Friday, July 9, 2010

Gout Express!

How'd you like that brief update yesterday?
Brief huh?

Well, we had some Google related technical issues yesterday morning when trying to post the wednesday/thursday update, and rather than retype the whole thing, we went to breakfast and the Tower of London.

Wednesday was a big day of sleeping in for some much needed rest, sight seeing at the Westminster Abbey and the National Gallery, book buying on Cecil Court, and some more sight seeing and general wandering around, plus a stop at the Salisbury on St. Martin's Way, a great pub in Covent Garden.

Then we had dinner with Jamie and Megha at Angelus, a terrific neighborhood French restaurant and then we stayed up too late hanging out at their flat in Sussex Gardens, but it was a lot of fun and great to see them.

Despite the late night we were at it on time yesterday and we had a full English breakfast at the hotel and then headed out to see the Tower of London, circa 1090, which is quite old, really. We enjoyed the tour. Seeing the crown jewels and the armory is cool, but the sense of history is the most overwhelming part. You can stand in Edward Longshanks' bedroom and touch the walls in several of the prison towers with intact carvings and graffitoes from the mostly Jesuit political prisoners of the 16th century. Very impressive stuff, and it makes shithouse tennis seem a little tame by comparison.

We left the Tower in search of food, and we found more than that at the George Inn across the river, dating to the 1600s and the last remaining carriage house inn in London. The food was great, (when will I get tired of meat pies?) and the house bitter ale delicious. The courtyard is inviting and the weather has been perfect.

But, tarry not! It was time to wrap up the day of sight seeing at the British Museum, including a look at the Elgin Marbles, among other pieces pillaged from the Parthenon at various times, and the actual Rosetta Stone, no big deal.
They also had a special exhibit of Italian Renaissance drawings by many of the masters such as Michelangelo, Perugino, Verocchio, Raphael, Da Vinci, Filippo and Filippino Lippi, Mantegna, and more. These drawings were mostly preparatory drawings that showed how the artists worked out the details and composition of paintings, either in full scale, or in fragments, maybe working with the posture of an individual in a larger group, or the placement of figures in space. Very interesting. Da Vinci's Bust of a Warrior was my favorite.

Once we were sufficiently cultured, (I may come back with a monocle) we dashed back to the hotel to change and get ready for dinner at St. John, a perenially top rated "nose-to-tail" restaurant. We took a cab rather than the tube for comfort and it was worth it. London isn't hot, but there is no provision for airflow in most indoor spaces, so they are very close and stuffy, and the A/C that is available is usually pretty anemic. But, the A/C in the cab was terrific, a little taste of home.

St. John was great. It's a simple place, with white walls and black fixtures, plenty of attentive staff, and an innovative menu featuring game and uncommonly used parts of animals, like lamb neck and pig's feet. The menu included the typical disclaimers, but one unusual one, "Game and fowl may contain lead shot." It's good to know that your food was running wild recently.
I had the braised beef with trotter (pig's feet) and pickled walnuts, and Amanda had pea and ham soup and braised rabbit with garlic aioli. Both were fantastic and well paired with the bourgogne rouge I randomly selected from the wine list.
Watching me order from a hand picked French-only wine list is like watching Ron Burgundy read from a teleprompter that's been messed with.
"I'll have the bourgogne rouge?"
It's important to say it with an exaggerated upward lilt at the end and to include an imploring look at the waitress to make sure they know they have the opportunity to point out to me that I've just ordered dish soap instead of wine, but in this case it seemed to have worked out.
We finished up with a chocolate terrine and tawny port and that was nearly the end of it all. "Terrine" is apparently French for "we had a bar of chocolate and a stick of butter left over, so we melted them, blended them together, and then chilled it into a gooey slab.
If you're eating right now, no matter what it is, spit it out on the floor or couch as is appropriate, and go find some chocolate terrine. Seriously. You're wasting your time with anything else.
That's why I named this post the Gout Express. We've been eating like 19th century Oligarchs since our arrival, and gout was a real danger to those cats, so I have to assume that I'll need treatment at an alpine spa sometime soon.

Today we're off to Silverstone, assuming I can figure out the rent car, which promises to be small, right hand drive, and manual transmission. I think it should be a good game.

Also, on the cab ride to dinner last night we went through Westminster and that is a pretty posh district. To update my car nerdery, we saw 2 Bentley Continental Flying Spurs, 2 Continental GTs, an Aston DBS, a DBS convertible, 2 DB9s, a Ferrari F430, a Bentley Arnage, 2 current Rollers, an '80s Rolls, 2 Maserati Quattroportes and 1 GT, plus a litany of 911s and an M6. All this in a 20 minute cab ride. Staggering.

That's it, we're off to the north!

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