Have I moaned already about the stereotypical hen do? I’m sure I have. Spa breaks and brewery tours just aren’t me. So my trusty pals made food the focus of my hennery on Saturday, and the day was all the better for it.
We started with a couple of coffees at Le Pain Quotidien (annoyingly misspelled on FourSquare) on Marylebone High Street, which is definitely the easiest fun place to get to from Rickmansworth (don’t start, Watford fans). Caught up with chief collaborator Alys just by the big Methodist church – she was definitely looking more glam than I was – and met Sarah and Lucy outside LPQ. Didn’t have to wait long for a table and spent about an hour sipping from those lovely handle-less bowls they give you and very briefly looking at the paper. Virtuously rejected breakfast, although the food they do there is just lovely, so as to leave room for cheese at our next stop.
At 12.30, we mooched down the road to La Fromagerie on Moxon Street. It was already very busy, so we had time to look at the seriously #middleclass ingredients on show in the vestibule (chickpea flour, anyone?). It’s a beautiful cafe/deli with wooden benches or bar stools and a skylight over the eating area. We ordered two large plates of cheese (Spanish/Portuguese and a mixture of selected cheeses) for £13.50 each to share and two lots of bread. The highlight for me was a gorgeously fudgy blue cheese from Ireland from the selection board that looked like it ought to have grown on the inside of an abandoned coffee mug. Annoyingly, I can’t find the name of it on their website – may have been available but briefly. We had the house white to accompany. I have no idea about wine, but I’m told it was a good choice.
Our next official stop wasn’t until 4, so we went on a semi-unplanned hike through Hyde Park. There’s been so little rain that it looked a bit like an apocalyptic wasteland at the Marble Arch end. A few people sat in scattered deck chairs and one drunk lay in a state of seeming rigor mortis on the grass. We carried on walking until we finally came to a vacant bench and watched the hire bikes go by. Alys and I had seen a docking rank finished and installed by the National Gallery on Tuesday and the scheme launched on Friday. Seventeen of the things passed by in half an hour as we sat there in wonderment (this may have had something to do with there being ranks at either end of Hyde Park and a flat surface in between). Don’t think a single rider was wearing a helmet – they need to fix that somehow. Amused to see them being referred to as ‘Bojo bikes’ on Twitter recently.
We walked most of the way to the Strand to the Waldorf Hilton (3.4 miles, let me tell you) for tea. Well worth a visit. £8.50 for a cream tea, which Sarah, Alys and I had. Lucy had a little strawberry tart instead. We had the old cream then jam or jam then cream debate. Personally, I definitely do cream, then jam. I think it’s because cream will go flat, but jam won’t, so it has to go on the top. It’s a visual thing. We also enjoyed the pianist just outside the door (known as Plinky-Plinky Man 1).
Had a wander back up to Soho via Covent Garden after tea, where we saw the best use of a Bojo bike so far. The first half hour is free, so an anonymous gentleman had borrowed one and was doing wheelies up and down the road. Well, why not?
Having popped into the Chandos for a cherry beer, we met up with my mother, her friend and two more friends for dinner at Kettner‘s in Soho, which is supposed to be where Oscar Wilde was arrested. There are plenty of upstairs private dining rooms (which we didn’t eat in, but saw a great deal of as we wandered about trying to find the loos).
This is my starter – scallops with risotto nero (Nero is Etruscan for black, as you know if you’ve read ‘I, Claudius’. ‘Caffe Nero’ is much cleverer if you know that, too). Lovely scallops. Risotto…well, risotto-like. There was a definite emphasis on both savoury and sweet tarts. The salmon and spinach one I had for my main course was very nice. It came with a little bit of potato salad and some salad leaves. What was noticeable, however, was that my mother had the same as her starter and they didn’t differ particularly in terms of size. Clearly they were trying to help me get into my dress. Nonetheless, the atmosphere of the restaurant was very pleasant (Plinky-Plinky Man 2) and the service generally good, other than a small misunderstanding over a ‘blue’ steak. Prices weren’t bad, either. Starters ranged from about a fiver to £7.50 and mains from £11 to £19. Not bad for central London.
Naturally, after that we did a wild crawl of all of Soho’s cocktail bars and stayed out clubbing until dawn. Just joking. We went home.