[Pink Pig Time Machine by Wilfrid: June 11, 2010]
Fresh back from Atlantic City, it must have been work which took me to the U.K. at the turn of May/June ten years ago, but it was certainly an extended stay with some recreation time thrown in.
Arriving in London on the day flight from JFK, I had just time to visit the Coach & Horses and the French House in Soho for aperitifs before taking a late dinner at the Ivy. Marvellously, it was the time of year for gull's eggs. The Ivy always has them, and pricey they are too. Large, rich, with a slight bitterness to the yolk, you dunk them in mayo and rock salt and eat them cold, hard-boiled. Champagne goes with them as well as anything. I followed this with a comforting bollito misto and some cheeses.
I spent part of the next evening reviewing the bars and restaurants which had closed around London's West End since I'd been a resident three years before. A late supper at Orso in Covent Garden was unremarkable;. Much better, the next evening, was the tasting menu at the Lindsay House:
Foie gras with wine jelly
Smoked duck salad
Filet of red mullet, sardine purée, garnished with fried squid
Assiette de porc (cheek, brains, foot, chop, blood sausage)
Apple and mint granita
Goat cheese with red pepper coulis
Very good. Refreshment moved from Champagne via Burgundy to the strong-sweet Pacherenc of Madiran. The dinner was the work of Richard Corrigan, the Irish chef who was one of the city's great talents in the late nineteen nineties and could guide a diner from the nose to the tail of a pig before it was fashionable to do so.
West London for dinner with friends the next evening: The Chiswick restaurant, not surprisingly located in Chiswick. Cuttlefish arroz negro, then stuffed lamb's heart - a dish which is surely ready to take New York by storm - and cheese of course. A bottle of Bandol to go with the offal.
Recreation took the form of a long weekend in Liverpool. I should reveal that the northern port city has a place in my heart from the teenage days when I visited my first serious girlfriend who was at college there. Whatever one thinks of the wit and wisdom of the locals, delivered in the highly imitable Scouse accent, the architecture and setting of this once-rich, now dowdy merchant town is quite stunning. I had booked myself into a new boutique hotel, the Swan, but the train journey was miserably delayed and it was dark and raining when I arrived.
Undaunted, I trudged up to the Philharmonic pub, which has one of the most beautiful tavern interiors in the world (pink marble in the men's restroom. From there to a nearby modern bistro - something new to the city back then. 60 Hope Street was the name (and address) and I followed Bayonne ham with filet of beef accompanied by the world's best potatoes - Jersey Royals. A 1989 St Emilion was up to the occasion.
It was steeply downhill back to the hotel, which was just as well, and I made it to the Beehive for last orders. This is one of the remaining old-style city center pubs, packed with furiously smoking Scousers, ringing to the rafters with the sounds of a piano and an old-time singalong. Purportedly named for the bee-ridden wallpaper, the bar might as easily be named for the hair style most popular among its female customers. Raucous.
One of the incentives for the trip was a show by the sculptor Tony Craig at the Liverpool Tate. Located on the water-front, the Tate's rooms are blessed with gorgeous light bouncing off the grey-silver Mersey, and the Craig sculpures - "A New Thing Breathing" was the name of the exhibit - wallowed bulbously on the gallery floors.
First-class train back to town, and eel with salt and chili at The Mayflower on Shaftesbury Avenue.
London to New York next time.