I'm feeling pretty excited right now, as in less than 12 hours I'll be saying sayonara to these shores for a trip to the land of the Rising Sun, and by the time you read this I'll hopefully be necking Suntory and slurping soba. But before I swap PG Tips for matcha and cod and chips for kaiten-zushi there's always time for some early birthday golf bragging after my triumph in East London last weekend.
The venue for these anniversary shenanigans was The Royal Shoreditch Golf Club, aka Swingers London (tip, don't Google at work), a warehouse that's been converted into a crazy golf-cum-bar-cum street food collective. Yes, on paper that does sound like a tiresome beard and plaid magnet (and that's just me and my entourage of ladies), where hipsters might congregate over Negronis on the 18th hole, but in reality it's just bloody good fun.
The good times started at the Freixenet bar with a round of sparkling rose and, after a wait for back-up ice supplies, some pretty lethal signature Soho Spritzes that we saw being ordered by the (obligatory) hen party (with obligatory gay guy) playing in front of us.
Dutch courage imbibed, we made our way to the first tee where I sensed the magical powers of the knitted tank top, classic wear for all stylish golfers about town, would give me that extra cutting edge against some fearsome (drunk and clueless) competition.
Course-side drink service was provided by the charming Jeremy Nine Iron, from whom we ordered pints of Meantime lager a couple of rounds of Dandies, based on the cocktails of the same name available at Hawksmoor; 'Cognac stirred with Maraschino & Benedictine, topped with Champagne. Adapted from a punch served at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria in the 1930s. We’ve taken a more refined approach, eschewing the original’s soda water in favour of more champagne.'
More champagne, can't say fairer than that, although I would like to say sorry to the member of the hen party I accidentally belted on the second tee after I'd drunk the first one of these. Thanks too, to the nice guy in front who provided helpful tactical tips a la Ken Brown on the BBC at Augusta.
Of course, there can oly be one winner, and with a golf ball as loud as my trousers, it was fate the birthday girl would triumph. Of course, the rest of the party were equally fulsome with their praise as I was with my modesty...
With the absence of a buggy service or a caddy to carry our clubs, we were need of some serious sustenance after we made it back to the club house. The choices here are top notch, with the initial grub being provided by scene stalwarts Patty and Bun and Pizza Pilgrims, with more traders lined up later in the year.
I was allowed to order and, ignoring Stealth's protests that pizza without cheese is just tomatoes on toast, ordered a marinara and a pizza bianca with mushrooms and truffle oil. Both were excellent, possibly even better than the last time I ate at their bricks and mortar gaff, although the the tomato was a touch heavy handed.
We also shared Patty and Bun's crispy chicken thighs, served bathed in a punchy tamarind, fish sauce and chilli-spiked glaze and topped with crunchy peanuts and fresh coriander. Winner winner chicken dinner.
While they also offer a 'golf ball' sub, with pork and beef meat balls and tomato sauce, I couldn't miss up the opportunity to order an Ari Gold,one of London's truly great burgers. 'Beef patty, Cheese, Lettuce, Tomato, Pickled onions, Ketchup, Smokey P&B mayo, Brioche bun'. Job done.
Of course, there's no party without a cake, so thanks to the fabulous, marvelous, wonderful (make the most of it, I only say it once a year) Stealth for my personalised box of Hummingbird cupcakes. They may have been little more than frosting and crumbs by the time we got them back to South London, but nothing could squash the start of a perfect birthday weekend.