Sunday, 30 April 2017

In Which There is Food and Drink (And Jude Law)

My friend A has been singing the praises of  Hélène Darroze at the Connaught, and as we had tickets to see Jude Law and Halina Reijn in 'Obsession' at the Barbican for last Saturday night, decided to make a day of it, and have lunch at Hélène Darroze, followed by cocktails at The Alchemist  and then the play.

The food was sublime, and the service pretty awesome, too. Which, given that the restaurant has 2 Michelin stars is perhaps not surprising!

The menu comes accompanied by a solitaire board which you use to pick which dishes you want (you can chose 5, or 7, or the full experience. We went for the 7 courses, which meant a heartbreaking choice to discard 8 possible dishes...

While we struggled to decide, we were brought some amuse bouche,presumably to ensure we didn't starve while being indecisive.. There were fresh, raw peas, with pea shoots and creme fraiche on a savoury tuile, little teeny bites of gazpacho, and a little shot of mushroom consomme with a Parmesan foam.  Oh, and bread and 2 kinds of butter.
Gazpacho bites
Having made our selections, we sat back and let the food arrive. We ended up picking almost exactly the same things:

Salmon:-  this came two ways, another little straw with smoked salmon in, and a perfect disk of raw salmon, with tiny balls of apple and radish, ranging from white, to green, to pink, and a delicious apple and lime consomme.

Then there was foie gras, which came on a bed of ginger jelly, with slivers of rhubarb, after which there was possibly my favourite dish, the wild garlic and ricotta lasagna, with smoked eel, with a touch of lemon in there somewhere. And so pretty!

Wild Garlic and ricotta lasagna with smoked eel
After this we has the different dishes, mine was Scallop, which came with (mild but delicious) tandoori spices, and both purple and orange carrots. A had John Dory with white asparagus and samphire, which also looked delicious.

Then came duck - a little bit of duck breast crusted with herbs, and a chunk of duck-y sausage, with two sorts of potato. 

We then moved on to the dessert stage of the meal...

The first was rhubarb - there was some poached rhubarb underneath, with tiny pinkish meringues, and and the foam which involved rhubarb and ginger, with cashews on the top.

Second dessert was chocolate in a variety of forms, and with yuzu sorbet. It was delicious! 

That brought the meal as described on the menu to an end, but there were petit fours after that, and then, when we had paid, we were each brought a little box with a miniature savarin cake in, to take home! 

It was about 4.30 by this point  (because 3 hours is a totally reasonable  length of time for a meal), so by the time we had wandered through the park (spotting a heron en route, and also lots of TV vans prepping for the London Marathon the following day), and got the tube across to Aldgate, it was a civilized time for cocktails.

I've never been to The Alchemist before, but it was a lot of fun.  They go for 'molecular mixology', and it's all very theatrical, with bunsen burners, dry ice, and all sorts. And certainly the cocktails I had were very tasty! 

Lady Marmalade
Full food and drink album on Flickr.

We then walked down to the Barbican, to see 'Obsession'.  The play is created by Toneelgroep Amsterdam, based on the 1942 Luchino Visconti film, Ossessione (which in turn is based on the novel 'The Postman Always Rings Twice' . It features Jude Law as Gino and Halina Reijn as Hanna, the woman with whom he becomes obsessed, and is directed by Ivo van Hove.

I haven't seen the film, but I was not impressed with this stage play. It's fairly short (1 hour 45 minutes) but feels much longer, and not in a good way. The plot is fairly minimal - handsome drifter Gina meets Hanna, a bartender unhappily married to an older man. Hanna and Gino immediately start an impassioned affair, plan to run away together but split up when Hanna gets cold feet and returns to her husband. Her husband winds up dead an things end badly for everyone. 

The play seems a bit lost on the Barbican stage - it might work better in a much smaller space, and perhaps with a few more clues about the timescale, or indeed the location, of the action. (according to the programme notes, the original had lots of anti-fascist subtext, getting it banned by Mussolini, but none of that really comes through here.

The play also features Chukwudi Iwuji in a dual role as Hanna's Priest and a police Inspector, but the minimal costume changes (dog collar or not) mean it isn't always immediately obvious when he is playing which character.

There's also a lot of cliché; at one point, Law stands, in despair, against a backdrop of projected waves. At this point I thought it was supposed to be a clifftop, and that he was going to hurl himself off (which, frankly, would have come as a relief to everyone at that point). He even had to run on a treadmill to symbolise his attempts to escape his obsession... 

It's a shame, as the actors are all good, it's just that the play really isn't. I have to admit I left with the assumption that the reason there is no interval is because they were afraid no-one would come back afterwards, if there was any chance of escape, but I have to admit that a lot of the other audience members seemed rather more enthusiastic, so either they were all fans of 1940's Italian cinema or they just liked watching Jude Law take his shirt off a lot.

In the event that this hasn't put you off, the play is on at the Barbican until 20th May and is being broadcast by NTLive on 11th May.

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