Thursday, 11 June 2009

Birthday blues – Club Gascon and Vinoteca, Smithfield Markets

Birthdays aren’t what they used to be. When we were younger we would go out with a gang of friends on a Friday night (regardless of what day your birthday was) and buy or be bought drinks until we fell over. Chips, burgers or food from a petrol station was the closest thing you had to a meal. Then the next day, severely hung-over we would try and convince our parents that our studies /part-time job were going well but not to bother with a present as we needed cash for ‘books’.
Nowadays the ‘gang’ are often busy tending to partners, careers and in some cases children. The parents don’t want to speak to us lest it remind them of how old they actually are. And with an age and in some cases a waistline, heading towards or north of 40, one tends to think twice as to how much noise you want to make about the event.
Heavy D’s annual coming of age nearly slipped me by if it hadn’t been for my social lifeline that is Facebook (fact, guys, never, ever remember their mates birthday’s unless it falls on a significant date like Xmas or payday). ‘I don’t want to celebrate’ he groaned. Well too bad as I did, so under duress the Heavy one agreed to meet me in Smithfield’s for a night of drinks and eats.
After a couple of sharpeners at the Red Cow, we headed down to Club Gascon for an aperitif or two. We were joined by Heavy’s brother the Photographer, who is as thin, fashionable and edgy as we are large, unfashionable and uncool. He was on cracking form and he regaled us with stories about which celebrities and or sports stars are / are not gay (all of them apparently) and the perils of life as a pictures man ,while eying up the pretty young boy things in the bars. Quality fella.
Gascon is a beautiful place with a reputation to match, and although we only did wine and starters there it didn’t disappoint. Superb food and drinks, and a very relaxed, albeit quiet, atmosphere. It’s definitely a place to impress a first date as its quite romantic. However given the lads were not on a date or in the slightest bit feeling romantic we rocked around the corner to Vinoteca on St Johns street.
This is ostensibly a wine shop that serves food but that description doesn’t do the place justice. The place has the ambience of the best French brasserie and pulls of that neat trick of sitting you close enough to your fellow diners that you can almost hear their every word, but not so close that it’s an inconvenience. The food was superb, the wine was gorgeous, and the service, despite being from New Zealand, was pretty damned good also. I focused on knocking back a beautiful bottle of Chablis while the brothers Grim debated endless points about their childhood. So a good night had by all.
I must try Club Gascon for dinner, but my pick of the two is Vinoteca for its more rustic feel and buzzy atmosphere. And I won’t be waiting for my next birthday to go again.

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