Perfection is hard to describe, as it mostly remains unnoticed. Unlike flawless diamonds, perfection doesn’t bling.
So it was, with Cafe Monico, until last week. What can one write about an eatery in the perfect location, with fantastic continental interior, excellent Italian food, and young, handsome servers? Rattle off the menu? Count the number of cocktails one has had at the great bar with its spectacular light-body of countless globes above?
So it was, time passed with me going quasi mutely to Cafe Monico, sometimes with friends, often alone. I take photos of the friends, more often of the food, tell myself I should write about it, and then think, “Nah, it’s too smoothly perfect to bother”.
Then, last Sunday, I took my friend Teatime there. For tea, obviously. We had the very last portions of their homemade crab ravioli. And while women were rallying for equal rights on Trafalgar Square, we spent the whole rainy afternoon in the warm-light, dark-wood-panelled atmosphere of the Cafe in a cosy, long conversation over cones with cream and jam (and, obviously, tea).
Just at the time I was about to felicitate myself with the successful execution of my intention to make Teatime feel special and treated; the pretty, natural blond handing us the coats said nonchalantly, “Everything was as good as usual?”. “Yes, say I, everything was perfect.” “It must be,” she doesn’t stop smiling bright red in my direction, “Ma’am dines here so often”.
“What, what?”, says Teatime, having abruptly landed to earth from her high-special-birthday-girl tower. Ignoring Teatime (that’s it my love, girls can’t be special for more than three hours, even on their birthdays - not now, not ever), I say to the hostess “Next time you see me, and especially if I’m with a man, be careful what you say, it might be my husband”.
I go back to Monico three days later, with another female friend, a successful painter. As I want to impress Nadej, my bright hostess’s hail, “You’re with a woman, I can welcome you back!”, doesn’t bother me much. Also, Nadej is from abroad, and despite being fluent in English, doesn’t get the nuance in the remark, I realise. That’s also fine. Once more, the food is great. Furthermore, the spring menu is now on. With a table on the ground floor, we have a lot of fun watching a photoshoot session of a rock band taking place on the pavement outside. Three hairy guys with ‘70s jeans and jackets; and a three-strong film crew in hip garments with even longer hair. This is Soho, Shaftesbury Avenue, after all. We discuss the gang; comparing ages and styles from both sides of the camera; and conclude that beautiful, long hair is the strongest asset on the young light assistant with his hip-long hair and Genghis Khan moustache.
Just when I think my mission was successful: On the 8th of March, on Women’s Day, me, a modern woman, treating a successful woman to a good meal in Central London; just when I’m about to pay the bill using my Soho Lunch Club card, our waiter literally shouts, “The 50% off is valid only for the food, not for the drinks”. Startled for just been exposed as a cheap-skate, I say through my teeth, “That’s handy, I haven’t drunk alcohol since last year”.
I wonder why he bothered. Drink-wise, our bill only includes a herbal tea and a pint. Yet, the waiter doesn’t calm down. With an annoyed step he goes away, then comes back and literally sticks a card under my nose with the same words – ‘Since Monday, 5th of March, the 50% off is valid only for food and not drinks’.
“What, what?” Nadej says. “This is very generous”, she adds, meaning not me but the discount!
I wonder, if I was a man, would the towers of my construction last longer? Would people think twice before speaking and acting?
Anyway… if you’d like to commission a sheep-portrait of your family, or a friend, LAAF can put you in direct contact with Nadej.
But can only recommend Cafe Monico if you are hungry.