There’s a reason New York City was considered the fifth character in ‘Sex and the City’. There’s a reason people know what you’re talking about when you say the City of Light. There’s a reason you can visit Notting Hill and still see the ‘blue door’. It’s because London, Paris, New York are big, beautiful cities that add depth, romance, adventure, glamour, to life’s stories. They’re the locations you for your characters, to give them a fighting chance of making sure anything, anything at all, can happen to them. Whether it’s falling in love with a film star, discovering they’re a wizard, cultivating the life of an ‘it’ party girl or just, well, being Parisian, these cities are the places to BE. The places where you can get whatever you want, whenever you want it.
Or so I thought.
On the whole, London rarely disappoints when it comes to options. It doesn’t even matter what you want options for. When you figure it out, they’ll be there, waiting for you. It even gets to the point where you have to stop looking for things to do – the sheer volume of stuff can overwhelm quite quickly.
But then, one day, you’ll stop suddenly on the footpath. Your brow will furrow, your memory will flicker with an image. An image as if from a dream. A rushing commuter will smack into the back of you, anger pulsing from their over-stimulated eyes, but you won’t care. The memory clouds start to part. The image becomes clear. You gasp. How could you have forgotten? Forgotten something that had given you such joy? Something that had never disappointed? Something that had made your heart beat that little bit faster?
And it comes to you in a rush. A fully formed image from the very best of dreams.
A chicken parma. A f*cking chicken parma.
How could I have gone for nine months, visited countless pubs, and not had a f*cking chicken parma? I’ll tell you why. Because here in London, where you can get a wizard’s wand with your 5.54pm commuter train home, the pubs don’t have chicken parmas on their menu.
This discovery was enough to make me want to move back home…almost.
But I rallied. Surely somewhere in this city of eight million people, most of whom at one time or another had been visiting Aussies, was a restaurant that would quench my parma thirst. And one special day, I asked the right person the right question and three weeks later, was sitting in an Australian-run restaurant about to inhale one of life’s true culinary gems.
And oh did I inhale! It was glorious. Delicious. One of the best parmas I’d ever had! The joy wrapped itself around me until I realised I’d never experience it again. For this was to be the first and last parma I was to have in London, this giant city of abundance.
But why? I’m sure you’re asking. Why would I give up on experiencing such joy, such deliciousness, all over again?
Well, let me tell you why.
Problem, the first. There was indeed a parma on the menu of this restaurant, but it was for two people. Thankfully, I knew this in advance and had come equipped with an eating companion willing to follow my lead down the parma brick road (the fact that this friend had never eaten a parma before will be the subject, I’m sure, of a whole other blog post). But if future visits to this restaurant were to be arranged (no), it would mean constantly having to make sure I had a parma-eating companion. Annoying.
Problem, the second. When you know the true value of a pub-made parma, and then see the price of its London equivalent, well, you can’t help but laugh/cry. This is what I (almost) did at this restaurant.
Problem, the third. Service in London is notoriously rubbish. You come to expect this and move on with life. However, since this parma-serving restaurant had Aussie roots, my expectations accidentally let themselves loose and I was looking forward to being waited on hand and foot. Or, at least, having my existence acknowledged. I was wrong. The service was BEYOND LONDON-SERVICE RUBBISH and I can’t even go into it. It hurts my Aussie/parma pride too much.
When you live in a city of nothing but options, it’s irresponsible to return to anywhere that doesn’t have you shouting its praises from rooftops.
And so, as we (eventually) paid the bill, my heart breaking into tiny pieces, I rallied again and told myself that at least I’d experienced it one last time. Experienced the delicious, perfect combination of crumbed chicken, zesty tomato sauce, juicy ham and melted cheese. Oh! And, as if in a dream, I glided out of the restaurant, a silent goodbye playing on my lips, a loud, Aussie-twanged ‘see ya later’ following me out the door.