January 31, 2015

Christmas in London

Our very special Christmas started with meeting up with my dear friend Cooksister at Vivat Bacchus the night before Christmas Eve. We hadn’t seen each other in 3 years, but when I saw her through the restaurant window and our eyes met I knew that she was still that smart and beautiful friend I remembered, and always will be regardless of time and distance.

Three large glasses of Graham Beck Brut arrived quickly which we sipped on while browsing the menu. TheMan decided to go with steak, Cooksister with cod and I with a burger and triple cooked chips. To drink Warwick Estate Three Cape Ladies which was wonderful. The wines at Vivat Bacchus is one of the main reasons why I keep coming back. South African wines at its best (and hard to find in Sweden).

Champagne is a must at Christmas (and of course at any other time…) and by lunchtime on Christmas Eve I met up with another dear friend, AussieFoodie, to drink champagne. Yes, two women in their 40’s sharing a bottle of champagne right in the middle of the afternoon at one of London’s five star hotels. (A long way from the days of M&S cheap fizz…)

Christmas Eve is the big day in Sweden so when it came to picking venue for dinner that day we were quite picky. Some friends recommended the Mirror Room at Rosewood Hotel which was the perfect place. Modern and elegant but also at the same time serene and a sense of home. Very much liked by TheMan and myself.

After a glass of Perrier Jouët Grand Brut it was time for our Christmas Eve dinner

Langoustine Bisque, Roasted Fennel, Liquorice
2010 Riesling Heimbourg, Domaine Zind-Humbrecht

Foie Gras Terrine
Home-marinated Cherries in Armagnac, Brioche
2007 Reciotto della Valpolicella, Roccolo Grassi

Dover Sole, Asparagus, Winter Truffle
2011 Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Château La Nerthe

Turkey Ballotine
Mincemeat Stuffing, Cranberry Jelly
2012 Pinot Noir, Grand Cru, Hoellenberg, Allendorf

Spice Pineapple, Vanilla Cream

Manjari Chocolate, Poached Pear, Milk Ice Cream
2008 Sauvingon Blanc, Noble Sauvage, Isabel Estate

My favourite was the Foie Gras Terrine (of course) as well the Dover Sole which was perfect. To drink a white Château La Nerthe was quite special as well since we visited that Chateau La Nerthe last summer. Someone must have thought of us when matching the wines.

Walking home hand in hand close to midnight the city had closed down and we could hear the bells ringing in St Paul’s. A very special Christmas Eve for the both of us.

On Christmas Day we woke up to +12 degrees, sunshine and clear blue sky. With everything closed we did like to so many other people, we went walking. Walking for 2,5 hours in the City looking at familiar sites and landmarks. And yes TheMan got to hear quite a few stories about bars, pubs and restaurants I had visited...

When we said we were going to do Christmas in London we both agreed on that Christmas Day dinner had to be special since that’s the big day in the UK. I immediately thought of the Savoy, my favourite classic luxury hotel in London. Having seen the whole transformation from being an old and almost worn out lady being wrapped up for 3 years to becoming an elegant grand old dame, I have a soft spot for the place.

The Savoy Grill was very busy and quite crowded when we arrived at 7 pm, but a very well-organized and professional staff handled things very well. Starting out with a glass of the house champagne Ayla it was again time to dig into another feast in so many days.

Chef’s selection of canapés

Smoked Severn and Wye salmon with sour cream, buckwheat pancakes and traditional garnish

Black Angus rib of beef with Yorkshire pudding and horseradish sauce served with roast and boiled potatoes, brussels sprouts, cauliflower and broccoli gratin, honey-roast carrots and parsnips

Passion fruit sorbet

Hot chocolate fondant with malt ice cream

The Black Angus rib of beef with Yorkshire pudding was wonderful, although the Yorkshire pudding could have come out of the oven a tad bit earlier. Crispy dark brown edges aren’t exactly the perfect Yorkshire pudding… Browsing the extensive wine list we both quickly agreed on a bottle of 2009 Chateau Pibarnon. Another of the chateaus we visited this summer. A wonderful match to the beef and as well to the chocolate fondant I had for dessert.

Boxing Day was another day of walking. This time from Holborn to Mayfair and back, trying to avoid the crowds on Oxford Streets before going to the matinee of White Christmas at the refurbished Dominion Theatre. Leaving the theatre we got our own share of white Christmas, or really sleet. Finding a taxi was incredible hard so yes we got quite wet as my dinky little handbag umbrella didn’t do much help.

For dinner we had decided to go with Chinese close to the hotel, but when we arrived the place was closed, despite us having a confirmed booking. Incredible! The upside though was that the restaurant was part of a hotel and very embarrassed F&B Manager managed to get us a table at the Oxo Tower. A place I hadn’t been to in at least 10 years, but at least there was food and wine. The view was still spectacular despite the rain and darkness. Sitting next a big panorama window when the rain and wind is gushing is quite cosy actually. Duck, mash and a bottle of Pinot Noir from yet another of our favourite domaines in France – Leflaive- made the evening quite a success. And not to forget chees from Neal's Yard Dairy and a glass of 25 year old port.

You can’t come to London without having Indian and on Saturday night we went to Benares, one of very few Indian restaurants with a Michelin star. After much consideration we decided to go with the set menu with matching wines. Neither TheMan nor I think wine goes well with Indian, but looking at what wines they were matching the food with it seemed very OK. All the typical white wines that goes well with spicy food. The first dishes were a perfect match and then came the chicken. Three variations of chicken that were hot, hotter and hottest. The last piece of chicken was way too spicy and together with the wine it got even hotter. Not a very good match, and unfortunately that more or less killed our taste bulbs. The rest of the dishes, fish, lamb and dessert, were all very nice but that piece of chicken had ruined the experience. But it was indeed a fun experience, but from here on we will go with beer when having Indian food.

The sommelier at the Savoy had told us about the most exciting wine project of recent times in London, Hedonism Wine in Mayfair, which we decided to visit on Sunday afternoon. After browsing this magnificent shop for a while we got talking to one of very knowledgably sales assistants and soon we were tasting some 2008 Penfolds Yattarna and 1990 Hermitage La Chapelle. Wine to die for, but also to wait for in the cellar.

We finished the Sunday with after another British institution, tea at The Landmark Hotel. As usual you got very full from all the food and no dinner was necessary. Instead we went to see Paddington, the movie. A warm, fuzzy feel good movie even for an adult.

As usual times fly when in London and when it was time leave on Monday afternoon my heart ached as always. But London will always be there and I will come back. Again and again and again… A never-ending love affair with the city I call my second home.

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