Happy Valentine’s Day everyone (and Fiesta Friday for those of you who ‘celebrate’ it!)!
I know all the reasons that Valentine’s Day should be abhorred – commercialisation, why have a special day to show your partner you love them, yadda yadda – but I still kind of like it! When I’ve been single it’s not really bothered me not to receive anything (and let’s face it, most people don’t get anything if they don’t have a significant other, unless their Dad is still blessing them with a rose or card – thanks Dads!), because I’ve been able to decry the whole thing with the “Ugh, so commercial!” line. When I’ve been in a relationship, I’ve been pretty happy not to make a big deal of it (after all, we love each other 365 days a year right?), and celebrating it on the actual day (which is kind of arbitrary anyway!) has never been a big deal to me. I do like the fact though that it is another excuse, like an anniversary or birthday, to do something a little bit special. Because sometimes the boys need a bit of encouragement, right?! (Sorry chaps!)
This year I used it as an excuse to do something I’ve been wanting to do forever now it seems. I got us tickets to see the Book of Mormon! We (and the rest of the theatre) must be the last people alive who still hadn’t seen it, or at least it felt like that. And now I have. Wow. But more on that later!
Since we were heading into London anyway (no mean feat with most of the trains from Maidenhead cancelled due to flooding), we decided to make a night of it. As I couldn’t get theatre tickets on the 14th, I booked them for yesterday, the 13th, so knew we could happily go out to a restaurant without a) having trouble booking, b) paying through the nose and c) having to sit amongst hundreds of other couples all enjoying the awkwardness of forced romance. I am pleased with this plan, I may do it again next year! Also because it meant I could get a pre-theatre table at the restaurant I wanted to try – MASH (the Modern American Steak House) on Brewer Street in Soho.
Both Ste and I love steak. I am always a bit reluctant these days to go to a steak place though, because I am pretty sure living in Florence with ready access to the huge hunks of juicy bistecca from the enormous Chianina cows has spoilt me steak-wise for life, but the reviews of this place were pretty raving, so I decided to book. I must confess, I was influenced in my decision by the fantastic offer they have if you book through Toptable, of a starter, main and a side for £25. So I was quite excited about our supper!
The exterior is very sleek, with whitewashed walls and silver logos, though perhaps somewhat spoilt with rather ugly red canopies over the window. Inside though, it is chic all the way. You enter to an upstairs lobby with a cloakroom, and go down two sweeping sets of stairs to another reception desk, where a waitress will take you to your table. We entered the dining room and I had to pause a moment to take it all in. Seriously impressive, and not at all what I had been expecting, even having seen photos on their website. It is a huge room reminiscent of a ballroom, in beautiful art deco style, low lit and very stylish.
The ‘walls’ dividing some of the seating areas are glass bookcases filled with wines or champagne, and backlit to lovely effect.
Most impressive though were the two huge chiller cabinets in the centre of the room, both filled with slow-curing Danish beef. The restaurant is a sister to MASH in Copenhagen and Danish beef is one of their specialities (along with Uruguayan, American and the famous Kobe). I defy any meat-lover not to be impressed.
We had a cosy little booth for the two of us, and settled in as very attentive waiters brought a big basket of delicious bread and water, and the menu to peruse.
We both went for the Toptable deal, because it was quite a bargain when you consider that when ordering à la carte the cheapest steak is £25 on its own.We added a bottle of very lovely rich Argentinian Malbec for £29, and had some to die for ice cream for pud for £3 a scoop, bringing the total to a respectable £45 per person, which for a special meal out I think is pretty reasonable for London (especially given all the Valentine’s Day ‘special offers’ seemed to start at about £60 per person!)
We started with a plate of charcuterie each, and for the main we both went for an American rump steak, with sides of chilli fries and enormous onion rings to share. The sides were perfect – the best chilli fries I’ve had, with a perfect amount of heat. Ste chose the béarnaise sauce, I went for red wine. And the steak….wow.
I ordered it medium to rare, and it was exactly the right side of medium for me, i.e. closer to rare! The enormous steak knife cut through it like butter – such a cliché, but true! In fact, the knives were so heavy I think they would have cut through it without any sawing motion at all, they really were hefty. I need to find out where I can buy some similar ones. I certainly was not disappointed I chose steak!
The meal was fantastic, and even though we were there very early (5.30pm!) for a pre-theatre meal, it wasn’t empty and the atmosphere and music were just right. The waitresses were very friendly and helpful, and there when you needed them, and not when you didn’t, which is quite an art. We spent most of the meal planning occasions when we could invite friends there, because I will most certainly be going back as soon as I have a good excuse (anyone want to come with me and give me that excuse?!).
Even the bill was presented wonderfully:
We left full and extremely happy and headed around the corner to the Prince of Wales Theatre for the main event of the evening: the Book of Mormon.
I actually don’t even know where to start describing it! If you don’t know, it’s an irreverent look at religion, written by Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the South Park guys. That should give you an idea of the humour of the show! I had heard that I would be shocked, that there would be a lot of open-mouthed staring, and a LOT of laughter, but really I could not have been prepared for how many times my jaw hit the floor or I almost sprayed my wine everywhere laughing so much. It was simply brilliant. Ste, not a theatre fan, is now a convert. He wants us to make a tradition of going every Valentine’s Day, so I need Matt and Trey to get writing again because I can’t imagine we’re going to find anything which can beat this. Deservedly a sell out, and I am sad it is only running for a couple more months. There are still tickets available – book now if you have not seen it, you will absolutely not regret it, I promise!