Sunday, July 25, 2010

Lunch at the Bingham

A warm, late-July Sunday, in London, and the chance for a leisurely wander  - followed by lunch, on the banks of the Thames.  What better spot to choose than ravishing Richmond.  After an hour's serene - but brisk - walk through the park, I arrived at the pretty gardens of the Bingham Hotel - right on the towpath.  The place was abuzz - with a lively wedding reception, enjoying their pre-meal drinks - as I made my way up to the cooly elegant silver and grey themed bar.

I relaxed, with a refreshingly chilled glass of water and the Sunday papers, before my companion arrived for our late lunch (tables can be booked until 4pm).  As we'd pre-requested, we were able to get a table on the narrow terrace - with lovely views onto the gardens and the Thames.

We made our choice from the set menu, at £38 for 3 courses, devised and prepared by Michelin-starred chef, Shay Cooper.  The gustatory delights commenced with slices of deliciously fresh, home-made seed bread accompanied by their own square marble slab - featuring a generous pat of butter.

I chose the organic salmon appetiser, marinated in orange juice and coriander, lightly cooked - so it was optimally moist, served with grated fresh ginger, raw courgette micro-cubes and fabulous shredded squid.  It tasted at least a good as the presentation promised.  The restrained portion size didn't ruin my appetite for the main course.

My companion opted for the intriguing cauliflower risotto with a lobster jelly crown, decorated with slender, fried cauliflower shavings.  Also pronounced as good as it looked.
For my main, I continued down the fishy path with lemon sole - succulent and as light as I had hoped. The highlight was the delicious razor clam - slivered - served with a miniature tomato-and-herb salad.

We concluded - on a sweet note - with perfect black coffee and rich petits fours - presented on a bed of crushed cocoa nibs. The truffles, on the far right, ultra-high in cocoa solids, encompassed a surprisingly herbaceous interior of fresh mint.
The experience was understatedly professional throughout. Recommended as a fabulous (mildly indulgent) treat!

Monday, July 19, 2010

La Bete is a Beauty

If you're looking for a couple of hours of hilarity and clever wordplay - with an excellent cast - then Panton Street's petite Comedy Theatre is the place to be.

David Hirson's two act piece - inspired by 17th century French playwright Moliere's time spent with his troupe in Pezenas - opens with David Hyde Pierce's Elomire (get it?) eloquently bemoaning the company he has been subjected to at dinner.  Enter the troubador in question. Valere loves the sound of his own voice - and relishes the airing of his every thought process - to such a degree, that there is no breathing space for anyone else to get a word in edge-ways (or via any other means).

Mark Rylance is an unkempt powerhouse of mischief and mayhem. Belching and spitting his way (best not sit in the front row) - seamlessly - through a lengthy (but completely entertaining and engrossing) ramble of flowing, rhyming couplets.  His Valere finds the term 'words' so "boring" that he has coined his own expression: 'verbobos', instead.  And redolently verbose indeed he is. Extraordinarily so.  One can't help but marvel at how he maintains his explosive energy level.  Just as well (for him) that the piece has a short run (until September 4th) before moving to Broadway.

Joanna Lumley's Princess-patronne has long red hair and the temperament to accompany it.  Greta Lee's housemaid Dorine is amusingly curious and quirky.  Fans of Frasier won't be disappointed at the clipped, self-righteous irritation displayed by Hyde Pierce.

The interval-free performance must be a joy for the cast, as they - along with the audience - are free to continue their evening from 9.20pm.  I can't help wondering if outrageously versatile, and ridiculously talented, Mark Rylance needs to crumple into a heap, after his exertions, or whether he has to find an outlet to continue burning-off his giddy exuberance.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Night on the Tiles

On a recent evening visit to Hampton Court Palace, I couldn't help but admire the dusky hues of the gracefully-ageing paving tiles, in a courtyard leading to the Privy Gardens.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Blue Sky Thinking

You won't hear many complaints, from me, about the beauteous weather we've been enjoying in sunny London town.  I love a warm day, with a sunny blue-hued sky, and even enjoy gazing at the occasional cuddly cloud or two.  So, I've been relishing lots of long riverside walks and hilly rambles in the park - bliss!

Admittedly, it's not too conducive to spending much time slaving over a hot stove.   Light(ish) food is the order of the day and I'd been keenly waiting to try the new product (below) when I learned that it was about to appear on British shelves.  Although I'm not the greatest egg fan, I do enjoy a hard-boiled example, in a Salade Nicoise, and - for something a little more indulgent - an occasional frittata can be a delight.  Two Chicks is a carton of 15 pasteurised egg whites - now available in the chill-section of many UK supermarkets.  At £2.89, it offers decent value.

Nutritionally-sound, it's high in protein, low-calorie, fat and cholesterol-free - the ideal post work-out, muscle replenishing, re-fuel.  The carton keeps in the fridge for up to seven days, once opened; it provides ample supplies for several generous omelettes or light, hot-weather frittatas.  I created mine in a non-stick pan (lubricated with a little olive oil), adding some pre-cooked leaf spinach, enhanced with fresh grated nutmeg, salt and pepper, and a touch of tomato purée, on the side.  Adapt the idea to include your preferred vegetables such as peppers, mushrooms or tomatoes; lovely with your favourite salad leaves and a (slightly) indulgent chilled glass of refreshing sauvignon blanc.

I remained within savoury realms, while trying the product, but you can let your imagination run-riot and create meringues, pavlovas and soufflés, if you're that way inclined...

I indulged my sweeter side with another product I'd been looking forward to tasting.   The vogue for sea salt caramel, in the chocolatier world, has led to Lindt producing a dark chocolate tantalisingly embellished with a sprinkling of sea salt.  The 100g bar contains 47% cocoa solids (not as high as I normally like); with the salty 'kick' more pronounced than I had anticipated.  It makes for a successful marriage, enhancing the richness of the cocoa and offering a taste of the unexpected.  At 510 calories per bar, a couple of pieces make a perfect post-meal sweet treat or mini snack boost.