Monday, December 10, 2007

A Manhattan birthday

If I had to plan my perfect birthday party, then Thursday would probably have been it. I’ve never, ever been a fan of the restaurant/dancing model in London. It’s expensive: at least £150/$300 by the time you’ve paid for dinner, drinks & taxis, and the scene is so fragmented that any feeling of an intimate evening slides away, especially once you’ve had to engage with travelling half way across the city to get from a good restaurant to a half way decent club, one that isn't filled with drunk Royals, trustafarians, City boys, vomiting teens or sleezebag men.

Here it’s a completely different story. Manhattan is so tiny that you can walk from place to place, at worst hop in a $10 cab for a fifteen minute journey. Venues have a better mix of customers, as it’s cheaper to eat out, so good, stylish restaurants don't have that curiously London clientele: Russians, hedge funders and your parents' contemporaries. Frankly, Manhattan is just more fun, younger, hipper & cheaper(so long as you avoid the weekends).

I postponed my partying as L flew in from London the day after my birthday and I wanted to celebrate with her. So I invited fifteen friends to Soho House in Meatpacking on Thursday for pre-supper drinks from 7-9pm. L & I managed to arrive on time, & bagged the three over-sized squishy velvet sofas under the Ron Arad anglepoise installation in the middle of the Drawing Room, ordered Champagne for all, and hoped people would turn up. (Hipsters may raise a sardonic eyebrow at SH, but hell, there's plenty of room, the drinks are good, and you don't HAVE to talk to the i-bankers.)

And, thank goodness, everyone came. The boys looked a little over-whelmed at the sheer volume of ravishing females in stunning frocks. Then again, not unexpected as it was a fashion heavy gathering, including the beautiful designer Francoise Olivas (check out her wonderful collection here), and the girls behind Heidi Klein, in town to meet editors.

Seven bottles later, I staggered off with five girlfriends to Morandi in the West Village for supper at 10pm. Part of the usually dismal McNally stable (Pastis, Balthazar), the food here is actually good, and the wine list better than. There was a snapper in from New York Mag who cldn't keep his lenses away from the girls all through the meal.

We ate bruschetta with super fresh mozzarella di bufala, & a dish of fried olives. Nearly everybody had the special: a chicken liver risotto and I had a double order of the appetizer special: artichokes, peppers, more of that creamy mozzarella, tomatoes. Simple food, perfectly done, washed down with quite a lot of a very good Dolcetta d'Alba.

Half way through my gorgeous friend Christina arrived with a stupendous present for me: a wonderful, light as a feather, cream cash-llama scarf from her latest Oxenberg collection.

After blowing out the birthday candle on my chocolate hazelnut torta (thank you girls) we bundled up (did I mention it was snowing?) and walked through the narrow, tree-lined streets of the Victorian West Village to the Beatrice Inn for very naughty shenanigans.

Hidden away between some brownstones, at the top of the metal stairway to the basement entrance, the bouncers gave us the usual Beatrice line, “Whose party are you here for?”. The only obvious answer was, ‘mine’. After a beat they waved the five of us downstairs, where we found a large china greyhound to stash the coats & presents behind.

Beatrice, owned by Chloe Sevigny’s brother Paul, is a down & dirty dive bar & club with just two rooms filled with furniture & pictures seemingly scavenged from a carboot sale by a blind man, a tiny bar, and a pocket handkerchief dance floor & DJ booth in a grubby back room.

The hangers out are models, rockers, actors, film makers, hedge funders pretending to be rockers, and generally creative people pretending they aren’t enormously successful. There’s just one loo (with a useful-looking wooden table in the corner), everyone smokes like chimneys, and the music is a just-up-my-street mix of Pulp, The Clash, classics like Spirit in the Sky, and the dance music we jumped around to in the early 90s.

After flirting, smoking, drinking and a lot of dancing (flailing?), we tumbled out into the cold at 4.30am when the place closed. M was wobbling like a new-born foal on her super high heels so we found a nice boy to prop her up and we all walked back through the narrow streets to Perry to see her safely home.

In between dropping M & then CA off on W10th, I managed to get thoroughly kissed on a street corner by J, a very tipsy boy we had met earlier in Beatrice, who insisted on walking L & I back to the East Village. It’s always good to have a sherpa to carry one’s birthday presents, even if one does shut the door in his face on arrival with no, um, tip. (He so knew that was going to happen).

And oh dear, the hangovers the next day. (Lola, darling, however did you manage to get to work?)

I wore: the shortest ever black washed silk V neck, cropped sleeve tunic, with black matt 80 denier opaque Wolfords & my vertiginous black patent dominatrix Pierre Hardy platforms heels (so comfy I danced for three hours and then walked home in them), and a huge Giles gold studded black plastic bracelet. Bright pink lipstick and lots of messy blonde hair.