Émile’s 10th birthday bash
His mum: – Got any ideas? Me: – Hmm, I’ve checked out a few places… I dunno, perhaps Le Grand Véfour? We were listening to the radio yesterday and Émile raved about one of Raymond Oliver’s recipes for pancakes…
His mum: – Oh yeah? That’s not a bad idea… He also longs to go to Le Jules Verne, the restaurant on the second floor of the Eiffel Tower.
Me: – Well, yes... we could save that for when he leaves school… I don’t think the Iron Lady will be going anywhere soon…
Oh yes, our young man had really made up his mind about what he wanted for his tenth birthday: to celebrate it in a gastronomic restaurant. With uniformed waiters, crystal chandeliers and linen serviettes… the stuff of dreams. I don’t know whether it was because we’d watched Louis de Funès doing a little dance while holding a gravy boat in the film
The Restaurant (1966), but nothing else would do. He’d even pressed his suit and hung it over his chair, ready for the big day. But after doing the rounds of topnotch eateries, we realised we’d forgotten one little detail: the rest of the family! Grannies and grandads, cousins and all would want to be there, too, for Émile’s tenth birthday. So in the middle of the night, as I was having nightmares about the seating arrangements and the loan I was going to have to take out to cover the bill, I had a revelation! What about a meal for the whole family at home and a chic afternoon tea party with a select guest list for the young sprog?
The one I picked out was at the Plaza Athénée. When I take Émile to school on the scooter, we go past this hotel and he gazes in fascination at the liveried doormen and the revolving door leading into a marble hall. So I made a reservation for 4.30pm on the last Saturday in February. “Like that, Émile can also take advantage of the skating rink,” explains the charming person who arranged it all. A skating rink. The very word sent me into a daydream. I saw myself as Kevin in Home Alone 2. Living in a hotel suite and ordering masses of things from room service. Back to reality.
As soon as we arrived at the hotel, we were escorted to La Galerie, where a sumptuous sofa and comfy armchairs awaited us. Behind us was the famous skating rink set up in the courtyard for the winter. “The menu, young man…” Orders had barely been placed when a gastronomic ballet was performed at our table, delivering three-tier cake stands laden with delights whipped up by Best Artisan in France Angelo Musa, the Plaza Athénée Hotel’s pastry chef, and silver teapots… Émile had an Alain Ducasse hot chocolate served in front of him. Then came the birthday cake and a gift from the hotel, a soft toy. I glanced at him: his eyes were shining; he looked so handsome and proud in his suit. It was as if he were dreaming awake. He blew out his candles, made a wish and then everyone tucked in.
I myself dozed off, possibly because of the rum… or the ultra soft sofa, or both. And then I began dreaming too… I imagined everyone in the restaurant bursting into applause after my son blew out the candles; I saw him get up, grab a harp and play the theme from La La
Land. Guests danced, hotel clients performed triple axles on the skating rink in the background; gorgeous women showered their purchases from nearby stores like confetti… I laughed in my sleep. Émile woke me up… it was time to go skating.