Oro Nero, J W Marriott Absheron Hotel, 674 Azadliq Square, Baku
Tel.: (012) 499 8888 www.marriott.com
HAS NOW BEEN RELAUNCHED WITH NEW CHEF
Thundering Typhoon, did I have a humdinger of a day last Thursday! By the way, I had to look that up in synonyms in my Thesaurus. My original expletive was somewhat juicier than that but Thundering Typhoon will have to do for now because this post will be posted before the 9 pm watershed. It does express my mood on the day quite well. In fact, it all began perfectly pleasantly, it was only in the evening that things turned black and stormy.
The lovely husband was going to take me out to dinner, always nice, so I dolled myself up in what I call my standing dress. I have several standing dresses. They’re the ones I buy because, stomach sucked in for dear life, lips pouting in a sultry fashion, and twirling model-like in front of the changing room mirror, I get that very rare, always deluded ”Phwoar, am I hot or what’’ feeling. Only when I’m back home with my purchase, the credit card having suffered considerable damage, do I cotton on that actually, my posing expression makes me look like a moron and breathing, let’s face it, is rather more essential than I’d factored in. Being able to sit down in the dress would also be useful. By now it’s all much too late for such deliberations, so I’ve developed a strategy for wearing these dresses: sin covering coat on until the destination is reached, coat elegantly slipped off at the entrance, then a deep breath, focus on holding it all in until the table is reached, slide on to the chair where I balance on my coccyx since I can’t bend properly at the waist, breathe out under the table cloth. Done. Later when I leave, I go through the reverse which is never quite as easy when you’ve had a glass of wine or two.
So I was wearing the standing dress under the coat and, to match, the bright red stiletto heels I bought during an Imelda Marcos moment in Manila, when I tottered to the taxi stand on the corner of Samad Verghun and Nizami. There were several taxi cars there but only one purple London cab, the only type that have meters. ‘Salam’, I said to the driver ‘zehmet olmasa, Hotel Absheron’. He nodded and said in English ‘Six Manat’. I pointed at the meter and asked him to switch it on. He refused and started shouting, so I got out, intent on finding a more reasonable cabbie. The driver came up to me, thrust his face close up to mine, shouted loudly in Azeri, waved his hands about in such a way that I thought I might get hit. His mate, one of the mini cab drivers, joined him and as I moved around to photograph the taxi licence plate, they both stood in front of it sneering, jeering, shouting and crowding in on me in a very aggressive way.
Now anyone who knows me, knows that I am no shrinking violet but I must say, their demeanor was seriously intimidating. To begin with I uttered ‘Bilmiram, bilmiram’ which means ‘I don’t know’ because I couldn’t remember how to say ‘I don’t understand’ (başa düşmürem) but the shouting continued, so I snapped a photo of Mr. Nasty, turned on my stilettos and legged it. Erm, let’s correct that, I teetered off on my heels. As luck would have it, another purple taxi drove up just then, so I got in and arrived at The Marriott Hotel a few minutes later without incident, having paid AZN2.60 plus tip. I don’t want to make a big thing of it but I was a bit shaken, I must admit. I’ve almost always had nice taxi drivers in Baku. Sure, they sometimes don’t know where they’re going but in general, they’re friendly, at least. Also, I haven’t got the slightest inkling what I might have done to provoke such wrath. I posted my photo of the individual in question on Baku Expat’s Facebook page and the support I got was simply stupendous and very heart warming indeed. Thank you Baku and thank you Rick Lewis, rigger superintendent extraordinaire and biker with a heart. Your back-up was so very much appreciated!
Incredibly, at least six people recognized this man and had had similar experiences. More worryingly still, I also heard a terrible story of a young mother being left standing while a taxi drove off with her two year old and her four year old in the back, the door still open. She was so traumatised that she is leaving the country and going back home. I am not surprised. I reported my incident to Iain Robb, firstname.lastname@example.org, the very helpful head honcho in charge of the London taxis here and I suspect that this particular driver will now have to justify his actions. From now on, I will stick to using a driver I know and like and whose number I have noted.
Finally safely arrived at the Marriott, more money talk was on the agenda. The lovely husband and I met with a specialist expat financial advisor from the Alliance Partnership, Bonamy Martel. I don’t know this young man from a bar of soap, so I can’t in all good faith vouch for his services but he was very personable and obviously clued up and how can you possibly mistrust someone called Bonamy? What a lovely name! He’s from the Channel Islands which explains the Franglais moniker. His email is email@example.com if anyone is interested.
Then my treat, dinner at Oro Nero, an Italian restaurant within the Marriott Absheron Hotel. Oro Nero means black gold, very appropriate in this oil rich town then. The restaurant is black, shiny and slick and has a night clubby feel to it. I’ve heard lots of good things about the chef who occasionally does Saturday morning cooking workshops which those friends of mine who have attended, rate highly.
After my ordeal with the taxi, it felt good being so well looked after and spoiled in this mellow atmosphere. Just what the doctor ordered! A very delicious mini cold tomatoey vegetable soup with nice bread was served as an amuse bouche, then we had a shared seafood fritti starter which was plentiful, lightly battered and non greasy. We had to ask for tartar sauce to accompany it but when that came, it was very good. I wished I’d waited with that little soup as that would have made a great dip for the fritti. As a main course, the lovely husband had seared tuna with vegetables which he enjoyed very much. The tuna was wonderfully tender and moist and cooked to perfection, the vegetables were a bit so so. My eggplant and burrata stuffed ravioli were also good, if slightly unexciting. I guess there’s only so much you can do with pasta and aubergine. To finish, we shared a panna cotta with strawberry sorbet and pistachios, beautifully presented, very light and moreish. The price of dinner was pretty hefty, AZN127, for a shared starter, two main courses, a shared dessert, three glasses of Pinot Grigio (in this case, they were medicinal!), water and one coffee, reduced to AZN114 with my IWC membership card. Still, just once in a while, good food and wine are needed to restore the equilibrium and this they certainly did.
Needless to say, by the end of dinner the standing dress was as tight as a sausage skin and after two big glasses of wine no amount of breathing in and sashaying on the killers from Manila could detract from the lumpen bits but hey, it was dark and who cares?!