Table for two... it helps if you are famous
You've forgotten. Again. Lo and behold Valentine's Day 2015 is headed towards unforgivable disaster.
Armed only with blind optimism, you ring around a selection of your favourite eateries. "Sorry, we're fully booked," is the response again and again. You realise just how sorely unimpressed your significant other is going to be. In short, you've blown it. Or have you?
It's long been known that a famous face will nab you a coveted spot in even the busiest restaurants. But what about on Valentine's Day?
"Some restaurants might operate a system whereby they hold a couple of smaller tables for regulars who ring last minute or for VIPs," says Derry Clarke, who owns L'Ecrivain restaurant in Dublin. "It happened during the boom years a lot, but less so now: you just can't afford to pass on a booking on the off-chance someone else will take the table on the night."
This week, I rang some of Ireland's best-known dinner spots to see just how far a high-profile name would get me. Quite far, it turns out ...
Rosanna Davison & Wesley Quirke, The House, Ardmore, Co Waterford
Me: Hello, I have a booking enquiry.
The House: Yes, how may I help you?
Me: It's for your restaurant - are tables available this Saturday?
The House: And will you be staying with us at the weekend?
Me: No - it would just be for dining.
The House: Sadly, pretty much every Saturday from now until May is fully booked up. In case of cancellation, you could send an email however to our reservations team?
Me: Well, actually, I don't know if you accommodate VIP guests but I am ringing on behalf of a client of mine.
The House: Let me check in with the General Manager. May I ask who your client is?
Me: Rosanna Davison and Wesley Quirke.
The House: OK, please bear with me.
*Put on hold*
The House: Yes - we can manage that. What time are you thinking?
Me: OK let me confirm with my client and I'll get back on to you.
Jamie Dornan & Amelia Warner, Chapter One
Me: Can I ask what your availability for Saturday is like?
Chapter One: We're fully booked.
Me: And if it was a high-profile VIP client? I'm ringing on their behalf.
Chapter One: It's obviously a very busy day for us; who are you ringing on behalf of?
Me: It's Jamie Dornan - his movie Fifty Shades Of Grey is being released this weekend.
Chapter One: I think I'm the only person in the world who hasn't read the book! OK, let me look. Right, let's do it - we'll get him in somewhere. Is it just for two?
Me: Yes, it's for him and his wife.
Chapter One: OK we can work that out somehow.
Me: We'll ring back with the specifics if they decide to go ahead
Bono & Ali Hewson, Hugo's, Dublin
Me: Hello, I have a booking enquiry
Hugo's: For when?
Me: Saturday evening.
Hugo's: Let me check - it's going to be difficult. We have the double collision of Valentine's and the rugby. No, sadly there's nothing.
Me: Well I'm actually calling on behalf of a VIP client I represent. They'd be quite high-profile.
Hugo's: It's more a matter of table space. Who is it you're referring to?
Me: It's Bono and his wife Ali Hewson.
Hugo's: OK. It's just we don't like to keep any one couple waiting on food. We want to make sure everyone gets the same service. We aim to stagger in the numbers nice and gently. I'll have a closer look now - right, I reckon there might be an 8.30pm table?
Me: That sounds workable. I will let them know that's an option.
Hozier & Taylor Swift, Brabazon, Tankardstown, Co Meath
Me: Hi there. I am wondering if I can possibly book a table on behalf of a client.
Brabazon: And when is it for?
Me: Oh it's for this Saturday.
Brabazon: No can do, I'm afraid - we're absolutely, fully booked out.
Me: Oh that's a pity. I mean, they're a very high-profile duo that are actually just returning from the Grammys this week - they were both nominees. I don't know if there's therefore anything you can do?
Brabazon: Well, what time were they thinking?
Me: I've been asked to book an 8pm slot, but there might be a little leeway either side of that.
Brabazon: And do you mind me asking who it is?
Me: It's Hozier and Taylor Swift.
Brabazon: OK, well I'd be amazed if we couldn't fit them in! Can you call back in five?
*Five minutes later*
Me: Hello -I'm following through on that query.
Brabazon: Yes; and would you believe we have a booking!
Me: Great - I'll call back in the next hour if we're going to take it.
Victoria & David Beckham, Campagne, Kilkenny
Me: Hello. I am ringing on behalf of a client of mine and I am looking to book a table for the two of them this Saturday.
Campagne: This Saturday for two? I don't think there's anything. Let me check; no we are fully booked.
Me: Now they would be a very well-known couple internationally. They're actually flying into Dublin on Saturday from London and want to secure a great restaurant. Would the fact that they're VIPs have any sway at all?
Campagne: I just don't have a table, sadly. It doesn't exist! We treat all our guests the same, regardless. Unless they would like to book for lunch?
Me: I know they only land in Dublin around lunchtime so that wouldn't be a runner.
Campagne: OK let me look. What about a table at 5.30pm? I'd need it back for 7.30pm though.
Me: Again, I think that would be still too tight for them. Do you expect any cancellations?
Campagne: We might get a cancellation so I could take your details and call you should that arise.
Me: I think just given their profile and who they are, they'd need a definite, guaranteed booking.
Campagne: I'm really sorry then, but we're absolutely fully booked. There's just nothing I can do for you! I don't have the space.
Me: Right, well thanks anyway. We might have better luck next time.
Ronan Keating & Storm Uechtriz, Cinnamon, Ranelagh, Dublin
Me: Hello, I have a booking enquiry.
Cinnamon: Yes, for when...
*Line goes dead. I call back - different voice answers.*
Me: Hello, I was wondering if you'd have a table available for Saturday evening at 8pm?
Cinnamon: I'm not sure - no we're fully booked. Anything around that time - 7.30pm, 8pm, or 8.30pm - is always going to be very popular.
Me: Well, actually, it's on behalf of a VIP client I'm calling. I don't know if that would have any sway?
Cinnamon: Well, I'd need to look more closely at the bookings, however, we have had a cancellation so that might be workable. Can you call me back in 10 minutes?
*10 minutes later*
Me: Hi there, I was looking for an update on the 8pm booking.
Cinnamon: Yes we've managed to get you in there.
Me: Wonderful. Well I'll ring back within the hour if we're going to take it.
Brian O'Driscoll & Amy Huberman, Greenes, Cork
Me: Hello, do you have any tables for this Saturday?
Greenes: Very little - unless you wanted to eat at 5pm?
Me: I was thinking about 8pm. Anything around that time?
Greenes: No, sorry, we don't have anything for around then. There's 5pm only.
Me: Well, I'm actually calling on behalf of a client who'd be pretty well known. Do you have the capacity to look after VIPs?
Greenes: I mean, we are booked up - unless you'd like to put your name down for a cancellation.
Me: They are very high-profile now.
Greenes: Who is your client?
Me: Amy Huberman and Brian O'Driscoll - they'll be in Cork on Saturday and Greenes was recommended to me as somewhere they'd like.
Greenes: Let me check - the only thing I could do is give 9pm?
Me: OK that sounds more promising for Amy and Brian's schedule.
Greenes: That or we might well get a cancellation around their preferred 8pm.
Me: Let me relay that back to them and I'll touch base again if they're keen.