Beren (beren_writes) wrote,

My weekend was amazing!

Rob and I headed up to London on Friday for a long weekend to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary and we had a wonderful time. Please bear with me while I squee about everything :).

We were staying in the Hilton Double Tree on Southampton Row thanks to Rob's Avios and the first thing that happened is we checked in and they gave us warm cookies and a room upgrade. How is this not a great way to start off a stay?

The hotel is perfect for the theatres, the British museum and Forbidden Planet, which is why we picked it.

We immediately headed out to the British museum, which was a ten minute walk (for me, for everyone else it's probably five mins, I'm just really slow). Armed with an audio tour we headed round the Egyptian section, the Elgin Marbles and the Enlightenment room. It's amazing to see so many wonderful things so close up. The Elgin Marbles were simply stunning and I think may be the best part of the audio tour as well. We were there for about three hours.

After heading back to the hotel we decided to go out for dinner after checking out the restaurant and not being too sure. We went to a little Italian place called Il Fornello, which was at 150 Southampton Row, so a few doors down from the hotel. Oh my word! It's not a huge amount to look at and the crockery looks a bit like school dinner crockery, but the food, oh, heavens, it was wonderful. One of my favs is gnocchi with Gorgonzola sauce and so I had to order it. It was literally the best gnocchi I had ever eaten, light, fluffy and so tasty. They also had a traditional desert trolley and the portions were more than generous.

Okay, so after this delightful meal we headed off to the Criterion theatre for Stories Before Bedtime at 10:30 and because of all the food we decided to walk. Took us 40 mins, but again, I'm not very fast at the whole walking thing so cut some time off that for normal people. There we were given a free G&T (with cucumber??!!!) and met up with some familiar faces before herding in to sit down.

Russell Tovey and Sarah Solemani were brilliant doing Ovid's Art of Love. So, so, so funny and their timing was brilliant. They started everything off and launched the evening wonderfully. Then we had Niamh Cusack reading a very purple version of Beauty and the Beast and I have to say I was not overly impressed. I'm not sure if it was the delivery or simply the material, but when I found myself thinking 'oh god, she has at least four pages left' I realise I was not enamoured.

Then Russell and Sarah came back to do another part of their Ovid adaption, which was brilliant again.

Then the reason the majority of us were there, Tom Hiddleston. They brought him on in sillouette and he sat on the end of the bed that was on stage. Then the lights came up and, oh mama, my brain just went nghhhhhhhhh for a while. He was in a white vest, blue overalls, arms tied around his waist and fake dirt in various places. He has the most amazing shoulders, trust me on this, I may have been rather focused for a while. Then he opened his mouth and out came the most amazing voice with an incredible Southern US accent to go with the outfit. I have no idea if the accent was accurate, but I can say it was amazingly sexy. Then he talked about sex (Tennessee Williams - Kingdom of Earth) and it was simply brilliant.

Tom Hiddleston has now been moved into my set of dream actors for the perfect play. The line up is very exclusive, it includes Patrick Stewart, David Tennant, James McAvoy, Helen Mirren and now Tom Hiddleston. No idea what play they could do, but, wow it would be good.

So that was Friday and what a brilliant way to start off the weekend.

So onto Saturday, which started off with a very nice breakfast in the hotel and then we arrived at the British Museum shortly after it opened. We found some parts of the museum that Rob hadn't seen before, which since he has been twice not so long ago was quite something :). We did a little shopping and bought stuff for the parental units and Soph inside the museum and then tried to find Wagamamas. This is not as easy as it sounds because it's in a side road and underground. However, we did eventually make it and had Katsu curry and plum wine (very nice).

Then we found that Forbidden Planet was over the road from the Shaftesbury theatre and so dived in before the matinee of Rock of Ages. That shop is like a candy store for a chocoholic who has been imprisoned with only bread and water for months. I feel very proud that I only came out with two books.

Then we went to see Rock of Ages the musical. It was brilliant, so funny and the music is just amazing. The band is magnificent and the actors can sing like you would not believe, especially the chap playing Drew (the hero). It is an excuse to string together as many 80s rock hits at possible, but the humour is spot on and the cast are superb. When we sat down this nice lady gave us these odd shaped little plastic things and then all became clear as she showed us how they lit up. They were soft plastic fake lighters with an LED in them - for waving in the air in the slow songs :). Knew I was going to like it from that moment on.

There is a narrator character Lonny who is also part of the action and our Lonny was not played by the chap in the program, but he was fantastic. So was Justin Lee Colins and the chap playing Drew and the lass playing Sherrie and well everyone. I absolutely loved Franz, who is occasionally in the first half, but has so much more to do in the second and he was simply superb. "I'm not gay, I'm just German." When he ripped all his clothes off and was in a blue onesie, what was not to love.

This is not a show for children, trust me on this, although I'm pretty sure a large percentage of the adults missed half the dirty jokes. Rob appreciated the strippers and their poll dancing.

