It’s Tuesday, and this was my last day in London. I just can’t believe the time has gone by so quickly. Then again, even with years in this city I would still be unable to claim to have seen it all. She is vast. Moreso than Vienna, she goes on and on. In Vienna most of the things I wanted to see were contained within in a small radius, but in London there are more such things, and they are spread out across a massive expanse of cityscape. And she is diverse, with people of all sizes, shapes, colors, and tongues. I don’t know if I’ve truly been to London or just moored a few nights in her shallows. In the future I may plan another trip, perhaps without any plans to go elsewhere. Even then I fear I shan’t have the time necessary.
First thing this morning when I got up was a trip to the National Museum. It is right on Trafalgar Square, and very close to where I am staying. This museum is oversized, just like the city around it, and I fear for art fatigue, so had a moment of honesty. I just don’t want to see more allegories. They make my brain hurt. Instead I decided to focus on the rooms after the 17th century, especially the Impressionists. This was definitely a wise decision, as the art was beautiful, sensual, and enjoyable.
Following this I headed to my lunch at Harwood Arms. As it turns out, they had permitted me to make a reservation at a time prior to opening of the kitchen, which, while frustrating, afforded me the opportunity to read the Times while partaking of some cider.
At the table the waitress brought bread (two varieties, including a delicious potato bread with big chunks of potato) and a bright yellow happy pat of butter. This was outstanding butter that would have fared well in the butter tasting of yore.
For my starter I was torn between the pork belly salad and the game pie. The waitress suggested the pork belly and Im happy to have listened. The salad was almost like slices of pancetta folded around a mixture of chard, anchovies, and onions, with dollops of cream (cow curds) on top. It was just a beautiful, beautiful, course. Incredible.
For my main course I had the slow cooked shoulder of lamb with black cabbage, celery, and pearl barley. The lamb was encrusted with something green. It looked like pistachio at first glance, but this isn’t right. I’m thinking it was some sort of parsley breadcrumbs. The cabbage and barley were delicious and there was a garnish of little green leaves that are probably chervil. I never use chervil. Hmm … Maybe we should have a chervil challenge. This dish was delicious mouthful after mouthful. At this point I had eaten too much so sadly skipped dessert.
I spent the afternoon visiting the Museum of British Plunder (AKA the British Museum). This museum is famous for its large Egyptian collection, its large Greek collection, and frankly just about anything from the ancient world. The Rosetta stone is impressive, but I was probably most awed by the Parthenon marbles, which are also known as the Elgin Marbles. I actually got a bit emotional here because, as a Greek American, I look at these marbles in this museum and see how out of place they are. They don’t belong here. They belong on the Parthenon, not some cold museum where people don’t even know how to pronounce “β!”
Of course, none of this irritation ruined my appetite.
Tonight for dinner I went to l’Atelier de Joel Robuchon. This is a Michelin-starred restaurant that I was really looking forward to visiting. I had the option of ordering from the theater menu but decided I really wanted to go with three small plates.
The first thing they brought was an amuse bouche. It was a shot glass of Foie Gras, port reduction, and Parmesan foam. This may be one of the best things I have ever eaten. It was creamy, salty and sweet and just frankly a revelation. I loved it.
I don’t even know how to describe the rest of what I ate. It was all great. It was all outstanding. It was some of the best I have ever eaten.
There was duck confit, which was served with a sesame candy ring on top. There were also peppers, cucumbers, and mushrooms and asparagus.
There was a langoustine fritter with pesto sauce. It was soft and buttery, with the taste of the ocean. It was just stellar.
After this came the quail stuffed with foie gras. This was served with a small pot of mashed potatoes.
These were the best mashed potatoes ever. Ever. With one exception, those being the mashed potatoes that were served on the plate itself, which were truffle mashed potatoes. They were just frankly wonderful and have possibly redefined for me what a mashed potato can and should be.
Of course tonight I absolutely could not skip dessert, which was a pistachio cream, with vanilla ice cream and pear, and the whole thing was served in a golden chocolate globe. The server poured a hot pear sauce over the top of the globe, which melted away revealing the precious delicious contents. This was so thoroughly delectable in every way, and I’m so glad I ordered it.
This was an outstanding, decadent evening. And I’m not even counting the cappuccino, the aperitif, or the three glasses of wine. *hic*
April 4, 2021
I have many thoughts about this post.
1. London has never captured my imagination, and that surprises me
2. Shan’t. I used the word “shan’t.” What was I thinking when I wrote this. Then again, the word feels pretty British, so maybe that’s OK.
3. The “butter tasting of yore” makes another appearance here. I love referencing it when I have the chance.
4. The Parthenon marbles don’t belong in The British Museum. I still believe this quite strongly, and even more so having visited Athens. The Greeks have built an ideal building to house them safely in the shadow of the Parthenon. They belong back home in Greece.
5. The potato puree was stunning. I’ve made a similar recipe since, and everybody loves them. It turns out the ratio is 2 parts potato, 1 part butter.