The young corporate type at the adjacent table was desperately trying to catch the eye of English pop star Kim Wilde as she surveyed the majestic views of Sydney from a prime spot in Sydney's hottest new restaurant. Wilde, with her older brother Ricky and record company minder in tow, stuck out like the proverbial sore thumb. If it wasn't the denim, it was the sunglasses, which all three kept on throughout the entire meal. Very rock and roll.
Upon entering the restaurant, where ceiling-to-floor windows take advantage of the sensational top-floor position in Chifley Tower, Wilde and Ricky gasped at the view below. With a late summer's blue sky lighting up the city, they could see every landmark Sydney has to offer with sparkling clarity.
"What's that building down there?" asked Wilde, pointing towards the Botanic Gardens. "It looks like a prison or something." Eerily, she was referring to the Conservatorium of Music, where students are trained in the art of making serious music. A metaphoric jail for popsters like Wilde, perhaps.
Forty One - which occupies space once destined to be failed entrepreneur Alan Bond's Sydney penthouse apartment - has a decidedly modern, up-market feel but is also surprisingly intimate and tasteful. A sweeping staircase dominates the room. It leads to the top floor, which includes private dining rooms and a private bar. Metal sculptures decorate the main dining area and its smaller than average size precludes the usual annoying background chatter and clanking cutlery. Unfortunately, the slightly gentleman's club feel was not to Wilde's liking and, as luck had it, she picked this lunch as the time to explore her newly taken decision to be honest in all matters. But more of that later.
Wilde began lunch by enthusing over her recent tour of Australia, which went under the tag of "Teenage Rampage" and took her to regional centres like Wollongong and Newcastle as well as one Sydney show at Australia's Wonderland theme park. During her shows, she performed her catalogue of greatest hits, which dates back to 1981 when her first single, the synth-driven rocker Kids In America, became a worldwide hit.
"I never felt very secure or very confident about being on stage as a live artist. My whole career was concentrated on promotion, more geared towards television," she said. "So, instead of performing to two or three hundred or two or three thousand, I'd be doing two or three million. It all made sense on paper, but in reality it didn't do an awful lot for my confidence as a performer and I only really started to find out when I opened for Michael Jackson. That was a sink or swim situation - I had to be good, I had to do it well, otherwise it could very well have even finished off my career."
Kim and Ricky have fallen in love with Australia over multiple visits dating back to 1981 and they are both seriously thinking of buying property and spending six months a year here.
"I'm spending three weeks here on holiday after the tour," said Kim. "I'm starting in Perth, then on to Brisbane, Cairns and the rainforest. If I'm not fed up with the place by then, I'll know I'll have to buy."
With that in mind, Ricky ordered the carpaccio of kangaroo ($18 main) when the young, friendly waitress asked what we would like. Wilde considered the'roo but ordered the salad of goat's cheese ($16 main) instead, while I went for cod fillet on a bed of ratatouille ($22 main). Everyone enjoyed their meals - except Wilde. Ricky said the kangaroo was tender and tasty, although he thought the true flavour was disguised by a honey sauce. The cod was fat, tasty and tender.
"I'll be honest with you," Wilde began conspiratorially. "It has a beautiful view and ... (she paused as the waitress nearby whispered, "You should be honest with me too") ... and the service is excellent but the decor is very masculine and not to my taste at all. And the food, well, my food was supposed to be goat's cheese. In fact, it was like a creamy goat's cheese and my idea of goat's cheese is very much that it's in the round and much more French. So, I was a bit disappointed with my lunch."
With that proclamation she laughed loudly, a weight seemingly lifted from her shoulders.
"I spent a few years of my life sometimes not quite telling the truth," she admitted. "The problem is, if you start telling little lies about lunch, you end up telling big lies about really important things. If someone calls you to be honest as you've called me to, then I will be honest. If you hadn't, I would've just said it was very nice. I just think this is what my life's going to be now. I'm going to be the bitch from hell."