There was 80s rock, amazing musicians and glitter and streamers - this is a great musical. It does not pretend to be deep and the fourth wall vanishes several times, especially in the last number. Rock of Ages is funny, loud and a hell of a romp. I loved it to pieces.

So we walked back to our hotel after the musical and we decided to go to the bar for a snack for dinner since we had had lunch. This was the one disaster of the weekend - don't eat in the bar at the Hilton Double Tree; it's just not worth the hassle. That is all I will say apart from the fact that we only ended up paying for our drinks.

Well Sunday did not start off as well as Saturday, the hot breakfast was okay, but the cold stuff was way below par. We left the hotel as soon as possible and took a taxi to the National Gallery for when it opened at 10.

I cannot praise their audio tour enough. It is brilliant. They have a tour which takes an hour and highlights some of their most significant paintings, or you can just wander round and plug in any of the numbers next to the paintings. We were in there for five hours and only half an hour of that was lunch. Most of the paintings have numbers and the audio commentary tells you about the subjects of the painting, the techniques, the artist and the history of the piece. It is magnificent. I haven't been to the National Gallery since I was 17 and now I want to go back again soon.

After the gallery we went back to the hotel and lounged around for a while. We had reservations at Odette's, Bryn Williams' restaurant, for 7pm so we rested and then got poshed up a bit :). It's a very nice looking, but unassuming restaurant from the outside and has a lovely ambiance inside. If you have a chance I wholly recommend it; the whole experience was magnificent.

We decided on the taster menu with wine. There is the normal taster menu and a vegetarian taster menu as well and both have six courses which are about half the size of the normal courses. Having it with the wine was a fantastic decision, we had to pour ourselves into the taxi on the way back to the hotel, but there was a different wine for each course and they had been chosen so carefully and complimented and brought alive the food.

Now I have a phobia of fish bones, I usually can't bring myself to eat fish at all. I literally can't make myself swallow it, but I was determined to try everything on the taster menu. The fish was so good and had been so well prepared, that I managed to eat it.

The first course was Soused Mackerel on aubergine purée and some pickled veggies with soda bread on the side and the wine was a Riesling from Washington state. The wine was nice when we tried it before the food arrived, but it came alive after the fish. I did give Rob half my fish, but I finished everything else on the plate, even the water cress and I don't usually like watercress. The nutty sweetish soda bread was a brilliant accompaniment.

Also, I have to admit I am an incredibly slow eater, usually I see waiting staff coming to check if I'm done yet over and over, not once did I see anyone hovering at Odette's.

So the second starter arrived, ham hock, pig'd head and black pudding terrine with pickled mushrooms, apple sauce and pig's ear crisps. The wine was a smooth French red, but I don't remember what it was called, sorry. The terrine was stunningly good. So soft and tasty and the little pig's ear crisps were like uber crackling. The pickled mushroom were a brilliant spark of taste amongst all the pork and the wine was simply amazing with the food.

Third course was the fish course. The wine was a beautiful French Chardonnay, light and crisp and fruity. This was the course that Bryn designed for the Queen's 80th birthday on Great British Menu and it was pan fried turbot with braised ox tail, cockles and salsify. Once again I gave Rob half my fish, but I was determined to eat the rest and it was beautiful. I thought the ox tail slightly overpowered it if eaten together, but not if I just had the ox tail sauce and the fish. The cockles were also delightfully fishy in the middle of the very meaty flavours. Superb dish.

Can you tell I really liked this meal yet? ;)

On to the main course. This was served with a Chilean Merlot, which was rather dry on the pallet, but went beautifully with the pink mutton on confit beetroot, sprouts (more of a deconstructed sprout really :)), these delightfully crunchy things that looked a bit like giant maggots, but were a vegetable and tasted amazing and then a wonderful purée of some kind. It was lovely, although not my fav course.

Now we come to the part where I might have made some rather embarrassing noises on the first taste because, oh my god, was it wonderful. This was the cheese course which was served with a glass of Madeira. I can't remember the name of the cheese, but it was Welsh, soft like brie, but much creamier and with a softer flavour. It was cut in half and sandwiched in between the layers was black truffle. This was served on sliced, fried new potatoes on a truffle sauce. To say it was good is doing the dish a disservice; it was toe curlingly good.

Then, if that wasn't enough of a food orgasm, dessert arrived. Dark chocolate Arctic roll on chocolate soil on top of a smear of orange marmalade, with orange sorbet and cardamom cream server with a very sweet Sauternes wine. It was a riot on the tongue and the dark chocolate contrasted so wonderfully with the wine and the bitter orange.

I am a bit of a foodie and I can honestly say this was one of the best food experiences I have ever had. Odette's is fantastic.

So we sloshed into the taxi and came back to the hotel and slept like those who are very happily smashed :).

Which brings us to today. Breakfast was back to the good standard of Saturday, so we think Sunday may have been an aberration. We did a bit of shopping and then came home on the train. For the record I hate Oxford Street.

It was a magnificent weekend and my wonderful husband organised the whole thing. I am so very lucky to have him.

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