We grew up together. We hid under the kitchen table and ate slice after slice of buttered bread together. We collected tadpoles from the pond and watched them grow into frogs together. We drew endless sketches of dream wedding dresses with Disney Princess puffy sleeves and full skirts together. We swung round and round on the Hills Hoist together. We got in trouble for swinging on the Hills Hoist together. We played Peaches in Super Mario 2 together. We mastered Sonic the Hedgehog together. We turned seven years old together. We went to primary school together and sometimes ate lunch together. We hung out after school together and on the weekends we lived together. We turned our noses up at the tentacles lurking in exotic seafood soup together and gorged on Tiny Teddies together. We went to slumber parties together. We played characters from Beverly Hills 90210 in annual home movies together. We took fistfuls of after dinner mints from the Black Stump restaurant together. We played wonky piano duets together. We turned ten together. We went out in matching outfits together. We learned all the words to The Little Mermaid soundtrack and belted them out together. We fasted the 40 Hour Famine then refueled with her mum’s sublime Filipino cooking together. We wandered through the crowds at our parents’ parties together. We dreamed of being Belle and Ariel and Princess Jasmine together. We became obsessed with Michael Jackson together. We went to high school together. We took a photography class and spooled film in a dark room together. We turned 21 together. We worked together and when we hated our jobs we rallied together. We held each other close at her father’s wake and we cried together.
Twenty-five years after we first met, we catch up to eat dinner together. We’re now settling in to our 30s, one of us nursing a broken heart, one of us bursting with a full heart and a diamond ring. We talk and talk, our waitress stopping by three times before we’ve glanced at the wine list. Between breaths we order Ocean Trout Pastrami with sorrel yoghurt and pickled guindillas ($23) and BBQ Wagyu Tongue with mojo verde ($16) to start, and to share. The coral ribbons of smoky trout are plump and oily and plopped atop luxurious sorrel-flecked yoghurt that we smear across tortilla crisps. The tongue is sliced tissue-thin, skewered and crisped at the edges, then buried under a murky green heap of creamy, piquant sauce; it’s dark and intense to the trout’s light and composed – both are glorious.
We talk about old friends, those we still see and those we don’t, and I wonder what makes us draw back together so easily after time apart. She is so familiar to me – I know her smell and her skin and her hands like my own – and no matter how much we might change, those things are the same. No matter how far we’ve come since crawling out from under the kitchen table, how far we’ve travelled or how much time has passed, we’ve never really been apart.
The BBQ Carrots with almond dukkah and labne ($18) and Nomad Jersey Milk Haloumi with BBQ zucchini, pine nuts and raisins ($23) are the Vitruvian Man of mains – thoughtfully conceived, perfectly proportioned and timeless; dessert is Orange Blossom Custard with dates and dulche de leche ($14) and now tops the list of my favourite Sydney sweets.
Our dinners together are too far apart these days, but both of us understand that making an effort to be a better friend begins at the exact moment the thought occurs to you. And it occurs to each of us often. I look forward to celebrating her marriage together and one day I hope we raise our babies together. I hope we laugh over many more long dinners together. Most of all I hope our lives are always bound together.