Saturday, August 20, 2005

A day in London

A quick trip to the National Portrait Gallery to see a fantastic exhibition, ……….. The World’s most Photographed…..incredible pictures of Hitler. Then quickly nipped round to the National Gallery to have a look at the Turners and few of my other favourites…unfortunately Stubbs’ Whistlejacket was hung in another exhibition but I did find another picture that kept me still for a good 20 minutes….I am not a religious person at all and so it was not the religious aspect of this painting that gripped me…it was the incredible blue of the cloth and the way that the shadows fall across her face.

The Virgin in Prayer

Lunch with the blue-eyed boy, in London on a flying visit from Hong Kong…it made me think about the life that I seems the older I get and the longer I live outside of the UK the more likely it is to meet friends in any city or any country…often one in which neither of us live….it’s wonderful and yet quite unsettling...I wandered around London afterwards feeling a little disjointed!

Not so wonderful has been my brush with food in the UK. I have long been a supporter of the food culture/scene in the UK and have defended the chefs, restaurants, ingredients and final product in some fairly heated arguments – usually with either French, Australian or Kiwi Chefs…..and I believed I was right,….however, this visit has rather dented my support….food has not been great, service has been appalling (no real surprise there) …it worries me that tourists come to the UK and are subjected to such awful food….not too sure what has happened as previous visits have always produced some great meals.

Two cases to show my point…both including scones (that British staple…if we can’t get it right…then who will)….the first in Tunbridge Wells (or Royal Tunbridge Wells if you are being pedantic). Early morning coffee in the Pantiles…scones served…as the plate was put down the waitress said “Don’t worry about the brown colour, we didn’t use brown flour…it’s just they mixed it wrong with the fruit”….charming! So we tasted them….taste was average, consistency was like a damp sponge and to make matters worse they had been microwaved so the spongey consistency had been made worse and then they dried out to a crisp. To add insult to injury they were served with butter…no cream and no jam! In all fairness, judging by the state of the slice of chocolate cake that my mother demanded to see before she ordered it…the scones were probably the best bet!!

Second ‘scone’ test….at the café at Dickens & Jones on Regent Street…scones arrived…again microwaved…this time…one was the consistency of something that could be used to shore up Tower Bridge if it were ever necessary….and the other could have been used to wash dishes with…another sponge…however, on the plus side they were served with clotted cream and jam….you may think that choosing a department store café as a place to critique scones is not fair…however, this café is under the patronage of none other than Albert Roux….now I worked with AR quite a few years back and unless he has dramatically dropped his standards I can’t imagine that he would be happy with what is being served in his name! When we originally ordered we wanted the tea set with the finger sandwiches…apparently the finger sandwiches were ‘off’!!!!Anyway….the research will continue.

I would like to point out that my comments on the food being terrible are not only based on two sittings of scones but on various other lunch and dinner experiences.

Two of the things that I love about London….the buses…nothing beats sitting up on the top deck of a London bus driving past Buck House, Houses of Parliament, down Whitehall, along the Thames…giving Tony a quick wave at Downing Street…it really is the only way to see London….Second thing…London Cabbies…they all have an opinion on everything…great example yesterday….in a cab, listening to the news.,..after every headline was read out the cabbie made some comment and launched into his ‘soapbox’ spiel….just brilliant!!

London is very quiet at the moment….granted it is one of the quieter months as everyone is on holiday….but there seem to be so few tourists….speaking to those in the travel trade…there are less tourists, less arrivals and less British tourists….it seems the events of 7th July are going to be felt for a while. I caught the Tube yesterday…..3 people in my carriage….never in all my life have I seen the tube that quiet.

So I am at present wending my way back to Sussex, using what I would consider is a vastly improved train service…nice new (and clean) trains, comfortable chairs, on board tea and coffee and most importantly trains that seem to leave and arrive on time!!

A few pictures….

Interesting things you can buy in Tunbridge Wells....

The Pantiles in Tunbridge Wells

Looking over to Canary Wharf

And finally....this picture of a building plaque in the City, sums up London's incredible history....


Blogger HKMacs said...

My neck of the woods. Pembury - about 3 miles west.

1:47 pm  

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