David and Ginna Zoellner love to travel. We live in Nice, France, half the year; the other half we live near Chicago, Illinois. We do 'home-exchanges' to explore other areas as well as taking normal trips. We'd like to share some of our experiences with you.

Friday, January 16, 2009

A Freezing Week in London, Jan. 2009

Gordon Ramsay Restaurant

We left Nice and the temps in the 50's and flew up to London for about a week at a home exchange in the Barbicon. This is a very conveniently located complex, although very modern and not really to our taste. We had a 2 BR, 2 BA apartment, but it was quite chilly, with little hot water. The first night there we met up with American friends, Laurie and Mal Lindner, for a quick dinner at Carluccio's. The next day I woke up with a migraine and spent the next day and a half in bed. David met the Lindners for dinner and "A Little Night Music", which everyone loved. The next day I dragged myself out of bed in the afternoon and got ready to meet them for dinner at Caprini - just soup and an avocado/crevettes salad - and "Complicit" which we expected to be good since the cast was Richard Dreyfus, Elizabeth McGovern, and David Suchet (Poirot) and directed at the Old Vic by Kevin Spacey. But it was terrible. The script was impossible, boring, and barely comprehensible. Too bad.

The next day we went to the Sisley exhibit at the National Gallery. It was small but wonderful - mostly his British paintings, not much from France. Then we had a reservation for lunch at Gordon Ramsay, the highlight of the entire week, in celebration of our 21st anniversary! It was fabulous. I'm pretty sure we were the only people who arrived on foot (after a long walk from the tube station) - everyone else came by cab, as far as we could see. We had to call to make a reservation from Nice several weeks ago and then received a form we had to fill out with our credit card info, so that if we didn't show up they could charge us a chunk of change (100 pounds per person!). But it was worth all the hassle. We started off with a bouche amuse of pumpkin soup with truffle oil splashed over it. There was one tiny ravioli with cheese and pumpkin filling. Yummy. And a choice of at least 6 breads and sweet or salted butter. And we ordered a 1/2 bottle of Chablis. The service was extraordinary, mostly french. Our head waiter was from Dijon, so was delighted to learn we were from Nice. Not snooty service at all, but very friendly and actually quite fun. About 5 people serving us. Next came our starters: David had apple and artichokes on chicken livers piled on toast. I had Ox Cheek broth; the bowl was served with a beautiful green leaf in the center with 3 tiny cannelloni (pasta) filled with veal sweetbreads placed on it and surrounded by a few tiny baby vegetables; the waiter poured the broth over all. Both delicious. For main plates, David had the partridge with game chips (I don't know how they made these but they actually had tiny leaves in the center of the chips), spinach, baby carrots. I had daurade, a fish we have often in Nice, with an artichoke butter sauce and baby veges. Excellent. For dessert (well, the first dessert), we both had the chocolate tart with lavander and milk glace, beautifully presented and really yummy. We decided against any coffee but they brought us a 5 " high silver tree with chocolate balls covered with silver (all edible) on the branches AND a beautiful pot with frothing dry ice - I thought maybe a genie would appear but instead it held strawberry ice cream balls covered with white chocolate. Well, we needed something to go with that so shared a glass of sauterne, which was just the right amount. We loved every minute and every bite. Quite the celebration! (There was a special 44 pound menu for lunch, plus wine so with the stronger $ it wasn't so bad.)

Friday we met up with Sheila Rossan and Alfred whom we know from Nice. We had dim sum - ordered too much but it was fun and good. Then back to their place for a chat and on to the Tricycle Theater to see "Loot" which was a riot. It starred David Haig whom we recognized from "Three Weddings and A Funeral". All the cast were terrific.

Saturday we got together for lunch with Linda and Jack Beattie at San Francesco on Catherine Street - a nice area. It was freezing for lunch, as Linda and I sat with our backs to the windows. But we warmed up with warm avocado with crevettes with a cheese sauce and then chicken with spinach, a bit of a let-down. AFterwards we went over to Somerset House to see the special exhibit on Turner which was interesting, but also saw the rest of the amazing collection of Impressionists. A lovely afternoon.

The next day, thank heavens, we flew back to Nice. We were so glad to get home!