I had a moment yesterday evening where I was channeling Hanibal, BA Baracas, Murdoch, Face and the A-team gang. Incongruously, that signature phrase came to mind at the moment when I took my seat at an intimate, corner table at Gramercy Tavern. “I love it when a plan comes together!”

Weeks, truthfully, months of planning for a certain bithday had culminated beautifully in this moment, but it had not been smooth sailing.

There was the virtual jostling for tickets to see John Patrick Shanley’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Doubt. As well as the gentle art of pursuading the birthday celebrant not to independently make for the ticket office. Mission accomplished.

Not so easy the dinner reservation.

Many people express sympathy for those whose birthdays fall close to Christmas. Those sentiments normally conceive of the child feeling cheated by an economising number of combo gifts from family and friends that neatly reduce birthday and Christmas into a single package.

But few give a thought to the imapct such birthdays have on the adult. Most particularly the adult trying to book a table for dinner the week before Christmas in New York.

Now there’s nothing unusual about this tale — only that I can now count my well earned stripes of having gone into the reservations fray and emerged well fed. But it did involve intricate timing (does the restaurant have a calendar month ahead or a 30-day ahead booking policy?), strategy (do they have a special reservation line and would they feel partial to sharing it with me?) and the ability to multi-task (yes you do need to be able to simultaneously handle two phones and an online booking form).

As last night’s blissful dining results bore testimony — there is good reason why Gramercy Tavern remains the city’s most popular restaurant in seeming perpetuity. The food is so good that at times, it required closed eyes. A magic combination of professional customer service, heavenly food, inventive wine pairings and the “little touches” — like the sample of an ’82 Chateau Lafite Rothschild (one of Robert parker’s few 100 pointers) and the complimentary copy of the 2006 Zagat’s guide to New York restaurants.

The result? One beaming birthday boy, one fulfilled birthday planner and two hearty endorsements to take the “trouble of getting a reservation” (Zagat’s) and hasten to a guaranteed heavenly experience.



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