OB1C’s Birthday – Part 1

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I’m not ashamed to admit that here at One girl 1 cup towers money can be very tight at times. Things that don’t seem at all extravagant to others are a massive treat to me- especially this close after Christmas when everybody is penny pinching.

I met my other half. One boy 1 cup, if you like. (Let’s call him OB1C – partly coz it makes him sounds like he should be in Star Wars) in May. One of the very first things I learned about him is that he loves steak. Loves it. And that he was desperate to go to a restaurant in Manchester called Gaucho

OB1C isn’t a big drinker, but he does like a nice bit of red and has become partial to a cocktail or 2 since he was faced with my own cocktail obsession, so I didn’t want him to have to stay sober and drive home from Manchester on his birthday. I looked at hotels on late rooms and also sent out a tweet asking for tips. I suggest people always try this because often if hotels have a social media presence they will search and find your tweet and offer you a brilliant last minute deal. We got the ibis on Portland Street for 38 quid. THIRTY EIGHT BLOODY QUID. It was an absolute bargain. The hotel is pretty new so there was no issue with the room at all and the ensuite is like a little pod so it feels like having a wee on a space ship. It was perfectly clean (which is the first thing I check anywhere) and had everything you could need. We didn’t have brekkie but I think it was about 7 quid per person. I was made up with it and would reccomend it to anyone who is just looking for a nice, clean, cheap place to stay with a futuristic loo. (Oh and free wi-fi too!)

Gaucho is a short walk from the hotel, and on the way we popped into liquorice on pall mall. This is where OB1C took me on our first date and it’s really really good for cocktails.

Gaucho is bloody spectacular. You’re greeted at the desk by a really friendly hostess who takes your coats and leads you into the restaurant. The restaurant is incredible. Everything looks so sleek which is odd considering there are cow hides and chandeliers everywhere, but it somehow all works perfectly.

Our waiter was Victor, who I genuinely want to nominate for president. He was awesome. He brings over a board of steaks and explains each cut of meat and how the tastes and textures differ. I thought that was awesome, but I’ve genuinely never seen OB1C look so excited, his eyes looked like that bit on roger rabbit when they pop out the baddies head.

As it was his birthday present (the poor bastard got a card that said “enjoy your dinner, it’s all you’re getting” that morning) I let him go wild and order the tasting platter for us to share. This is basically just one of each steak. A fillet, a ribeye, a sirloin and a rump (although they call them the fancy Argentinian names) It’s 1.2kg of meat for £97, and you get generous sides with it too. At first I thought it was weird that there was no steak knives, but you just don’t need them, it’s like cutting into butter. I’ve always kinda just thought steak tastes like steak but each one did have a different taste. My favourite was the fillet, it was subtle and weirdly creamy. I loved it. I will be honest- I ate less than a steaks worth of meat. It was so good but I just couldn’t fit any more in. They’re assured us loads of people took doggy bags home so I imagined we would too, but before I knew it OB1C had polished off the lot. He was made up with himself (and I was secretly impressed too!)
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We washed it all down with a bottle of red. The hostess had asked what we liked and i mentioned id only just started drinking red. I’m fuming at myself coz I’ve totally forgotten her name but she was fabulous. She brought over a tray of different reds for us to taste and talked us through them. We went with a merlot (NQN “Finca la Papay” 2011) which was £29 and really light and yummy, and if I’m honest- went straight to my head.

We were both stuffed but I had rang ahead on the sly to let them know it was OB1Cs birthday and they’d said they would do the whole candle in the dessert thing, so gently urged him to share a pud with me as it was a special occasion. We went for the salted caramel and macadamia cheesecake on Victors recommendation, (with the nuts on the side coz OB1C hates them) it came candled up with “happy birthday” written in chocolate sauce. He pretended to be embarrassed but I know he was proper made up. The dessert was absolutely delicious, the caramel sauce might actually be the best thing I’ve ever tasted. When Victor came and asked was it ok we mentioned how boss the sauce was and before we knew it a little complementary pot had been popped on our table.

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There’s no denying that gaucho is special. It’s not the type of place you go every day (I’d fucking love to though) but what got me was the way, even though it’s all posh and stuff, it’s so chilled out and laid back. I’d been all dressed up in a black sequin dress and heels until about 30 seconds before we left the hotel, then I got mad outfit anxiety and lashed the jeans, jumper and comfy boots I’d worn all day back on. (Outfit anxiety is a serious issue, actually!) but to be honest I don’t think I’d have felt under dressed or overdressed either way. The service and atmosphere is just so sophisticated but relaxed that you kind of feel like anything goes. By the end of the meal I felt like Victor was my best mate and I already can’t wait to go back. It was a Tuesday night so it wasn’t busy which was perfect for my weird little agoraphobic brain to deal with. I imagines weekend must be a lot more hustle and bustle but if you aren’t mental and scared of outside I think you’d probably still really love it!

