On the Cards – Grosvenor Victoria

I first met Cookie and Boothie when I started my first graduate job at a bank. I was (and possibly remain) a massive swot. Cookie and Boothie took it as their mission to slightly corrupt the new graduate by:

  • Making me bunk off to the pub with them after a fire alarm
  • Making me take an extended lunch – not letting me go back to the office, even though I was worried about “being expelled”. I couldn’t just leave by myself as my sense of direction was so terrible I would never have found my way back
  • Hijacking my digital camera (technology of the newest kind in 2004) and taking up-kilt photos of our Scottish colleagues at the Christmas party
  • Generally being a terrible influence
  • At my wedding, thrusting my brother’s innocent head into Cookie’s heaving bosom. An incident still spoken fondly of by my parents.

After I left the team, we continued to get together, along with Ms N (sadly now living back in Australia) for regular GTG meals out – the Good Time Girls.

Recently though, I have been a crap friend. Little children take up so much headspace that managing to remember birthdays, and actually make plans and stick to them has been really hard work. So I needed to apologise.

I decided to book a casino experience for the GTGs. I chose the Grosvenor Victoria (“The Vic”) partly because having read Victoria Coren’s excellent For Richer or Poorer, this is the casino where she cut her teeth, but honestly mostly because it was close to Marylebone where my train home went from. Also the lady, Vicky, who helped me with the booking was incredibly lovely.

The excitement on having a night out when you have children is approximately like six birthdays and four Christmases all rolled into one. Until an hour before I was due to leave, when I opened my wardrobe and realised I have nothing that isn’t from Boden, or a breastfeeding top, a wedding dress or three sizes too small. I settled on jeans and a jumper which I tried to glam up with a chunky necklace. I also attempted make-up, which is hilarious as the last time I used any type of make-up was when EldestGirl wanted to be a tiger.

Cookie, Boothie and I met at a pub for a couple of drinks before going on for our casino experience. It was such a great night. For £30 each we got:

  • A tour of the casino
  • An hour’s gaming tuition on blackjack and roulette
  • A free drink each (actually two free drinks because Cookie is cheeky)
  • A three course meal (more of that to follow)
  • A £5 bet at a table, and a £5 bet on the slot machines

The tuition was a really great opportunity to play the games without burning cash, plus giving us enough confidence to have a bit of a flutter at the tables later. Our tutor was called Gerry and Cookie and Boothie tortured him appropriately. By the end of our blackjack tuition, when we still couldn’t understand why you were supposed to stick on 12, and I kept forgetting I wasn’t allowed to touch the cards, he looked like a man who had lost the will to live.

After tuition (and free drinks) it was time for our three course meal. I didn’t expect too much – the food was secondary to the casino experience, so we were all so impressed that the quality was exceptional. I used to eat out a lot, and have been to several of London’s highly-recommended restaurants. I have very often paid double, sometimes even triple for food much lower quality and much smaller portions. Service wasn’t super-speedy, and by the end of the meal, we were all stuffed, and felt like going home for a sleep rather than energised to do some gaming!

Here are some pretty pictures of the exceptional food. The scallops in particular were amazing.

ScallopsCrab salad

Even though we were uncomfortably full and lethargic, and the evening was getting late, we still had our free bets. Cookie’s and my £5 slot machine bets disappeared almost immediately. Boothie, however, won £22, cashed out and was suitably smug for the rest of the evening. I was also feeling quite smug, but mostly because TheBloke (TM) had texted me to tell me that both children had been pooing all evening and he’d been on clean-up duty. The only thing better than a night off without kids is finding out that your other half is getting the full poo experience.

I really fancied playing poker, but I have only ever played online poker before, and I was a bit too scared to dip my toe in the water. I would have loved the opportunity to have a bit of poker tuition, or someone to sit with me for the first game just to talk me through playing it in a “live” environment. There was a poker tournament going on in the casino whilst we were there – out of about 150 players, there were about three women.

Us GTGs were fascinated by the other players. Who were these people betting £50, £100, £1000 on one spin of a roulette wheel (a game of literally no skill)? Were they super-rich oligarchs? People with gambling problems? Could they afford to lose the money? Cookie, Boothie and I agreed at the start how much money we would spend and didn’t go over that limit. I think that’s the only sensible way to do it – and to have friends with you who will prevent you spending more than you can afford.

Mostly I was amazed we got through the evening without being thrown out – something which isn’t always guaranteed with the GTGs. (We missed you, Ms N.)

I would highly recommend it for an evening out – something a bit different, and to be honest, I will be back just for the food! (And to avoid nappies. And children.)