As mentioned in my last post, I had a surprise up my sleeve as to how to celebrate Si’s birthday and everything was going to plan. I’d go home after work, grab Si, put him in a tuktuk and off we’d go to Hanwant Mahal. He had absolutely no idea where we were going or what we were doing but Hanwant Mahal is an amazing restaurant and bar situated in the grounds of Umaid Bhawan Palace, a place where you can have a lovely meal overlooking the incredible architecture of Umaid and Mehrangarh combined (if you get chance, go!). It is basically the Maharaja’s holiday home and the interiors are incredible. Pleased with my sneaky scheme, I rushed back to the guesthouse to prepare. Little did I know however that another surprise was waiting which I had absolutely nothing to do with- which is of course where things get even more exciting…!
After taking a tuktuk out to the venue we were greeted at the entrance by the general manager, which was lovely. He greeted me by my name (but I had made the reservation so I didn’t think anything of this) but then also Simon, which is probably where I should have twigged something was going on. I never mentioned his name over the phone, nor that it was his birthday and not mine. Overlooking this minor detail we excitedly made our way onto the rooftop, which arguably has the best view in the whole of Jodhpur (you can’t look at the Palace if you’re in it after all).
Simon was amazed, which was exactly what I wanted. Our server was lovely, very attentive and also made sure we had the table with the best view – what a bonus! We ordered in some beers, the restaurant’s owner also owns a brewery – cheeky bonus once more. We set about ordering food and the waiter insisted the dish we’d chosen also came with a starter and dessert. It didn’t seem to say that on the menu, but I didn’t really think anything of it so went with what he recommended. Everything was off to an excellent start and the food was delish. Photo evidence below! Turns out strawberry sauce goes incredibly with fish, who knew?
About half way through the dinner to my delight the restaurant started to set off fireworks. “Is this for me?’ Simon asked. I had no idea. At least, it was nothing arranged from my end. “What amazing timing!” I thought, realising this made me look like the best girlfriend ever and decided to roll with it. “Maybe!” I replied, leaving Simon suitably chuffed and me hoping they wouldn’t spell out someone else’s name or something. The Indian couple on the table to our left were also celebrating a birthday. They had sent the spare cake over to our table leaving Si and I to squabble over what we should send back in return and make our thanks so I assumed the display must have been for them.I didn’t want to ruin Simon’s moment though and so sneakily decided to steal some of their limelight. However the other couple seemed completely surprised by the display also and so I began to wonder if it was something the restaurant did every night for all of their guests. It seemed like quite a lavish extra to do every night to be honest, but they were so beautiful next to the palace that I didn’t have too long to think about it. I hurried Simon out of his chair to get a picture of the birthday boy in-front of the display. It truly was a magical sight. Confused but delighted, we continued with the meal and pretended like I knew what was going on. Simon was beaming.
Dessert, like everything else on the menu, was scrummy. Perfect, Perfect, Perfect. The night couldn’t get any better!
Then an unplanned Birthday cake arrived.
Let’s get this straight, I’m not such an awful girlfriend I hadn’t got Simon a cake – but my cake was back at the guesthouse in the fridge for when we got back and this cake looked distinctly different! I thought maybe Will had sent the cake on, but our choice was a chocolate caramel eggless number (the rest of the household are veggie you see) and this was a pink and white sponge! Musicians also appeared from nowhere to play ‘Happy Birthday’ to Simon on the rooftop and it probably should have been at this point that I realised something was going on. Having seen the other couple receive cake before us I smiled and pointed out that this must be something the restaurant do for all their guests if they realise there is a birthday, wondering if they would add it to the bill or not and concluding that either way it was a wonderful gesture. I was relieved I had something to send back over to the couple next door either way and so sent a couple of slices over. Everything was working out perfectly. Simon was ecstatic and so was I, I couldn’t believe my luck!
After trying to consume as much cake as we could (which was very little after the unlimited Thali), I went to ask for the bill. Manju, Will and the rest of the family were waiting at home for the birthday cake celebration and I figured we probably shouldn’t keep them waiting. So I called the waiter over and asked him to send over the cheque only to receive the response: “It has been taken care of”. I asked him to clarify again. “Somebody has already taken care of the charge, Madam.”
Instant reaction went something like this: WHOA-WHAT?
I’d never been in this situation before in my life. Quite frankly, I didn’t know what to do. Half of me just wanted to insist on paying anyway as I was so confused. Suddenly it all slipped into place, the meal, the fireworks, the cake, all the little extras that had suddenly come from nowhere… I’d been having a helping hand all evening without even knowing it! There was me thinking I’d been super lucky, that Simon had stumbled into somebody else’s lavish birthday celebrations and I’d managed to time it just right only to realise it’d all been for him all along. Every bit of it! Of course, my next question was ‘who?!’. To be honest it only really could have been one person and as they rang laughing down the phone I knew instantly. Working in luxury travel and events had never been more of a lifesaver! I didn’t know how to say thank you enough! Part of me even felt a bit guilty for being a recipient of such a lovely gesture. I think I needn’t have worried, as I was instantly chastised us for ordering Pepsi’s (once we found out a mystery stranger was paying we didn’t want to run up a big bill) and order to get some wine. It couldn’t have been a better ending to a wonderful day and I was so, so grateful. Simon had a wonderful birthday and I felt so happy I could have cried! Amazing in every way.
To top it all off, we got back to Achal Niwas, drank beers on the roof with Will, had a really good laugh and a bit of dance over Skype to Simon’s best pal in France.
What a way to celebrate an amazing twenty six year old and what a wonderful gift. India, you absolute beauty! 😀