Sunday, May 20, 2012

London - more stray thoughts and random observations

A few more stray thoughts and random observations on London.

We Indians have our collective nanny i.e. our Government allegedly headed by Dr. Manmohan Singh, whose integrity and honesty is without question. All that our nanny does is all for our good, such as for example, messing up our investment climate and allowing the Rupee to slide to Rs 54 to a Dollar, and, waffling about FDI in retail, and, changing taxes retrospectively and banning dance bars. All this is good. But this post is about London not India.

Well, in the UK the nanny likes to tell people what is good and bad for them. Apparently people drink too much in the UK. So they have formulated a huge awareness campaign telling people, sorry educating people, how much they should drink. It has been decided that a man should ideally not drink more than 3-4 units of alcohol per day. To help you know how much is a unit; the nanny has sort of dictated that all alcohol glasses should have marks showing how many units of alcohol the glass contains. A pint of Guinness contains 2.3 units. So I should not drink more than 2, better still 1 pint and a ½ pint is ideal. Ridiculous! If you are 18 you should have control of your life. No nanny required.

Harrods is a most astounding store. Originally it was a very British store, which was bought by Mohamed Al Fayed in 1985 and sold by him in 2010 to the Qatari Sovereign Fund. The store is huge and literally has everything inside. People believe the store is expensive, but I do not think so. The Queen and me have lots of free time in London and spend a lot of it buying cooking equipment, be it knives, pans and other gadgets. We do a lot of comparative shopping, wandering thru the `Kitchen’ sections of not only Harrods but Divertimenti, Selfridges, John Lewis and smaller independent stores making notes of prices. More often than not Harrods has the widest range, most knowledgeable salesmen and prices that are the same if not a tad lower than other stores. The bigger difference is that Harrods will normally not stock a cheaper brand, so you will not find an Antler suitcase at Harrods but will certainly find Samsonites and Rimowa. These suitcases cost a lot of money, but that does not make the store expensive. Anyway, the point I wanted to make before going out on a limb defending Harrods is that the brand is so strong that I often see people wanting to be photographed under the Harrods sign.

London is known for its theatre. The Musicals are very popular and people make it a point to see one when they are in London. It is a very different experience seeing a play in London. The theatres are quite imposing, the quality of acting, music and dance is high and in case it’s a musical you have a live orchestra playing in the theatre. Its big budget, it’s expensive and it’s great fun. We went to see `The Sunshine Boys’ a Neil Simon play that stars Danny DeVito. A movie version with Walter Matthau and George Burns is something old timers may recall. The theatre is located in the famous Savoy Hotel. The play was absolutely top class. This runs for only 12 weeks so if you are in London till the middle of July, do make an effort and see this play.

To continue on the theatre thyme, we went to yet another play another comedy `What The Butler Saw’ starring the hilarious Omid Djalili. This play is a farce. Not as good as Sunshine Boys.

After a most disappointing stretch of gastronomy in Dublin, we needed some charging up. What better place to do this than at the very nice Pierre Koffmann Restaurant at the Berkeley. A reservation was made at 8 pm to allow for any flight delays as we would be arriving from Dublin just a few hours before dinner. Once our telephone number was noted by the receptionist, obviously the restaurant computer threw up all our details. I have written about this in an earlier blog. Our reservation was made and we looked forward to some good food.

This was our third visit here. The restaurant was very full. We had a great meal once again. We got an Amuse Bouche of a hot Vichyssoise, which is unusual. The bread basket has the most amazing Garlic Brioche which as flaky on the outside and wonderfully soft inside.


For starters HRH the Queen had the special for the day, a Lobster Ravioli and I had the Provencal Fish Soup with Garlic Aioli. The Lobster Ravioli was fantastic, one large Ravioli absolutely stuffed full of beautifully cooked Lobster. My soup was also excellent, fragrant and tasty, yum yum. For mains HRH the Queen had Tete De Veau with Sauce Gribiche. This is a sort of Terrine made with the head of a calf with crisp fried brains. Sauce Gribice is a Mayonnaise based sauce with chopped boiled egg, Capers, Parsley, and Cornichons. It’s a classic French dish and this one was well done. I had Pied De Cochon Tante Claire which is an invention of Pierre Koffmann. Excellent.  To finish I had a Lemon Tart, once again good. An excellent meal and along with Le Gavroche this is one of our favourite restaurants in the world.

Provencal Fish Soup with Garlic Aioli

Lobster Ravioli

The amazing Pied De Cochon Tante Claire
Tete De Veau with Sauce Gribiche

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