We really don’t go to restaurants very much, contrary to what my family and friends back in the Philippines seem to think. I’m not an avid foodie but I’m constantly being asked for restaurant recommendations by people who actually eat out much more frequently than I do. In saying that however, I’m not bad at finding places that are a good value. I try to keep up with the current events not just on politics but also on arts and culture — of course, including the theatre and foodie scene in London. More often than not, I find interesting ethnic places with good fresh food, swank restaurants, neighbourhood joints that have great lunch deals or new places that we want to try. Jared and I actually prefer to stay in, cook our own food, and would only eat out on special occasion. On weekends, I always cook something special…maybe a Japanese, or Thai, or other exotic dish. Apart from the take-away meals, mostly Japanese or Italian, from Eat Tokyo, or Metro Pizza, or other neighbourhood restaurants, we do eat reasonable, home-cooked food.
Every now and then, however, perhaps 6x times a year — birthday, anniversary or some type of a milestone, Jared and I go out for a really wonderful meal. Usually around this time Jared would take me to a fancy restaurant for a meal as a special treat for my dad and mom’s death anniversary (1st and 15thof November). But because we have been so busy and caught up with everything that’s going on, we haven’t been able to do it this month.
On Saturday though, we had a splendid meal by the River Thames. But first, please allow me the leeway of a moment to dwell upon the occasion. At least I hope you will. About five weeks ago, Mavy sent Jared and me an invite to a special meal. She’s the daughter of Ate Mercy, one of the longest standing members of our church. She and her husband, Kuya Romy, are celebrating their 35th wedding anniversary, and Mavy (she’s the ‘real foodie’), found a pretty cool place to celebrate the occasion. It is a rather eccentric yet unique venue — massive ‘see-through’ igloos by the Thames River in London’s Southbank.
It was a delight for Jared and me to dine with the Andres family in this space. The riverside snow globes eatery is one of Jimmy Garcia’s — dubbed as the ’Pop-up prince’ — quirky places to eat at London’s Southbank Centre this winter. It is Jimmy’s homage to Courchevel (French Alps ski resort) where he and his friends often visit at the end of a long season of working as chefs and chalet host — at least, that was the premise of this extraordinary dining experience, according to this. From the lush photorealistic igloo to the swan-stamped glasses and cutleries — it’s all quite lovely. Difficult, even, not to exclaim over the ‘disco-dancing light’ in the middle of the dome, or the beautiful striated metal ‘tiny swan’ on a tea/coffee stirrer, or the artful composition of the warm mulled wine — btw, it was the best mulled wine I had in London.
Lest you assume this sort of environment to be cold or forbidding, let me reassure you that it’s not. It was warm and comfortable. The chairs are cushy, and tables are generous — comfort reigns supreme. They even provided a blanket for each guests but none of us even used them.
Another extremely likeable feature of this eatery is that it’s not defined by any particular group of people — other than those who can at least occasionally afford an expensive meal by London standards. It opened the day prior, and I noticed that it certainly draws a hipster crowd, but there were plenty of elderly patrons, and families with young children especially at The Lodge (the 2-storey structure right next to the snow globes).
But the food, yes, the food! The starter alone will fill anyone up to the brim — a lot of different selection of small plates to share — Mulled Wine cured Gravlax Salmon, Poached Baby Pear, Rapeseed Oil Croute, Lemon Creme Fraiche Game Terrine, Bacon Crumb, Plum Jam, Brioche Toast, Smoked Goat Curd, Roasted Pumpkin, Pickled Beetroot with toasted hazelnuts, etc. Everything is superb, consisting of fresh ingredients and ideas which are not too complicated.
The menu also boasts other favourites such as Aberdeen Angus Beef Steak, buttered baby potatoes, fresh salad, etc. To wash our meals down, a couple of chilled bottle of red and white wine were picked by Michiel and Mavy, both are wine connoisseur. I tried the red wine and it was very good.
I actually love eating this way, since I’m something of a grazer by nature and prefer to have many smaller plates, small tastes — Japón style dining. Six small plates came first, and after a nicely spaced interval, another set of starter arrived — all delicious.
Then the main course was served — Aberdeen Angus Beef Steak, Traditional Alpine Fondue, a Selection of Artisan Charcuterie, New Potatoes, Bread and Side Salad. In all honesty, the steak was a stand-out. It was impeccably cooked — medium rare, tender and highly flavourful.
