subtle dishes that just exploded with freshness and flavour. We battled to eat as much as we could. Neither of us wanted to stop, but the volume of food was testing our wills our wills and expanded stomach linings.
During our meal I for some reason kept looking for bracelets. On spotting one, I looked sympathetically at the ladies partners, wondering if they had suffered the same birthday present pain I had.
Extremely full, and even more content, our waitress reappeared to offer the sweet menu. True to form my wife declined. I however realise that we all have three stomachs, one for standard food and drink, one for curry, and another for puddings & chocolate. To the uninitiated, this is why we can continue eating even if one of the stomachs is full. So on this basis, I went on to enjoy a Mexican Chocolate & Pecan Nut Brownie served on a sizzling skillet with Mexican Brandy Butter and Vanilla Ice Cream. Brownies can often be dry and disappointing, but not this one, it tasted great and looked like an idyllic chocolate island in a molten bubbling sea.
A coffee to finish a perfect meal was followed by the bill, which was pleasantly reasonable, a lot cheaper than buying a bracelet, and an infinitely better experience.
The day was gloriously sunny, so we meandered through Trafalgar Square, with my wife even holding my hand at one point. Not sure what bought on this unexpected show of affection, but it was probably because she was nervous of the crowds.
Our day got even better at the theatre. ‘One Man, Two Governors’ is without doubt one of the funniest shows we have seen on a West End stage. I won’t spoil the story line, but don’t be put off by someone telling you it simply a farce. This is not anything like the Brian Rix type of entertainment you may remember. This show is clever, very, very funny, and even includes some great foot tapping music and some hilarious audience participation. If your bladder can take it, I highly recommend you go and see this one.
In spite of my trauma of a final visit to Links of London, this has been one fantastic day, ……..and for once I am in my wife’s good books.
10 Upper St Martins Lane, London, WC2H 9FB
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