London: Day Four, Weds Aug 17
Another great night’s sleep. One of the surprising lessons of this trip is that it’s nice to plan a lot of down time. We set up generally just one excursion each day. I think this might be the wave of the future.
I rolled out of bed at about 7:30am. I ran out and got coffee and muffins for breakfast. We ate, showered, dressed, and got on the train to the Houses of Parliament for our 10:15am guided tour.
Neither of us had been there before and it was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. What an incredible building, some of the rooms very opulent and impressive. Our guide was amazing, she really made the nearly thousand years of English history come alive. We were only allowed to take pictures in one room, the entrance hallway. It was built in 1066 so guess some flash photography won't do it any harm.
We had lunch in their café - - Richard had a chicken and bacon sandwich with a can of seltzer, I had a BLT with a can of Diet Coke. We split a bag of cheddar potato chips.
We walked around that neighborhood looking for a bank. Richard had 80 pounds in 20 pound notes from our last visit and they were the old style and could no longer be used to pay for things. We had to find an actual bank to trade them for the new style. We got that done at Barclays and got on the train to go back to the hotel.
The usual: a little TV, a little nap. We left at 4:45pm for a 5:45pm reservation at Firebird, a new restaurant in Soho. A few of my coworkers had just been in London for an event and one of them sent me some restaurant recommendations. This one caught my eye - - she described it as a new place that had delicious food and wasn’t “too sceney.” Totally my jam. We made a reservation a few weeks before. That early 5:45pm time was the last they had until after 8pm. They had just opened two months before so clearly they were developing a following.
We had a wonderful dinner there. It’s a sleek, chic room, with cement walls, wooden tables, and lovely lighting. We each had a cocktail: Richard had a gin and tonic and I had an elderflower cocktail, both perfect for a summer evening. We opened with three starters: first, something that was described as “corn ribs.” What the hell is that? They were grilled sections of corn on the cob. It appears that they grilled a cob of corn then stood it on its end and cut it in half, then cut it in half again in the same direction, then cut it into six-inch segments. It was very tasty, a little spicy, unusual and fun. This picture is a little blurry but it's better than nothing...?
Next, grilled broccolini. Richard is crazy for broccoli so I knew he would be into this. I was right. And last, grilled peaches with prosciutto and gooey ricotta. The word that came to mind was “willing.” A strange word to use when it comes to food, but do you get the general idea…?
Richard’s main course was grilled eggplant (which they call “aubergine” over here), served with spiced chickpea stew and vegan yogurt. Wonderfully spiced, very good. I had the glazed pork belly, served with potato salad and plum ketchup. The pork was perfect - - tender, juicy, slightly charred on the outside, dreamy. The plum ketchup was a nice idea. The potato salad was out of this world: delicately seasoned, the potatoes were perfectly cooked, it was something else.
We asked to see the dessert menu but their options didn’t really turn our crank so we went back to our neighborhood and got some gelato at a shop on our street. Richard had vanilla in a cone, I had four small scoops (chocolate, strawberry, hazelnut, and caramel) in a dish. Oh so good.
Back to the hotel. We watched an interesting but rather dry BBC special about Hitler’s bodyguards, then a more fluffy and amusing program about business at Heathrow for the Queen’s Jubilee earlier in the summer.