The table for five had been booked.
I stepped out of the bright sunlight into the cool, tranquil interiors of ‘Under the Over’ - the Italian bistro at Kemps Corner.
‘Er… where’s the table for five?’ I asked the steward, as my eyes adjusted to the dim lighting.
‘Anywhere you like, ma’am’, he replied courteously. ‘We’re empty at the moment.’
Feeling a little conscious about being the only customer, I picked a table with a good view of the entrance. The traffic passed by soundlessly. The girls came in one after another almost immediately. And the placid quiet of the place was broken with effusive and delighted greetings. The attendant with the water jug waited unobtrusively, probably thinking, ‘Old friends…’
The quiet returned once more as we pored over the menu. Occasional glances were cast at the entrance. The lone male member of the group had yet to arrive.
We were deciding the flavour of the Mashed Potatoes when he walked in. And the decibel levels shot up again. The waiter stepped backward hastily, and watched the guessing game that the last entrant was subjected to. He gamely tried to guess one giggling girl from another, with marginal success.
‘Are you ready to order the Mashed Potatoes now?’, asked the waiter politely, once the brouhaha had subsided.
The orders were placed. I asked for an old Under the Over favourite - Spaghetti Siciliana. Every other place I’d tried it at had successfully disappointed me. But out here, they got it right. Always.
But meal apart, it was the company I was savouring. We had the entire bistro to ourselves. The conversation ranged from the everyday to the eclectic, old bosses and new jobs, travel tales and racy gossip. One person was missing all of this back in Delhi. A quick call to her brought her right into the centre of action. Details will follow, we promised her, five versions of it.
Orange Panties for dessert?! The chef would’ve been apoplectic if he heard our version of Orange Pancakes! But he might have forgiven us if he saw how we made short work of the brownie groaning under the weight of ice cream and chocolate sauce.
Time which had stood still until now suddenly broke loose. Lunch hour had ended ages ago. It was time to get back to work.
The five friends stepped out. Friends brought together thanks to a common hobby – blogging. This was our first offline meeting, the first of many I hope.
Anita, Subs, Uptowngirl, XXX, Rashmi… it’s been such a pleasure!