Good Monday Dear Readers and Happy Mother's Day to all of the mums for yesterday! I hope you all had a wonderful day :) I actually had my birthday yesterday on Mother's Day which is something that happens every seven years or so. Every year for my birthday I try and stretch out the celebrations as much as possible over a weekend- I mean the more celebrations, the more food and cake you know what I'm thinking right? ;)
This year Mr NQN was given what would be an almost impossible task-to arrange a romantic birthday celebration for just the two of us. My husband is a wonderful being. Sweet, handsome, clever and understanding he is but romantic perhaps he is not. So thankfully he was offered some help from the Quintessentially team, a high end concierge service and private member's club that can help any lost soul with surprising a special someone with tickets to a film premiere or dinner at Louis Vuitton or something left of centre but absolutely unique. I felt confident that he, and in turn I, were in safe hands so I unlaced my hands that are usually firmly on the controls and sat back and relaxed.
Mr NQN's birthday card to me
_Mr NQN: A couple of things that I'll probably never be described as are romantic and a good event planner. I have the best of intentions though for some reason I've never been particularly good at either of them... perhaps I just think that things will take care of themselves. So I was extremely relieved when I found out that Quintessentially were going to help me out with Lorraine's birthday this year. She's hard to surprise (although I did manage to surprise her when I proposed to her) and even she will admit to being a bit of a control freak.
Mr NQN had let it slip that there were some choices, the first being a carnivale fairground that was set up with a "last meal" food station of my very favourite foods (kind of like having your last meal without being executed the next day!). The second choice was a dinner at one of Louis Vuitton's private salons with the food brought in by an external caterer. Like any inquisitive wife I tried to get the final choice out of him by asking questions like "What do I have to wear?" and "Will there be much walking?". I even tried sneaky things like "Are we bringing the flash?" to find out if we were going to a restaurant because we generally don't use the flash in restaurants because it disturbs other diners. And when we were getting ready I asked him to pass me a Chanel bag out of the cupboard to which he gave no reaction so knew the Louis Vuitton idea was not going to happen. He's good at keeping secrets. "We're going to be back home by 9pm" is all he tells me.
Mr NQN: _The communication with them started by email (which was my preference as I can't take calls during work easily) then as the day got closer Belinda from Quintessentially rang a couple of times to discuss the night and the final confirmation of details. My original idea of taking Lorraine to Breakfast at Tiffany's unfortunately couldn't be done but we went back and forth with some alternative ideas that would impress her. We discussed possible ideas for the night with some great suggestions and I made a decision, clarified some details and locked in a date. I was a bit nervous as I didn't hear back from them until a few days before the event when the final details needed to be organised (important things like what her favourite macaron flavours are etc). I got the final details the day before.
Mr NQN's birthday present to me
"They're going to blindfold you too" Mr NQN warned me. The first thing I thought was "Are we going somewhere that I already know?" At 6pm sharp his phone rings and our driver and car have arrived. We slide into the seat of the very tinted windowed car feeling very excited indeed. Oddly, there's no blindfold and the driver then confirms the address with us which seems like a bit of a glitch. Mr NQN keeps trying to tell the driver that has he no idea what the exact address is and that it is meant to be a surprise for me (in order to get him to stop talking about it in case he reveals the location name) and quite comically the driver keeps asking to confirm the address. I see Mr NQN tense a little as he squeezes my hand so I whisper to him "Dont' worry, I don't recognise the address" although admittedly I spent the whole trip racking my brain to recall places in Camperdown that I know.
Mr NQN: Keeping the secret and chuckling at Lorraine's attempts to work out where/what we were doing was fun. However I was a bit disappointed by the briefing of the driver. The main issue for me was that there was no blindfold where I had warned her a few times that she would be blindfolded and she loves anything exciting or mysterious. The driver kept asking me to confirm the address which was a bit odd since all I knew was that it was in the inner west somewhere. Given the location (down some VERY small dark streets) the lack of blindfold didn't really affect the surprise though.
The car enters a dark alley and by dark it is almost pitch black. We turn into a street where there is only one door open and it's a car dealership. "Oh" I say to myself, "am I taking a car out for a test drive?". I look at Mr NQN and he smiles "We're here."
Our driver opens the car door and I alight. To my left opposite the car dealership a door has opened and a woman is standing there smiling at me. "Lorraine?" she asks. She is Mr NQN's contact from Quintessentially. She leads me into the door where an illuminated Moulin Rouge sign greets us. She introduces me to Michael who owns this space which is full of every single prop you could imagine. And well, you know how much I love props right? ;)
Belinda tells us that Michael will be our host for the evening. Wearing a mask and a costume he introduces himself and gives us each a mask to wear and we follow him him through the dark walkway past mounted white tiger heads, giant Easter Island statues and costumes. This is as much of a surprise to Mr NQN as it is me and we arrive at a stunning room. Michael explains that this room is called "The Velvet Canopy."
