Yes, Val’s Day. The one day in the year that means so many different things to different people. For most guys, it represents the day when ladies band together to rob them of their hard-earned cash in the name of Cupid; for women, it’s a romantic celebration of love , commitment and affection with their sweet-hearts and honey dearest. For restaurants, bakeries and flower-shops, it’s cha-ching, cha-ching – the sweet sound of the cash register. For some, it’s a depressing day that brings back bad memories of failed relationships and love lost, while still for some left-wing anti-capitalist fighters, it is another artificial, evil Hallmark holiday and a sign of what’s wrong with this world. Whatever Val’s Day means to you, we can all agree that it’s a day with a flurry of activities and much to gossip about the day after.
Since we live on the Mainland in Lagos, my husband and I decided to celebrate Val’s Day at one of the many fine restaurants on the Mainland. My husband had planned for a quiet dinner at the Sheraton Hotel restaurant, but wanting to try new places, I suggested we check out New China Restaurant at the OPIC Plaza next to the Sheraton. My husband had his reservations, but since it’s Val’s Day, I get veto power with little discussion so New China Restaurant it is. When we arrived at the restaurant, the first sign that the restaurant may not be so fine, was the blinking, flashing neon sign with bright red and blue lights and rotating chinese lanterns at the entrance.
We go down a set of stairs and arrive at a poorly arranged reception area and we were promptly given a number to wait our turn. We reviewed the menu and realized it was a set menu with no options for sit-in and a limited take-away menu that was printed with the cheapest printing option possible. Both the dine-in and take-away menus clearly and boldly stated “NO DISCOUNTS” and the sitting arrangement was completely cafeteria style. At this point, my husband gently reminded me again that it was not too late to go to the Sheraton next door. I was adamant and determined to see what New China had to offer.
To go straight to the point, the New China Restaurant Valentine’s Day special is a racket to get couples to pay N10,000 /person for a minimum of 2 people with no options; clearly, no self-respecting guy will admit to his chick that N20,000 for a basic, run-of-the-mill Chinese food is outrageous. I flatly refused to be robbed of N20,000 for special fried rice and spring rolls so I opted for take-away instead, after which the servers completely ignored us, since we were not contributing to their targets. I had to complain to the managers before we were finally granted our beef with green pepper and fried rice. Needless to say, my husband and I enjoyed a relaxing Valentine’s Day at home with take-away Chinese food, scented candles and the company of each other. He was kind enough not to say, “I told you so”.