The whole meal came to just over £140 for two people, which is admittedly more than I would usually spend on food for the 2 of us in a fortnight-but do you know what? It was really worth it. If Gaucho is wrong, then frankly, I don’t wanna be right. I loved it, and more importantly OB1C loved it too. When you mention it to him his eyes light up as if he’s remembering his long lost love.

4 massive thumbs up from the 1 cup household. If you’re looking for somewhere very special, very meaty, and cool as fuck- Gaucho is your man.

Part 2 of Ob1c’s birthday coming soon- cocktails in the brilliant alchemist

Afternoon Tea at The Ritz

Afternoon tea at The Ritz with the Emmas was genuinely one of the most special experiences of my life. From the moment we walked in we felt like royalty. Chairs pulled out and the waiters calling us madam (I’ve never been called madam before or since apart from when being told off by my mum)

It was bonfire night, and we’d chosen the last possible service for the day. (7.30)

Inside The Ritz is beautiful. Some might think its dated, but I adored it. The toilets are even, dare I say it, slightly gaudy. (I wish I’d taken a picture but I didn’t know I was going to blog about it a year and a half down the line.)

A lot of my judgements on a place is based on the effect it has on the social anxiety I experience in certain situations. There have been times I’ve not even been able to walk into a place because I’ve seen through the windows that the tables are too close together, or because the noise booming out of the door terrifies me. The Ritz wasn’t quiet, by any stretch of the imagination. There is usually about a 3 month waiting list for afternoon tea, so every seating is fully booked, but rich people seem to chat more quietly, and it was all accompanied by a pianist gently tinkling. It was oddly comforting.

There’s a good choice of teas, but they were fine when I asked for coffee instead, and the crockery was all….ritzy…! I loved it but resisted sneaking a teacup into my bag.

A tiered cake stand is brought out with a selection of sandwiches (see menu) and some beautiful Mille Fours on the top. Unlike anywhere else I’ve ever been, they leave the scones until later, because they are best served warm. (I loved this.)

Now I know usually people hate over attentive staff, but at The Ritz it feels right. We were constantly asked was there anything else they could bring us, and was everything OK. The drinks are unlimited and you can have something different if you change your mind. (I’ve found some places will only let you have one kind of tea unless you want to be charged extra.)

Before the scones were even brought out we were starting to feel full, but couldn’t resist when they did bring them. They were GORGEOUS. And they really were better warm.

Now, you’d think that was it, but no, next thing you know the waiters are bringing around little pots of lemon posset – which I was just going to have a tiny taste of, but it was too delicious to leave so I snaffled it right up.

By now I was genuinely fit to burst, and I thought I was having a hallucination when I looked up and saw a man at the side of our table with a dessert trolley. I politely declined his offer of any of the cakes (a really traditional selection of Victoria sponge and coffee and walnut and the likes) but he insisted. Like, to the point where I couldn’t actually say no.

So as I’m forcing down another piece of cake, telling the Emmas that I am about to throw up all over The Ritz from all the bossness they have shoved down my neck, I’m aware of a presence at the table. (Again) . I look up and see another waiter with a tray. He smiles and says “would you like any more sandwiches ladies?” (Now I’m pretty certain this must be because it was the last service and The Ritz aren’t the type to put the butties in the fridge till the next day-so don’t go first thing in the morning and then be jel that you didn’t get the extra sarnies.)

Now I am full up. We all are. There’s absolutely no way we could possibly eat any more. So once again we politely decline. The waiter however, insists on filling up the cake stand again “just in case”.

We ate them, of course. You don’t leave leftovers at The Ritz. It’s not classy is it?

There is no feeling of being rushed, it’s actually really relaxed for such a posh place. A waiter was chatting to us as we let our food settled and we mentioned we wouldn’t mind taking a menu home of that was OK. He said it was fine but said we shouldn’t take used ones, so he nipped off to get us some brand new ones.

We went for the traditional afternoon tea, which at £40 pound a head is dearer than a lot, but it was so worth it and I can’t recommend The Ritz highly enough. A lovely treat from Jonesy! (Thanks pal! X)

As we rolled out (with my top button on my skirt secretly undone for breathing space) Emma Byrne summed it up beautifully.
“The poshest all you can eat buffet I’ve ever been to.”