Mr NQN: I wasn't sure what to expect when we arrived. I was really blown away after arriving and being greeted by Belinda and then a masked Michael in costume who gives us each a mask to wear we were lead through a warehouse full of props. Finally turning the corner into an amazing room with a masked bartender. They most definitely undersold it in the emails!
There are two nubiles that greets us, ceilings are draped in red satin, a vintage chandelier is suspended from the centre of the room, ornate velvet and leather Louis XV style chairs and sofas abound, glass eggs, bird cages and lit candles perch on every possible surface in this room. The entire room is a lush spectacle and one that I could spend hours playing dress up and play pretend in. Mr NQN is given an embellished Spanish matador jacket and I'm given a fur stole.
Michael introduces us to Alan the bartender who is actually a member of the Knights Templar wearing his Knights Templar medals no less. He pours us a glass of Pommery champagne each and we settle ourselves on the velvet bar stools and look around. Alan senses my fascination with everything and he advises that I try out every seat in the house as says that once I do that I'll feel totally at home.
So like Goldilocks I try each and every seat in the house. Some are soft, some are hard and some are juuust right. I can't take my eyes off everything in there as there is just so much to look at and touch. There is the old fashioned telephone, the elaborate headdresses and there is even an Indian feathered mohawk which are all a result of Michael collecting for the past 15 years for his events business called Pure Events.
But you know that no evening is complete without food. Our first course arrives and I'm ever so pleased to see my favourite foods featured. There are a dozen oysters (Sydney Rock) and a plate of antipasto including sun dried tomatoes, taramosalata, caviar, stuffed pepperdews as well as jamon, marinated octopus and wagyu carpaccio, hot salami and feta stuffed olives accompanied by soft, fresh Turkish bread. I'm in gustatory heaven with so many of my favourite foods and the caviar and taramosalata are eaten with much relish and with a spoon. It feels just right in this opulent setting.
The background music slowly fades and we hear the strains of a violin coming up the pathway. Neither of us have ever been serenaded by a violinist before and it is very special indeed. The very talented violinist plays one song to us circling our table and then plays in the background.
_Mr NQN: I really enjoyed the violinist- while we've never been serenaded I have some vague memories of being in a restaurant and you see a musician going from table to table and you're thinking "Damn please don't come over here, please don't come over here it'll feel really awkward" (I did say I wasn't particularly romantic). This was nothing like it. He played well and was very unintrusive. I should also mention re. the food that there was an attempt made to procure Bluff oysters but these are really hard to get and I can understand why they couldn't get them.
Lobster and salad
Our main course arrives next and I'm very excited to see that it's lobster. The fresh, tender lobster is served chilled with Michael's own salad which has all sorts of vegetables in it from broccolini, mushroom, pine nuts, avocado and quinoa which is tasty and has a good mixture of crunchy, soft and nutty textures.
There is one last song from the violinist, a lovely piece that he composed himself and then he says "I have one last song". He swings into the familiar strains of Happy Birthday. They bring out a three tier stand of Baroque cakes and macarons and I blow out my tea light candles. I'm thrilled to bits and love the fact that they've got my favourite macaron flavours. The cakes are a raspberry mousse cake and a mocha cake with a chocolate biscuit base and they are both absolutely delicious with the light raspberry mousse with just the right amount of sweetness and the mocha with a nice level of chocolate and coffee.
_NQN: I thought they did this bit really well. I guess this is where all of the meticulous planning and timing really comes together and everyone collaborates on the concept. Lorraine was very surprised and looked very happy.
Cheese, fruit and crackers
Along with our Marie Antoinette style morsels, we are served some delicious Canadian Ice Wine which we both had fallen in love with on our trip to Canada last year. Then cheese, crackers and fruit is served with three very generous wedges of brie, blue and cheddar cheese (imagine getting serves this big in a restaurant!). The brie is a favourite served with a runny texture which is just how I like it. And what do I spy but two of my favourite fruits - fresh figs and medjool dates!
And no night would be complete here without a few dress ups no? I couldn't resist and after a little prompting from Michael I don a headdress and a guitar. I think I might buy a headdress like this to wear at home... it is surprisingly comfortable believe it or not!
And I promise you that is not blood on Sir Alan's sword!
The clock strikes 9pm and as promised our driver and car are waiting outside for us. Giddy with giggles and excitement we slip into the car. I touch my head and there's no headpiece or feathers to hold up. I turn to Mr NQN and ask him "Did tonight really just happen?"_ _
So tell me Dear Reader, what would you dream birthday consist of? What would you eat and wear and where would you go?_
Thanks to Quintessentially who organised the evening's event