Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A meeting of worldly ladies

I take every opportunity I get now to meet new people I might find commonalities with. London has taught me the hard way that good people are hard to find and breaking into a friend group is the hardest thing of all. Making new friends has been surprisingly difficult here in comparison to Helsinki. I've understood that my experience had more to do with timing than anything else (at least for Helsinki), but I still hold to the fact that the expats in Finland are more open and willing than those in London. Especially considering London is 90% expat.

In any case, when Churches invited me out to a women's night out with a few of her girlfriends and their friends, I definitely agreed. Lovely to meet new potential friends and we would already have something in common - our friends.

Churches and I went straight after work, despite being tired from the week and all the Christmas parties. It was to be at Cafe Rouge. Trying to find a table for eight women on a Friday night is pretty difficult if you don't plan ahead by several weeks. Every other restaurants that was tried was fully booked and reserved. That's London for you.

I had been to Cafe Rouge once before with Books, on a Sunday night many months ago. The food is surprisingly good, though authenticity I can't say anything about.

Churches and I were the first to arrive, not wanting to stand out in the rain anymore. A bit later we were joined by two other girls, both friends of someone else who hadn't shown up yet. One was from France (Churches was horrified that we were at a French restaurant with a French person - what horrors of critique would await us?) and the other from Malaysia. We were soon joined by another from Norway, who was friends with the two who had shown up after us. Then very slowly we were joined by Churches' friend from Russia (who I'd also met through Internations) and Charmaine. Our eighth, Salads, never arrived.

Being hungry from the cold, we took no time ordering and getting our food started. Women arrived surprisingly slowly and we weren't about to wait around. It was just what we were looking for on that cold day:

Rye toast with mushrooms in cream and garlic. Fabulous. I was so happy with this appetizer I can't even describe. This was the first of a three course meal special that was going on for the winter. All for £25 total. What a steal!

I ordered the trout as my main dish, wanting to be a little healthier after all the office parties and finger food. It came with brussel sprouts, red kraut, roasted parsnips, and potatoes. The fish was dry but the lovely buerre blanc that came with it made up for it.

And then for oh so wonderful dessert. Britain has ruined me into liking sweet food more than I have ever before. This is a noel Christmas cake. Basically like a toffee pudding with vanilla sauce. It was hot, spiced, and fantastic. Just what I was looking for after the lighter meal I'd chosen. No regrets. It was like licking the floor of Michaels, my favorite craft store back in California.

Conversation flowed as did the wine (though I kept myself to a hardfast single glass). Everyone was so interested in everyone else since no one knew everyone. I guess that's one way to icebreak into a group - make sure that no single person is friend to all. Everyone there was linked to at least a few people, but other than that, everyone was a stranger. Really interesting dynamic.

Malaysia was working in pharmaceuticals, having lived in London for 6 years. Her British accent was impeccable and I could tell that she really enjoyed living here. It's strange but Churches and I have been meeting a rash of people from Malaysia recently. I guess London is where they all flock to. :)

France was working at an agency but did a lot of technology industry analysis, sort of similar to what I do, though without the design influence. She and I talked a lot of shop and had a good time comparing people's present phones. She was intelligent and well-spoken. A delight to talk to.

Norway I didn't get a chance to talk to much, since she was sitting on the other side of Malaysia from me, but she seemed nice. She works at the NSN (Nokia Siemens Network, it was previously called) and worked with Russia, Churches' friend that I had also met previously.

Russia I knew from meeting her at several Internations meetings. She works at NSN with Norway and lives in the same neighborhood as Churches. They have become fast friends because they're basically the same person but from different countries - both 30, living in Clapham, and with very similar views on men and other subjects. They hang out a lot from what I can tell.

Charmaine is wonderful Charmaine and it's always a pleasure to hang out with her.

And so our night wound to an end after much conversation, wine, and delightfully inexpensive good food. We all discussed going for a drink after dinner but after the week we were all having and the rainy cold weather, we all decided to go another time. Leave it up to a group of women to make the comfortable decision, one that I was in total agreement with.

Meeting of friends is the best. I hope to have more outings with these ladies in the future.

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