In my experience a good birthday combines three things, doughnuts, champagne and a musical. When he whisked me away to London as a surprise I thought Wicked tickets were the cherry on the handmade-by-his-mum birthday cake. Throw in a Krispy Kreme assorted dozen; bottle of Veuve and a fluffy hotel robe, I was in seventh heaven / Shaftesbury Avenue. Alas the bar had been raised; I wanted to make his birthday as special as he had mine, so when the big day arrived I had a plan.
The morning after the red wine before I prized him out of bed and miraculously got him onto a train. A shopping mecca, restaurant hub and hotel hotspot that’s a mere hour away on the train; we headed t’up North to Leeds. First stop, 42 The Calls. A converted mill, the Calls is a gorgeous boutique hotel in the city centre (i.e. not far from shop) which boasts, amongst other things, 12 kinds of sausage. As well as an impressive array of bangers, the hotel offers a His’n’Hers’ break which includes beer for him, fizz for her plus shopping for both. Exactly what could be better?
As it was his weekend, I sucked it up and asked the hotel to give my £30 of vouchers to the birthday boy which doubled his dollar in Ted Baker. It was a sacrifice but the homemade shortbread waiting for us in the practically-bigger-than-my-house room went some way to making up for it. Now I love high ceilings, I love beams and I really love big, bold stripy wallpaper that makes me feel like I’m huddled inside a humbug. And just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, a chilled bottle of champers and 4 bottles of Becks were left in our own private serving hatch. When the TV said hello to me, I thought I was going to die on the spot. But if I had, I would have never known the indescribable pleasure of being cuddled to sleep by the comfiest bed IN THE WORLD. The kingsize bed is handmade; the soft cotton sheets and feather duvet I can only assume are too, by angels. Well-appointed and superbly decorated, our room was spacious, comfortable (sitting area with leather sofa if you please) and the perfect haven to return to after a day’s shopping.
Leeds is a bit of a favourite shopping destination of mine, in particular, the be-still-my-beating-heart Victoria Quarter. Every brand, designer and credit card quivering label is there and under one breath-taking roof. Paul Smith, Vivienne Westwood and of course, Harvey Nichols nestle in Grade II listed buildings which are as beautiful inside as out. It may appear as if I veered off his birthday course to my own well-trodden purchasing path, alas he’s a shopper like me and all of his whims were catered for. He popped into Paul, was treated to Ted and espresso-ed in Harvey Nics. His shopping surge sated by a couple of shirts, pair of boxers and belt, we made our way back to number 42 to get ready for surprise number two.
So far I didn’t think I’d done too badly, good hotel, good shopping and beer. But the best was yet to come and if the way to a man’s heart really was through his stomach, I was set. Gaucho Leeds is a red blooded Argentine gem in the Leeds legal district serving every cut of beef every way you could want. Sparkling chandeliers, sumptuous leather and cow skin make this hidden hideaway a feast for all the senses. The skilled staff know their steaky stuff and run through the cuts and cooking recommendations with you at your table. We both plumped for sirloin (rare), peppercorn sauce and a side of spinach sautéed with garlic, olive oil and lemon. It was stunning. The meat, whilst practically mooing, melted in the mouth. The Malbec was the ideal accompaniment and the made for sharing dessert sampler was the perfect end to a pretty perfect day. No, it wasn’t Krispy Kreme’s and Veuve but it was good, really good and the birthday boy beamed. I’d managed to pull off my own surprise and given him a break, beef and booze. What more could a boy want?