Saturday, 17 November 2012
Last weekend I had a very pleasant afternoon in central London, taking in a couple of exhibitions at Somerset House, followed by tea at Fortnum & Mason.
The first exhibition we saw was Night Paintings by Paul Benney. The British artist had produced a series of dark works (in colour not subject matter) that were being displayed in the chambers beneath the Somerset House courtyard. I wasn't a big fan of Paul Benney's art, but the basement chambers were well worth seeing. Dark and damp I'm surprised they were displaying art in the chambers as the risk of water damage must be quite high.
The second free exhibition we visited was a collection of photographs called Cartier-Bresson: A question of colour. Only ten of the seventy five photographs on display were actually Cartier-Bresson's photographs. The rest all come from photographers who "shoot from the hip" in a similar style. The photographs were largely taken in the USA from the 1950's onwards, opportunistic shots capturing moments of real life.
I was pleased to see a photograph taken just round the corner from my old office in Sydney. The exhibition is open until 27th January and I'd recommend a visit if you like that style of photography.
After the exhibitions we strolled across to Fortnum & Mason. After some comical indecision over which restaurant to choose, I decided that if you are going to have tea at F&M you should do things properly so we headed to The Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon. Predictably they were fully booked so we retreated to The Parlour (which doesn't take reservations) instead.
'Fortnums' and 'Parlour' in the same breath made me think of the reception room in a classic English house. This interpretation is more 'ice cream parlour'. Not as a refined an atmosphere, but I'm sure the scones are just the same as upstairs in the Tea Salon.
The Tea in the Parlour (£18) comes with two scones, a biscuit and a trio of ice cream cakes. Sold as a tea for one we decided to share.
The scones were crumbly and the clotted cream had an excessively thick, almost butter like, consistency. It was a bit too clogged artery inducing for me. I haven't had real clotted cream in years, but I remember it being a bit lighter and less buttery tasting which I would have preferred.
The ice cream cakes held their shape perfectly while we ate our scones, but they must have known when we finished as they began to melt almost instantly. As nice as the ice creams were, I couldn't help thinking there was something a little wrong with tea being served without more traditional cakes.
Fortnum & Mason