If you’re not living in cancer land, and maybe even if you are, you might not have heard of the Willow Foundation. They are a charity that grants special days for people under 40 who have cancer. I didn’t apply to have one during my primary cancer because it felt a bit like it’d be taking it from someone worthier, but when I got diagnosed with my mets, I thought it was time to apply.
I wanted to apply for something that would not only be an awesome treat for me, but something I could surprise Jim with too. I figured it needed to be something that would be out of reach for us in everyday life, but not impossible to achieve – so, you know, meeting Jared Leto was off the table! After some thinking, I decided that a super fancy meal would be the perfect thing for us both.
My two choices once I had decided this were ‘The Fat Duck’ and ‘The Waterside Inn’ – both 3 Michelin star restaurants and both in the village of Bray in Berkshire. The Fat Duck instantly said no, but The Waterside came back with availability for a number of dates, so we were off to visit Michel Roux Jr. The amazing Willow Foundation booked us in for the Signature Experience at The Waterside which includes an overnight stay in the rooms above the hotel, dinner from the restaurant’s 7-course tasting menu, the Menu Exceptionnel, a selection of gifts and breakfast the next morning. Can you imagine a more indulgent evening?
Somehow, I managed to keep it secret from Jim until we were almost at the restaurant. No mean feat, given he was driving. He says he had his suspicions when we came off the motorway but I think he was pretty blown away by the surprise. We’d arrived midafternoon, as I’d had treatment that morning so we had to wait until after that to set off, so we only had a couple of hours to explore the area, but we decide to take a pre-dinner walk down the part of the river Thames that runs through Bray. I won’t lie and tell you that it was all an idyllic walk – at one point we ended up walking along the side of the M4 and it took way longer than anticipated, so we had to get a cab back to the hotel. But the none motorway parts were crazily beautiful.
After a dash back to the hotel, we headed out to the restaurant’s decking for a pre-dinner drink. We’d decided that as this was probably a once in a life time opportunity, we were going to make the most of it, and we opted for a glass of champagne each, and then the wine pairing menu to match the tasting menu we were going to be having. My Nannan had given us some money to put towards the wine menu, so whilst it was a huge splurge, that made it a bit easier for us to swallow. (Well, the delicious wine made it pretty easy to swallow………..) So we sat on the decking drinking our champagne, people watching the (clearly very rich groups of) other diners until it started to drizzle.
Once the rain started to appear, we headed inside to our table. Which I should say included a stool for my handbag. Yup, how posh is a restaurant when they supply you a stool for your handbag? It’s not something I’ve seen before. And then our 7, well, actually, 10 course meal started………