Valentine’s Night with the Obamas

Last year I bemoaned the lack of romance bought by spending Valentine’s Day evening with the otherwise charming British Government’s Chief Scientist, Sir John Beddington. (Of course in reality I secretly enjoyed it. Though that’s not something I admit to Layla.)

But this year, Layla and I agreed we would determinedly avoid any event connected with either of our jobs, and would go for the great prize of seats at the hottest table in DC, Minibar. Indeed it isn’t just the hottest table in DC but is one of the hardest-to-get reservations in the world, with only six diners per seating.

We had a great strategy to get ourselves a reservation – which mainly involved diligent emailing on the dot of 10am exactly a month before. Our delight at getting two seats has been palpable ever since – we felt like Charlie, clutching our golden ticket to the (rather expensive) Chocolate Factory. Few conversations since that moment have omitted a reference to our superlative Valentine’s Day plans.

And so, when we sat down tonight at 6.30pm for our 26 course extravaganza, we were somewhat bemused to find that there appeared to have been four no shows for the 6pm seating. We speculated as to why Jose Andres (the chef behind this and many other great restaurants in DC) hadn’t given them to some others on what must have been a massive waiting list.

We were bemused at the sight of the police just visible standing in the linked bar. And we also speculated about what lay behind the gauze curtain in the restaurant through which waiters kept slipping with plates in hand. In our minds these things were separate. But it turned out not to be so.

The Obamas were behind the gauze, celebrating Valentine’s Day just like us.  And so we found out when we got home… having read of the roads that had apparently been shut down during our gastronomic adventure… not to mention the crowds of gawkers who were outside Minibar hoping for a glimpse of… us. Or perhaps the Obamas.

Of course every fibre of my being is disappointed I didn’t appreciate that the intimate dinner of just us and four other couples included the Obamas. But then if I had realized it, I would have probably felt obliged to renege on my pact with Layla to ban work talk for the night, and toast the launch of EU-US talks on a trade partnership, which happened yesterday.

How could I fail to do so? Together we are the world’s largest economies and we constitute half of the world’s GDP and one third of global trade. The impact of a successful trade deal will be huge for the global economy- and so it is our Prime Minister’s top trade priority.

So I guess we can all thank goodness for the piece of gauze that separated me from the Obamas, and let all of us, for just a night in this city of politics, sit back, savour our amazing food, and prioritise romance. But in the cold light of day, it is of course time to focus on the brilliant news of the launch of talks on a trade partnership between the EU and the US. At least until next year… though goodness knows what Layla will suggest we do then (desert island perhaps?!).

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