After the big 40th last year, I thought I’d tone it down a bit and just have a small intimate birthday party. This was my 4th Shanghai birthday party after Red Room (2006), Bonbon (2007), Attica (2008). Attica is now closed of course, as is Bonbon and Red Room (in fact, every time I have a party somewhere it closes!), so the choice of venue was a bit of a headache. It’s very hard to choose somewhere that everyone likes. Lots of people wanted to go to Muse, and it’s a great club, but it’s a little too chaotic for my liking and the waiters there were very aggressive and pushy the last time I was there, which I don’t like.
This started off as a nice photo with Swiss James’ better half, but it wasn’t long before John and Mark forced their way in to the picture.
The exclusive shareholders and members club M1NT was an option, it’s the current in place in Shanghai, but I didn’t want all my guests stuck in the line down in the lobby for hours, waiting to get in, which is what happened when I went for a friend’s party last month. (If M1NT management is reading, it’s not cool to make people wait if they have a table reserved).
Lisa (left) was one of only two people who have attended all four parties from 2006 to 2009. The 2006 party was at Red Room, where Carrie (right) used to work.
I didn’t want to go anywhere untried either as I wanted to be sure my guests would be well looked after, so although I didn’t feel it was the perfect choice, I went with Lounge 18 on Shanghai’s famous Bund strip.
Sophie arranged the whole thing for me very efficiently, thanks Sophie!
I wasn’t able to invite too many people, especially from work, since the table I booked could only seat around 20 people, so the invitation list had to be very carefully put together and only the lucky few received invitations.
We kicked off at around 10.30pm on a raining Saturday night. I was a bit worried that many people would be late as taxis were hard to find, but it turned out okay with guests arriving in a steady stream from 10.30pm till around 1am. I think there were about 35 people in all, but some left before others arrived which worked out well so that it was never overcrowded.
I’ve known Mark for 15 years ever since he walked in to our restaurant in London aged 16 and asked for a job as a waiter.
Ade showed up only briefly, an old friend I hardly see these days.
Will, a new arrival in my team from the UK with my ex-boss Jim and his lovely wife June (who gave me the best gift ever last year – she said I didn’t look anything like 40 years old).
One of my best Shanghainese friends, July.
A couple of colleagues (left) and one ex-colleague.
I’ve known Sandy for 10 years since I first moved to China in 1999.
Peter, Nadege, James and Emma. Peter flew in from Beijing for the party.
Jin, Anna, Helen and her French boyfriend.
I’m very happy with the venue choice. The booking was handled professionally, the drinks were ready on our arrival and the waiters were very courteous and attentive without being pushy. I ended up spending the best part of 10,000 rmb, but it was very well worth it. Judging by the texts I got the next morning, everyone had a great time, some got horrendously drunk, some went home with each other (no, I’m not mentioning any names here), some went home disappointed (again, not mentioning any names!) and others just enjoyed the moment.
I was especially surprised to see how well everyone mingled last night, more than any other party I’ve organised. What usually happens is people stay shyly in their own groups. I’m not really sure why it was different this time, but I’m very happy that it was.
So thanks to everyone who showed up, we’ll do it all again next year of course, so be nice and you might get an invitation!