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Posts Tagged ‘Fortnum and Mason’

Somerset House photo credit: Jan van der Crabben

A couple of weeks ago we dashed up to the Big Smoke on a sunny Saturday to catch the last weekend of the Courtauld Institute’s Cezanne exhibition – which was stunning, btw.  And what a stunning day all round: Somerset House itself; at the far eastern end of The Strand, children frolicking under its courtyard fountains in the autumn sunshine and the chiaroscuro effect of the afternoon light on the Neo-classical quadrangle’s façades filled me with a sense of satisfaction and contentment normally only induced by a lazy luncheon with a glass of wine. Or two.

My delight had much to do with having sourced our train ride snack from the countertop cornucopia of Carluccio’s caffè.  A can of San Pellegrino Limonata for me: sharp, tart and truly lemony; very grown up and tasting nothing like pop, and a tinny of Peroni birra for he. Mine came with a foil cover to keep the sipping hole clean, which doubled up nicely as a micro-plate for our delectable little savoury biscuits: one each of parmesan/herb and walnut/rosemary flavours. Mmm – crisp and crumbly with the quality of their ingredients resonating on the palate: not much more than a morsel per piece yet intensely satisfying.

I do hope the delightful Antonio is feeling better after his recent knife mishap.  His erudite books and television works are informative and entertaining, and although he is no longer involved with the caffè chain which bears his name, it’s still a civilized pleasure to stop by and shop.  Best wishes for your recovery, Mr Carluccio!

We visited another bastion of civilization that day – the ever-urbane Fortnum and Mason on Piccadilly.  A lunch date elsewhere meant foregoing the joys of the 1707 cellar wine bar, but who wants to be underground on a beautiful day anyway?  I did discover, however, what the deli counter does with the leftover fat from their Pata Negra Gran Reserva ham – they send it to the kitchen, clever devils.  I was hoping to acquire it cheaply for my own devices but at F&M they’re not fools.  Instead I came home with a goodly package of saffron  – saffron indeed – salami, and a very goodly thing it turned out to be: resembling more a lomo than a salami – no casing, the meat wasn’t chopped and fat evident only in the marbling – but all the more enjoyable for it, especially at just £3 for 100g.

 The saffron-gilded edge was beautiful to behold and its flavour subtly enhanced the top notch pork flesh.  I wish I could say more about this product but there was no information on the label and my server, although charmingly helpful, knew as much as I of its provenance.  The mystery remains…anyone out there know?

 

Courtauld Gallery

Somerset House map

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A fine lunch en route to the Royal Academy exhibition; we tried a wine flight each and loved the experience.  I had read about such things but this was my first time – really enjoyable. Each flight comes as a carousel of 3 different wines, themed by style/grape/provenance, with a view to savouring their similarities and contrasts.

wine flight, bread
Now that’s my kind of edification – check out the March and June menus for an idea of the options.

The quality of the wines and the food was exemplary; everything was delicious and served both graciously and at optimum temperature: Mr T chose oysters and an Alsace flight, taking great glee in the unbidden yet generous bread and butter; I enjoyed a generous helping of potted shrimp with my selection of rosés.

As the wine worked its magic we sank back to enjoy the subtly beautiful decor by David Collins Studio: hand-blown glass pendants in the form of illuminated cocoons, walls wood-panelled horizontally to resemble the interior of a wine case, mosaic-tiled floor and the stunning backdrop to the square bar, an air-conditioned, glass-walled cube lined with wine bottles and LED light strips – a space-age virtual wine cellar.

Tableware too, was a delight.  I was especially taken with my water glass (possibly from the Riedel “O” range – so light! so ergonomic!) and liked the olive-wood bread board, our wine glasses, cutlery.  I suspect there was even some slate underpinning.

Service was comme il faut, even down to the slightest chill and I’d rather have that than some pup calling me “dear” any day…

Fortnum & Mason 1707 Wine Bar
181 Piccadilly London, W1A 1ER
+44 (0)20 7734 8040
nearest tube station: Piccadilly Circus, Green Park

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