There had been the idea that my birthday dinner could be in a Russian restaurant, a consequence of my recent familiarity with and interest in the cuisine which features in my current storytelling endeavour set in Abkhazia on the eastern shore of the Black Sea. The menu on the website of Malachit allowed me to start thinking of Borscht followed by Chicken Kiev and washed down with premium vodka and recalling my enjoyment of such meals in Montparnasse at Dominique. But the Paris establishment closed in 2006 and none of the two or three Russian restaurants in Munich seems to have survived.
Jessi and her mother were quick to come up with a ‘Plan B’ which would be, I was told, a surprise. It would be implemented following drinks and the unpacking of gifts at my flat. With Tino making us a group of four it was rather cramped but the bubbly was lovely, ‘Happy Birthday’ was sung almost in tune and the presents were delightful. Tino was moved to note the fact that Jessi and I have very similar profiles!
Eventually and in style (a Car2Go Mercedes) we made our way out of Schwabing and it was when we crossed the River Isar that I began to have an inkling of our destination. The drive took me past addresses which had been home in the long-ago 1980s, when one of our favourite restaurants had been La Cambusa. Then the Italian ‘galley’ was already an institution, having opened in 1969 when the prize-winning ‘mid-century modern’ Cosimapark neighbourhood took shape on what had been hitherto farming land.
In 1970 Mickey, just entering her teens, had lived with her mother in one of the closest residential blocks and La Cambusa was their canteen. Unsurprising then, that on my birthday I was prompted to reflect on the passage of time. No surprise, either, that Jessi’s first ever visit to a restaurant should have been to La Cambusa! Little did we suspect then that our baby would one day be flashing her plastic to pay for our lovely dinner yesterday evening.
Over the years the restaurant has grown larger and been re-decorated tastefully. Unchanged, however, are many of the personnel. I do believe there was a tear in my eye when I was embraced by Maria on entering again, for the first time in many, many years.
And I love oysters!