An Afternoon and Evening With Pady Jalali and John White, 11 April 2016

The reason for Pady’s visit was most unfortunate (the sudden death and funeral of a friend of hers), but the timing proved to be fortunate for us, as the trip made her available to meet us in London on 11 April.

Janie and I had already arranged a day off that day, to see a lunchtime concert of (mostly) English madrigals at The Wigmore Hall – Ogblogged here and had not arranged anything else of substance to do that day. John White was also available that evening and able to get away from work a little early.

Pady arranged to meet us at The Wiggy after the concert. She arrived a little flustered about 30 minutes after the concert ended. But hanging around at the Wigmore Hall is hardly a hardship for me and Janie (Daisy). It is one of our favourite places. In my case, it is now one of only two places in the world (the Lord’s pavilion being the other) where people still address me as “young man”.

It was lovely to see Pady again. Janie hadn’t met her before, but they hit it off straight away, as I sensed they would.

It was a sunny early afternoon when Janie and I had arrived at The Wiggy but it was raining quite heavily when the concert ended. By the time Pady arrived, the rain had subsided but still looked a bit threatening, so we decided to retire to the new Ivy Cafe in Marylebone Lane for some tea. A very suitable venue; quiet in the afternoon and geared up for dining or snacking.

Pady had checked in to a nearby hotel for the London leg of her journey, so we resolved to find a suitable restaurant nearby. Strangely, Pady doesn’t get to try Lebanese food in Boston. As she is a vegetarian, we thought the major mezzes followed by lesser mains tradition would work well.

John was able to join us at the Ivy around 16:30, by which time I was on to my second little pot of jasmine tea and we other three had already “done scones”. Getting to know you chat then switched to catching up chat.

Daisy and I did some thorough research and latched on to a restaurant named Levant – very nearby, as a good contender and one we hadn’t tried before. The promise of nightly live entertainment didn’t please us, but the idea of the entertainment starting no earlier than 20:30 did, as we were proposing to eat early. In any case, we could always fall back on Maroush if we didn’t like the look/smell of Levant.

As it turned out, we did like the look and smell of Levant. We very much enjoyed our meal and chat there. Very quiet at 17:30/18:00 when we arrived. Staff very pleasant. The mezzes were excellent. The grills less so, but still did their job. John drank beer; Lebanese and Moroccan varieties, while the rest of us showed no mercy to a tasty bottle of Côtes du Rhône.

After dinner, Daisy requested an arabic coffee but was told that, regrettably, the machine wasn’t working and that it would have to be regular coffee. We had a short debate about whether we could be bothered to go elsewhere, which was resolved by the realisation that it was nearly 20:30 already, so the live entertainment was due to start soon.

Where did all that time go? In chatting, reminiscing and catching up, that’s where.

So we ventured out into the mercifully dry evening, soon to find Comptoir Libanais on Wigmore Street. “They should have arabic coffee,” declared Daisy, marching across Wigmore Street, grinding taxis, bicycles and other vehicles to a brief but sudden halt. “Do you have arabic coffee?” asked Daisy as she breezed into the cafe. “Yes, come in sit down,” said an unidentified member of staff.

But it turned out that Comptoir Libanais didn’t do arabic coffee; never does, never did. None of us could be arsed to move again; we mostly wanted to carry on chatting for a short while. So we made do with regular espressos, cappuccinos or, in my case, rose-mint tea.

All too soon, we realised that it was really getting late for John, who still had a couple of hours journey ahead of him, so we walked John down to Bond Street tube and then Daisy and I walked Pady back to her hotel.

It was a lovely afternoon and evening. We worked out that it must be at least 10 years since Pady’s last visit, so hopefully Pady will start visiting a lot more regularly now. Who knows, perhaps as soon as next month. That’s right, in the merry, merry month of May, fa-la-la-la-la…

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