Sunday, 18 November 2007
A London Day.......
Glorious sunshine, a hard, crisp frost, and an intensely blue sky. The four-footeds love it, and spent a deliriously happy half hour first thing in the morning running around chest-deep in the piles of autumn leaves in Kensington Gardens - much of which stayed attached to their coats and was transferred indoors in due course, to be discovered subsequently in every corner, and behind every chair. No squirrels left to chase at this time of year, but plenty of opportunity to lose yet another tennis ball (the third in a fortnight!).....
Leaving the dogs dozing contentedly in front of the fire, we then set off for Buckingham Palace - not the front door, but the side one, for another visit to the outstandingly good exhibition of the best renaissance pictures from HM's collection. Impossible to recommend it highly enough. My parents traveled up to Town for the occasion, and it was no hardship to accompany them to the gallery for a second bite at this particular cherry. Del Sarto, Giulio Romano, Titian, a particularly beautiful little Mazzolino, even a Vasari which I liked ( normally I wouldn't)......and the overall quality so spectacular that it even prompted a degree of relative sniffiness about the Parmigianinos and Corregios..Yes, it really is that good!
Thereafter, to Elizabeth Street, for lunch in the Ebury Wine Bar.
Elizabeth Street these days has become something of a second-mortgage food mecca: Jeroboams, for outrageously expensive cheese, has come to rest there (I remember when Juliet Harbutt first opened it in South Kensington in the eighties, and it was a wonderful discovery, and became a regular stopping-off point on a Saturday morning, ......), and Baker & Spice has also finished up there, having left Walton Street and spent a rather odd, but brief, period in the doldrums just off Sloane Avenue. Still staffed by braying Sloanes, doubtless.....but their puff pastry (sold uncooked, in large slabs) has always been exceptionally good. Then, a few doors down is the retail outlet for The Chocolate Society, with a quaker-ish simplicity that makes the place look like an offshoot of the WI - difficult to square it with the famously irascible Alan Porter, whose dream-child the Society initially was, and whom I remember from numerous chocolate events in various countries in the nineties. And I notice that Poilane ....which surely has to be the most expensive bread shop in the World...has now opened a shop just along from Baker & Spice. The Duchess of Devonshire used to have a shop here to sell surplus produce from the Chatsworth Estate, but I expect the rent ended up being too much for the Devonshire coffers!
And nestled amongst all this edible treasure trove is the Elizabeth Street Clinic (for four-footeds) which has quite different connotations - it was here that an earlier four-footed was rushed as an emergency case one Sunday evening, several decades ago, when, as a puppy, she'd jumped out of a third floor window in Cornwall Gardens and caused serious damage both to herself and to a Mercedes parked outside - both equally badly dented in the process.
I recall going to pick her up the next day, when she was out of surgery and clamouring to go home, and I walked her carefully along Elizabeth street, a sticking plaster rakishly adorning her forehead; even that experience didn't dim the allure of the contents of the rubbish bins, so I suspect that we were talking good quality scraps even in those days. Always a dog of great discernment, that one......
Crab-cakes, with Lime Mayonnaise
Roast Lamb (back to Italy tomorrow, so making the most of the opportunity); braised Celery
Chocolate & Hazelnut Mousse