Monday 16 February 2009
And about equally balanced between the cerebral and the calorific. If the ‘Beyond Babylon’ exhibition at The British Museum were to be understood in culinary terms, though, I think it would probably be a British Rail sandwich: more effort spent on the packaging than on the content, which turned out to be thin, tired, unimaginative, and entirely lacking in nutritional value. Perhaps when Neil Macgregor has finished churning out the series of intellectually-bereft extravaganzas with which he seems determined to burden the BM (and for which he was previously responsible during his stint at the National Gallery) he should consider a move to head up British Rail Catering. At least that way I’d be unlikely to trip over any more of his dreary and deeply depressing output.
The Palladio exhibition at the RA, on the other hand, would be a splendid Game Pie: four-square, robust, absorbing, and with a range of wonderful flavours contained within it. Deeply satisfying. Not much that was unfamiliar, but like a substantial slice of something one hasn’t tasted for a while, all the more rewarding in re-discovery!
And after that, an afternoon spent wandering the galleries of the Wallace Collection can surely only be compared with the myriad delights of an over-enthusiastic dessert trolley. In amongst the fruit salad, and the things with pink icing, and the garishly glazed strawberry tarts – to please the palates of the timid and the human young, respectively – the glories of a perfect Millefeuille, or a Paris-Brest, or a Pear poached in Sauternes! In the words of Noel Coward: “Gainsboroughs… and Lawrences…and some sporting prints of Aunt Florence’s…(some of which, were rather rude!)”
When we were finally ejected into the street, at closing time, it was with a sense of having been very well fed indeed.
In between times, the calorific intake included a celebration dinner at The Ambassadors in Exmouth Market - the Brancolis-in-London were marking one of their ‘zero’ birthdays with a Grand Dinner - which of course entailed a lateness of hour and quantity of consumption that was entirely out of kilter with the age that was being celebrated! (But then, isn’t that nearly always the case? I recall once catering a ninetieth birthday in Dr Johnson’s House, in Gough Square, where the steepness of the stairs combined with too many cups of tea meant that many of the guests – once they’d made a trip to the loo – found it easier to go home than to contemplate tackling the stairs up to the first floor once more!)
Egg-white Cheese Soufflé
Double-roast Lamb Shanks in Red Wine; Parsnip purée (with Sherry & Walnuts)
Tartes aux Pommes