Since I published my “25th anniversary of meeting Janie” piece last week, I have had, literally, several people ask me how Janie and I ever got it together after she refused to give me her telephone number the first time we met.
The answer, of course, is “ossobuco”.
It happened like this.
After Janie’s refusal to give me her telephone number, I simply assumed that she wasn’t interested at all and I got on with my next week. My next week looked like this.
My guess is that I was actually out every evening that week apart from the Monday – I probably had impromptu drinks/food with work colleagues Thursday and Friday evening.
Saturday evening I can see was a dinner with Caroline at the Pavilion in Poland Street. This will have been her birthday bash on the eve of that landmark day. (Happy birthday, Caroline, if by chance you read this piece on the day I post it).
I have had an exchange of messages with Caroline to establish what happened – I’m sure there were quite a few of us there at The Pavilion that evening. She replies:
I have to say that with the help of your diary your memory is much better than mine. The restaurant is in fact exactly the same now as then. It was a local from when I was working at the Burton group. Vasco and Piero ran it all those years ago. The food was always excellent. The decor was very pink! It’s amazing how quickly 25 years go.
I’m not sure what I ate at the Pavilion but I am sure that it was an Italian dish but not ossobuco.
The other thing I remember clearly, although the diary is silent on this matter, is that I went out for an impromptu lunch on the Sunday with Annalisa. We went to Lee Fook on Westbourne Grove, a Chinese restaurant near my flat which was very much one of my favourites at the time. The excellent chef there was named Ringo, I remember that wonderful fact too.
The restaurant is, sadly, long gone now, but there is an Evening Standard review of that place from the late 1990s on-line – click here.
In short, by mid-afternoon I had eaten my fill that weekend and ambled home after lunch.
The telephone was ringing off the hook as I walked through the door.
I should point out, at this juncture, that, in those days, I had no answering machine for my phone. No cellphone either. Just the one, old-fashioned telephone.
“At bloody last”, said a female voice.
“Hello”, I said, “who’s calling?”
“It’s Janie, we met at Kim’s party last week.”
“Oh, hello”, I said, intrigued.
“You are impossible to get hold of”, said Janie, “I have tried to call you loads of times. Your answering machine isn’t switched on.”
“I don’t have an answering machine”, I said, while thinking to myself that if she had given me her telephone number in the first place she might have spared herself these difficulties.
“I have been out rather a lot this week”, I continued, “in fact, if I sound a little out of breath, it’s because I have just been out to lunch and heard the phone ringing as I came up the stairs.”
“Oh, that’s a bummer,” said Janie, “I was going to invite you over for ossobuco with Kim and Micky this evening, but if you have already eaten you obviously don’t want…”
“…no, hold on a moment”, I persevered, “I love ossobuco and I’d very much like to join you, Kim and Micky for dinner. But if I don’t eat a vast quantity of food, you’ll know the reason why. Is that a deal?”
“OK”, said Janie.
“You’ll have to give me your address and telephone number now”, I said, trying hard not to sound triumphal about it.
“I realise that”, said Janie.
It seems that Janie and Kim had done some scheming since the telephone number request rejection incident the week before. I subsequently discovered that Kim had given Janie a “are you determined to be single for the rest of your life?” lecture, once Kim had found out what had happened.
Given that the only way to resolve the matter was now for Janie to phone me, they came up with this “chaperoned Sunday evening meal at Janie’s place” idea. The only problem with that grand scheme was that Janie had tried and failed many times to phone me; basically because I wasn’t at home much and only took telephone messages through work in those days.
But all’s well that ends well.
The evening was a great success. I didn’t have room for seconds but I did discover that Janie can cook a mean ossobuco. Even to this day, we think of slow cooked shin of veal (not always done ossobuco style but all variants qualify in our book) as “our dish”.
Just feast your eyes on it again. Yum.