A big birthday weekend
Fiona's mother is 70, and so we've been hosting an epic of a surprise birthday weekend here chez Goode. Family have flocked to Feltham from the corners of the world (well, Geneva, Devon and Herefordshire, to be more exact) for three days of celebration. We've been accommodating most of the participants, with some overspill booked into the Travelodge over the road. It's been exhausting but great fun.
Families are great. I love the way everyone is thrown together - a melange of ages, interests and personality types - and yet it seems to work pretty well most of the time. There's a richness to it. And as generations transition, there's a natural renewing of it all. It doesn't grow stale.
On Friday I drove up to Malvern to pick Fiona's Auntie Moira up. It was a straight run, some 2 h 20 min, and as I arrived early I went for a walk on the Malvern Hills (above), which are always spectacular, even on a rather chilly, overcast spring day. The return journey was not so straightforward though, and took five hours. Ouch. We arrived just after Fiona's mother, and the surprise welcome. The dinner that followed was great fun, and despite a critical mass of kids, there was no nuclear explosion.
Yesterday, we left all the kids under the watchful care of Hannah, the oldest cousin, and her boyfriend Josh, as we headed off to lunch at Dean Timpson at The Compleat Angler in Marlow (above). It's a stunning setting on the river, sandwiched between the lovely bridge and the weir. The food was really, really good: top quality, with service, presentation and attention to detail of Michelin star standard. I spent some time with the wine list, which has some excellent producers shoulder to shoulder with mediocre ones. In the end I ordered a Vidal Syrah from Hawkes Bay, which was quite elegant and old worldy in style, and a Bordeaux Sauvignon Semillon that was crisp and fresh (and was also the least expensive wine on what is quite an expensive list).
I can't help but mention ££££. You expect a top quality joint like this to be expensive, because it costs a lot to do a restaurant really well. But it was the way it was expensive that left me a little disappointed: the menu itself is good value, but all the 'unseen' items, such as water (we were poured eight bottles at £4.80 each), espresso (£4 a single shot) and drinks seem excessive. I'd much prefer it if restaurants put their margins in their food. People look at how much they spend on the total bill when they consider returning; at the prices Timpson charges per head when all these extras are included, he's batting with the big boys, and will end up being judged with more scrutiny.
Today is the final day of the epic. Overall, it has been a superb weekend. Now we're trying to persuade Fiona's brother to issue us with an extended invitation for Geneva this summer.