One of the things I missed most when living as an expat in Baku, Azerbaijan for two years until recently, was the opportunity to meet my daughter for one of our habitual little girly lunches in town. My daughter and I are as close as any mother and her girl can be, very much on one wave length and goodness, the conversation, gossip and general chit chat never ever seems to run out. I guess that’s the reward for having pretty much brought her and her equally delightful big brother up by myself. All those endless times of nappy changing, swing pushing, toy box tidying, story telling, biscuit baking, vomit mopping, treasure hunting, Playmobil building, pep talking, broken heart mending, all the toddler tantrums and sleep wrecking teenage sleepovers, all the worrying and chauffeuring and maths problem solving, is finally paying off. Both my children are now adults, pursuing impressive careers, married, mortgaged and my pride and joy as they have always been, every day of their lives.
Our venue of choice is the Fifth Floor Café at ultra chic department store Harvey Nichols in Knightsbridge. It’s a stone’s throw from Darling Daughter’s office and just a hop and skip by tube from where I live. We release our inner Patsy and Edina, those two fashion mavens from the series Absolutely Fabulous portrayed so hilariously by Joanna Lumley and Jennifer Saunders, who put Harvey Nicks on the map, so to speak, and spend a leisurely lunch hour among the London sophisticates. Well actually, that’s no quite right, we are more of a Patsy senior and Patsy junior, really, minus the beehive, of course, rather than an Edina and Saffy, and we don’t go quite so wild on the old Bolly, not at lunch time, anyhow, tempting as it sometimes is.
So there she is, my little Mini Me, all grown up and in smart business attire, her high heels clackety clacking across the restaurant floor, glossy tresses swinging. I, too, have made an effort and squeezed into a fashionable body con number and dug out my best handbag. It wouldn’t do to show her up, though I am hardpressed to to keep up with that dewy young complexion. Thank God for the BB (or is it CC?) foundation with, apparently, light reflecting particles which reduce the appearance of wrinkles. One has to try, n’est-ce pas? We meet, we hug, we squeal a little bit in mutual appreciation and then we get down to the serious business of perusing the menu. And what a lovely light and refreshing list of goodies it is with lots of healthy salady options, perfect for the figure conscious.Us, in other words.
She orders a Super Seed Salad with kale, green papaya, carrot, Barlotti beans, spring onion and mixed seed with a hoisin, chia and grape seed dressing and I choose a Black Quinoa Salad with a trio of peppers, sweetcorn, tiny tomato berries and avocado with a basil yoghurt dressing, then we share them out, half and half. The portions are generous, the salads deliciously tasty with different textures and flavours, giving them that extra kick that make this a quite exquisite gourmet experience. It’s all fresh, light and thoroughly gorgeous. We sit on the roof terrace in the sunshine, overlooking the rooftops of Knightsbridge, and talk nineteen to the dozen. Service is efficient and helpful. We giggle slightly unkindly at the waitress’s rather artificial automatic smile and squeaky voice but the Darling Daughter, having herself waitressed for some time during her school and uni years, reminds us both how hard a job it is to pander patiently to diners of all sorts, so we feel remorseful and add a decent tip to our approx £40 bill which also includes an Americano, a cinnamon cappuccino and water. Then we meander out through the enticing food department, feeling sorely tempted by the interesting variety of speciality foods, not to mention the choice of excellent sweeties.
We take the express lift down to the ground floor, try out this lipstick shade and that, finger a few of the fabulous designer handbags, try on sun glasses, pouting and pulling faces in front of the mirror, then she heads right out of the store back to work and I go left to the tube station and home. We’ve eaten well, caught up with news, laughed a lot and reinforced our tremendous bond. The perfect mother and daughter session. And in a couple of weeks we’ll do it all over again.