The Fondue was also very good — the subtle creaminess of different types of cheese playing gently to the piece of bread dipped in — it was perfect.
Then, of course, the dessert was served last. At this point, I was already feeling a little full but of course, I can’t skip dessert. I love sweets, and in my opinion, a meal without a dessert is rather incomplete. As it was a set menu, we all had Winter Spiced Crème Brûlée served with shortbread and coffee (others had tea with it), and in my greed I really wanted to try both Crème Brûlée and Shortbread. So I tried to happily slurped it all but was too full and could only eat half of it. The classic crème brûlée spiced with cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg is an exemplary dessert — not too sweet with a crisp caramel shell on top — it couldn’t be bad, and was in fact divine, managing to be both rich and light. And the Shortbread biscuit was oh-so-buttery-rich and crumbly.
It’s worth mentioning that I had standing gag of a hair-raising double-take when I looked at the check. It wasn’t handed to me which is a good thing.When the waiter put the bill in front of Michiel I saw that the meal costs a trip to the Philippines — mind you, a flight to Manila and a connecting flight to an island resort and back to London! As expensive as it was, it’s actually quite reasonable for all that we’d had — 8 people and two tiny tots. Maxime and Indigo did eat bits and pieces — and of course, they entertained us.
Another plus to my way of thinking is that while you may eat rich dishes like this, you’re more unlikely to overeat or become overly full unless you’d purposely do it (like I did ). The portions are more than enough for all of us (in fact, we had leftovers), which is why the prices are also moderate for this highly satisfying cuisine. If you’re hosting family or friends to whom the mark of a good restaurant is how full their doggie-bag is likely to be, don’t take them to this place, you’re better off taking them elsewhere. But do go with a group if you wanna try the Snow Globe dining. Oh and by the way, I did not regret stuffing myself silly. That was my only meal on Saturday.
It was one of the most memorable and enjoyable meals we had. Not to mention the longest — from the time the first course was served till the dessert was brought in, it took at least 4.5 hours. I mean, the whole shebang took at least 5 hours — and it didn’t even seem like it was that long. We slowly but surely had eaten the food, played with Maxime and Indigo, shared some stories, watched the fireworks and daylight disappear, etc. We particularly had a good laugh listening to Ate Mercy and Kuya Romy’slove story, once again — a love story worth penning for posterity. (Mavy should write both her mom and dad’s version — funnily enough, there’s ‘her’ and ‘his’ version of the story! )
With thanks as well as big hugs and kisses, we took ourselves off home, where Jared and I had embarked on making preparations for the next day, the Lord’s Day. We took our head out of the lofty culinary clouds where it had been, and evinced some interest on the work at hand. Jared offered me tea as he stretched out next to me on the couch, and I declined to have anything, not even a cup of green tea (I always drink green tea after dinner but not that night). Indeed I stuffed myself silly that I didn’t even wanna think of green tea, until I woke up the next day.
It was indeed a glorious meal; a joyful celebration and one that will stay with Jared and me for the rest of our days. Thank you so much Ate Mercy, Kuya Romy, Michiel and Mavy, Renz and Hannah for allowing us to be a part of this wonderful occasion, a milestone in your family.
We are on TimeOut London — 16-24 of the 42 seconds video.
Note: Any of my Christian friends reading this (
I mean, the legalists), please don’t be offended and/or disappointed that I had a little sip of mulled and red wine. FYI, while Jared doesn’t drink, he hates the taste and smell of alcohol, I do like red wine but I only drink socially, only on special occasion. And no, I never got drunk in my 40+ years of existence. And Jared wouldn’t mind telling anyone that in our family, that is, my side of the family back in the Philippines, wine is always served at every meal, except of course, at breakfast. But no one in my family is alcoholic, well, except for one — a maternal uncle who’s been drinking alcohol since he was 18, but by God’s grace, still quite strong and lead a very active life at 80. Oh, and I must mention, although Jared and I do not serve alcohol when we host lunches/dinners; in this country, it is actually customary even for preachers to serve alcoholic drinks when they have guests at their home, or to order alcohol while dining out with friends. So there, my American and Filipino legalist friends!
(Featured Image: Jimmy Garcia)Advertisements