For dinner, on Friday night, we went to the Clerkenwell Dining Room. If you book via Top Table, you get a 50% reduction in the prices of the food at present, which makes it astonishingly reasonable for what we had, which was gorgeous food, charming staff and a good atmosphere.
We started with a freebie gazpacho. Oh, no, that came after the really good bread. Then El and I had tempura and Phil had pâté (there was some fois gras in there, but there was also chicken so his conscience was only moderately troubled). We all ate bits of each others’ plates throughout in a relaxed yet keen fashion. Afterwards, Phil and I both had smoked duck breast, which was served at exactly the right stage of rareness on Puy lentils with little shallots, small beetroots and pommes dauphinoise. El had slow-cooked belly of pork with scallops, served with tiny apple cubes, the pommes d. and I’m not sure what else. We shared the chocolate terrine with pistachio icecream served in a most fabulous little biscuit, sort of tuile-ish, but with a brandysnap lacyness and, praline-like, studded with chopped nuts. It was heavenly. Even though we didn’t have coffee, they brought sweets – nice little crisp sweet Melba toasty bits, tiny home-made marshmallows and rich little truffles. The bill would have been £115 including service, but the half-price offer brought it down to only £40 for all the food and £35 for the very nice bottle of wine, fizzy water and tip.
On Saturday night, we went to one of El and Phil’s current favourites and within a few minutes’ walk of their flat, in Islington’s Chapel Market. We were there early as I had a train to catch. We shared a couple of starters, had monkfish, lamb curry, Chicken Tikka, red vegetables, yellow rice, Tiger beer – really good, delicious fresh food. Again, nice staff. I’d happily go again. There was a special 60th Independence anniversary, but we weren’t quite up to all the food on it at that time of the evening. I don’t know the cost as my lovely children paid, but it was very good value, especially as, again, we’d booked with Top Table. The name, you are anxious to know, is Rooburoo.
The day was excellent. Starting with El and Phil’s splendid breakfast, which I did not help to cook as their kitchen fits two snugly. I had, however, contributed eggs. Just as we were leaving for the station, I went to fetch the half-dozen eggs that had been nestling in the kitchen — but two were missing! – Ro had had breakfast already! Nothing daunted, the Sage went and squeezed a couple of bantams and returned with two more eggs, still warm. Mm, nice.
I’m glad to say that I liked the Gormley exhibition just as much the second time round. Afterwards, I took El and Phil to see the fountain with sheets of water that trap giggling tourists. El said that I’d be a good guide, as I am so enthusiastic. Such keenness did I instil in her that she chirruped “shall we go in?” I, being a reticent type, was startled but, being a jolly type, was game. We became trapped in watery cubes and it was really quite a windy morning. I was all right, but their jeans rather soaked the water up, especially as I was let out several minutes before they were. I amused myself taking lots of photos.
Afterwards, we went to the Cartoon Museum*, which I mentioned the other day. It was fabulous, do go. It’s only been open for 18 months, doesn’t receive government funding and is a joy. I love cartoons, from Hogarth and Gilray to Searle, Addams, Scarfe, Calman, Heath Robinson, whose work is being commemorated in their current exhibition. Looking at them reminded me how the more sardonic cartoonists shaped my early life.
It seems to be largely run by volunteers, and the woman on duty was a friendly, welcoming enthusiast. The little gift shop was a joy, with lots of books of cartoons and about cartoonists, well-chosen gifts for children keen on drawing, and very amusing cards. I bought the book of the exhibition and El bought a highly amusing mug.
Afterwards, we spent a cheerful hour or so in the British Museum – the ‘or so’ part sitting people-watching: my word, there are some oddities about. Then we went back to the flat for a Nice Cup of Tea and a Sit Down (you do know this website, don’t you? I’m such a fan that I even bought the book last year. I read it in Venice) before venturing out for our Indian dinner. We hadn’t had lunch, as breakfast had lasted all day.
There were Scouts on the train from Chelmsford, which was a bit disconcerting if you didn’t know about the Jamboree. Which I didn’t. But they were cheerfully well-behaved, as you would expect of such future Establishment Pillars.
*admission is £4 for adults, not £3 as stated here. Still Value.