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Showing posts from November, 2008

Elektra at the Royal Opera

From the moment Sir Mark stood on the rostrum, I was gripped by this most powerful Greco-Wagnerian opera by Strauss. Susan Bullock was a fearful Elektra, Jane Henschel was a believably deranged Klytemnestra. Charles Edwards used the same set design but tweaked the stage direction. All worked remarkably well. I came out feeling slightly drained.

A delightful lunch at The Hand & Flowers, Marlow-on-Thames

"I have got to eat before my friend's wedding." So it was my mission to track down somewhere nice to eat before the wedding in Marlow. Upon a friend's recommendation, my fellow wedding guests and I got a table at The Hand & Flowers.

Although it looked like an ordinary pub on the outside, when you stepped in it felt more than your olde worlde public house. The tables have side plates, napkins and cutlery laid out. My glass of house merlot (I was gasping for a drink) was smooth and flavourful. The carte was a lot more exciting than the typical pub lunch menu.
I ordered the home cured sardines on chopped capers (see picture above), onions and shallots on a toasted slice of bread. The slow cooked Oxford beef (Oxfordshire being a short distance away) came with bone marrow bread pudding (yum). All very tasty. My friend's parfait of foie gras looked velvety, though his wife's red snapper soup was apparently a bit too salty. We had no time to do pudding (shame) an…

Will the swish looking Princi become the hottest thing on Wardour St?

This site on Wardour Street in Soho had seen many bars and restaurants come and go. The latest occupant is Princi, an up market Italian bakery brought to London by Alan Yau (of Hakkasan, Yauatcha fame). Natural stones, polished brass and water reflections dominate. The long communal tables (de rigeur for any Soho eatery), leather upholstered chairs and perfect lighting make this a stylish choice for a slice of cake (made from organic "00" flour) and a caffé machiato from the Italian barista (yes he is, I talked to him in Italian). They seem to have an alcohol licence - so perfect for an early evening spritz, or a late evening caffé correto.

The downside is that this is a self-service joint.  While everything is stylishly done, all eating implements are disposable. So never mind the side plate.

Mignon cannolo at Zanarini in Bologna

Right, back in Bologna. One more place worth mentioning is Zanarini. It's off the posh via Farini (though there aren't many posh shops - it appears that the Bolognese eat and don't shop). The coffee is devine and their selection of paste mignon were fantastic. Perfect any time of the day!

Gnocchi of chestnut flour at dei Paccagnella in Padova

My friends wanted to go to Basilica San Antonio in Padova. So we hopped on the Trenitalia Eurostar from Bologna. The church was a bit of a blur. The weather was miserable as it rained non stop - and thanks to the portici we weren't too drenched. We found a table at Trattoria dei Paccagnella. It's a quiet establishment with a narrow entrance - if you didn't look you would have missed it.
OK, we were no longer in Bologna, but the food was still fabulous. I pinched my friend's deep fried baby cuttle fish - every mouthful was "melt in the mouth" delicious (OK I only had one as I wasn't allowed more). My gnocchi was made of chestnut flour sitting on a bed of cream of baccala. Somehow, all the tastes really worked well together.

Velvety mousse of mortadella at Trattoria Gianni in Bologna

Bologna is featured in my copy of "52 Week-ends en Europe" (Editions Assouline), therefore, it must be doable over a weekend. That's exactly what we managed to organise  at fairly short notice. Of course, it has a lovely square (Piazza Maggiore) and one of the oldest universities in Europe. But it is also located in the Po Valley and within easy reach of Parma (raw ham), Moderna (vinegar) and loads of other places that form the food bowl of Italy. Never mind the scenery, we cut to the chase and focused on munching our
way through this perfectly sized city.Trattoria Gianni was the first
eating place we went to. It was along a dark alley way (early evening)
off Via Clavature. At 7:30pm, it was fairly empty. But after my
utterance of "siamo quottro", the waiters frowned a little, discussed a
little, and eventually decided to sit us at a table by the door. Our
scepticism was soon proved unfounded when our food arrived - a lovely
velvety mousse of mortadella (that famous s…