Posh dinners and London theatre

This evening,  I went to see Kevin Spacey in Richard III at the Old Vic. The staging was impressive, the analogies with modern day dictators cleverly done if not particularly original, but the acting was uninspired. Spacey had moments of brilliance, but he was not malevolent enough, and since we had gone for the cheap seats, it was also obvious he did not quite have the voice projection of an RSC actor. On occasion his delivery was a little bit “tum-ti-tum” as well, placing emphasis on the third syllable like a metronome . He is an incredible screen actor, but can’t seem to put the character across. There is a cleverly done section set up like an American evangelical political rally, which involves seeing Spacey on a screen, and he is transformed.

Some of his American colleagues were dire, in particular the person playing the Duke of Richmond, who was so wooden he made Keanu Reeves seem talented. Overall, I can’t say I enjoyed the evening, partly because spending over 3 hours on tiny seats with no armrests, in a completely packed auditorium with no air conditioning, is very uncomfortable. Watch the 1950s film version with Laurence Olivier instead, or the 1990s version with Ian Mckellen.

After last week’s camping sojourn, this week has involved some classic city pleasures of living in London. Thursday was the day my booking at Heston Blumenthal‘s Dinner in the Mandarin Oriental finally came around. It’s a new venture of his that focuses on very old English recipes, but produced using his trademark precision cooking techniques. I booked the table about three months ago, ridiculously. We arrived slightly early, and waited in the oddly cramped and dingy hotel bar for our table to be ready. The Mandarin Oriental  could certainly do with a bit of renovation; I can only assume that the burgundy coloured marble pillars everywhere are listed, as I can’t think of any other reason to retain them.

Earlier in the day, my sister had sent me the link to the gourmet chick blog, which describes the whole meal better than I can, and has rather better photos than I do, but I’ll do a quick rundown of what I ordered. I went for the much-lauded “meat fruit”, which is indeed very clever – chicken liver pate inside a completely rounded orange jelly, with the exact consistency of orange skin.

The veal sweetbreads I had for the main course tasted sublime, and were particularly well complemented by some sort of pickled mushroom.

I picked the tipsy cake for dessert, which everyone seems to rave about but was actually a rather ordinary sponge with a bit of roasted pineapple – not that special. My sister had a pastry with sage and mint ice cream, which was lovely. The total bill for two was £224, and that was where things went a little wrong. They added an extra dessert to the bill, but then disappeared for about 20 minutes, so by the time we had got them to correct it, and finally take the payment, it was so late that we missed the last tube home, which was pretty irritating. When I’m paying that much money, I expect everything to go smoothly. Perhaps they were just irritated that I had sent back the Americano (I had asked for a filter coffee, and I know it’s a bit fussy, but they are very different drinks).

On Friday I got all dressed up and went out bar-hopping with a friend; went to XO in Belsize Park, the London Cocktail club on Charlotte Street, and the Sanderson hotel bar. It was a fairly amusing evening, not least because when we walked into the Sanderson (after a little bit of sweet-talking the doorman about the fact it was actually guests only after midnight), a man in a poorly fitting suit walked up to us and asked us if we were the “new girls”. It took me a while to figure out what he meant; it only became entirely obvious when he clocked our completely blank looks, said “Ah, I’m so sorry, I’ve made a mistake. Enjoy your evening”, and scuttled off. I’m fairly sure half the girls in there are prostitutes, but since we were both wearing jeans and fairly ordinary tops, I’m not entirely sure what made him think we were.

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