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Friday, 14 February 2020

Happy Valentines Day

One of our favourite restaurants is Pappardelle in Arundel High Sreet.
When we walk into those two cosy upstairs rooms I'm immediately transported to Italy.

The food is good.
The ambience and service, warm and friendly.

When we have US clients staying in the area, we like to take them to Pappardelle.
They love it as much as we do.

Mostly they are dashing.
Keeping to a tight schedule.

But occasionally they have time to take a breathe and enjoy Arundel.

I have great memories of two separate evenings at Pappardelle's.

The restaurant is owned these days by Clive Mina, who also creates their fabulous meals.

Years ago it was run by his father Bruno.
Bruno was a great friend of Nass's.

We went in on spec on my birthday, hoping for a table.

But they were filled to bursting, Bruno apologising profusely.
No, he really didn't have space anywhere. 

Standing back in the town square, disappointed,
but kicking ourselves for not booking,
we debated where to go.

"Takeaway and home?" I suggested.

"Stay there," said Nass, running back upstairs.

A few minutes later he and Bruno could be heard struggling down the stairs with a small table.
I watched in amazement as two chairs followed.

Then a waiter carrying tablecloth, cutlery, and wine glasses.
By the time we sat down, there  were candles on the table 
and the waiter was handing us the menu.

At first, I felt self-conscious.
Passersby were looking and nudging each other,
But by the second glass of Italian red, I barely noticed them.

This is Arundel, eccentric things happen.


I once worked as a Vegetarian chef at the wonderful West Dean College.

It was a lovely place to work.
The downside was the split shift.

It's a drive from Arundel to West Dean, not particularly far, 
but enough when you've been on your feet all day.
And you've done the journey twice.

One Valentine's night I arrived home around 9pm.
Ready to flop into a chair.

Jay, my son, was a student and still at home.
A lovely smell of cooking pervaded the house as I walked in.

The fire was lit.
The table set for two.
Jay at the ready, to wait on the table.
Jay now a menswear designer in the US

How wonderful.

"Let's go into town for a drink first," Nass said.
"Oh please no," I thought.

Instead, I smiled graciously, albeit through gritted teeth.
Crikey I felt tired, but they had both gone to a lot of trouble.
"OK, Just one then."

As we walked into town he said,
"Let's go to see Bruno and have a drink there."
"Nass,  we can't do that he'll be busy."
"He won't mind."

Exasperated by now, and a wee bit tetchy maybe?
"And full. He will be full up. It's 9.30 on Valentine's night for goodness sake."

As we got to the top of the stairs Nass noticed an empty table.
" Come on here's a vacant table"
" Yes, but it's reserved."

He grinned. 
" Yes for us."
" But, but, you've cooked"
" Fried onions for the smell."

We had a wonderful evening.
When Bruno had finished in the kitchen he sat and drank a glass of wine with us.

"Happy Valentine's," He said as he left the table.
Then I noticed a small heart-shaped box he had left.
(It turns out Nass had even taken that in earlier.)
Red, velvety.

"What's that?"
I didn't dare open it.

Now, I know what your thinking.
I thought so too.

It was full of the most beautiful hand made chocolates.

I love chocolates.
But I would make a box like that last.
For days sometimes.
Savour one at a time.

But we opened them and ate them instead of dessert.

" You ate those quickly."
" Did I?" I said, blushing.

" You thought there was a ring in there, didn't you?" Nass laughed.
" No, I didn't." Going even redder.

And yes, I had and no there wasn't.

I felt quite sick from too much chocolate on top of rather a lot of red wine.
But a sense of relief.
Early days and all that.
I had only just come through a divorce.

And a ring did come later.

After three ignored marriage proposals.

Well, they were fuelled by beer and 
encouraged by over-enthusiastic Friday night Arundel pub revellers.

Admittedly he did go down on one knee.
Every time.
A bit wobbly.
(That would be the Fosters probably. I don't think it was emotion. Nah pretty sure not.)

" When you ask me without an audience I'll think about it."

And one Christmas Eve returning home from quiet drinks in the Kings Arms,
he did the down on one knee thing again.

Only this time I said " yes."

Happy Valentine's Day.