Friday, 13 August 2010

Generous afternoon tea at the Portrait Restaurant

Very few people know there is a restaurant at the National Portrait Gallery with roof top view. Even fewer know they serve a afternoon tea. I was treated to afternoon tea there on Friday. The place was buzzing with late tea-drinkers and early cocktail-quaffers. We settled on their classic afternoon tea set which arrived as below:

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The sandwiches were freshly made with lovely soft bread - there was a selection of egg mayo, cheese and chutney, ham and mustard and tuna paste. All very tasty. It even came with a honey-mustard dressed salad. Then there were the scones - they were twice the normal size and warm to the touch and one would feed two easily. Sitting behind the huge scones were two slices of victoria sponge cake with inch-think icing - they were soft to the touch and moist when you bite into them. All very yummy. 

Monday, 9 August 2010

Good charcuterie and burgers at Bar Boulud

When one is accustomed to so many good and interesting restaurants in Soho, Mayfair and the East End, crossing Park Lane over to Knightsbridge has always been tricky for me - where to eat, what's convenient, and who will be eating there. After a very positive experience at Koffmann's a few weeks ago, I ventured to another relatively new eatery - Bar Boulud. The charcuterie platter to share was quite wonderful - the tastes and textures were well balanced without coming across as too rustic.

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The burgers and chips turned out pretty well too. The meat was succulent. The size was not too big. One actually got a good choice of options on how the burger could be assembled. My fellow diners had the lemon sole which was fresh and well cooked. The boujoulaise sauges were pretty wholesome too. All in all, it makes a trip to this part of town much more tolerable.



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Sunday, 8 August 2010

Many fantacies at the BBC Proms

Semyon Bychkov and the National Youth Orchestra kicked start their BBC Proms concert with Dukas The Sorcerer's Apprentice. It was well put together. A good pace. There was a lot of contrast. And clearly the whole orchestra enjoyed this colourful piece.

This was followed by Julian Anderson's Fantasias (its London premiere). The first movement gave a bold and staunch start of the work - being scored for just brass instruments. The subsequent movements took the listeners to different naturalistic soundscapes. The most intriguing part was the tapping of the mouth pieces and col legno which created a "tropical rain fall" inside the Royal Albert Hall. All in all it was a delightful experience (and the audience seemed to like it too).

Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique argually was the weakest piece. Whilst the players were full of enthusiasm, the first movement took a long time to settle - passion was lacking. The subsequent movements got better. The dance and the march were tightly played. Though one could not help but feel the playing wasn't mailable enough to accommodate the sensuous score.



Saturday, 7 August 2010

An ever-unfolding Don Giovanni set at Glyndebourne


It's a new production. It's a much loved opera at Glyndebourne. Gerald Finley sang the title role.  Having seen him in lighter Mozart roles (such as Figaro) I was not entirely what to expect. He did the athletic and dashing parts of the character well,  but somehow lacked the menacing quality at the darker end of the drama. Anna Samuil's Donna Anna was ok - though I did find her voice uneven in many of the arias. Anna Virovlansky was a feisty Zerlian who partnered well with Guido Loconsolo's Masetto. Alastair Miles was held up in traffic so was only able to take part in Act II.

Jakub Hrusa conducted who did a fine job. The keyboard continuo caused
too much distraction with a lot of unnecessary page turning. Jonathan
Kent's direction was good - with lots of movements in the right places.
The best part of the production was the ever unfolding, revolving and imploding set. It started off as a rotating cube. Then it opened up into Donna Anna's house. Then it turned into Don Giovanni's palatial home. Then it folded into the balcony of Donna Elvira. And so on. Very inventive and engaging for an otherwise dark stage.