Saturday, September 23, 2006

Pass The Potatoes

Timing, like proper lighting is everything. I stepped off the airplane and right into the frenzy of London Fashion Week. Suddenly I found myself surrounded by celebrities, designers and supermodels. Not that I actually saw any, mind you, but that isn’t the point. The point is, while I have never been one to name drop, all the names worth dropping were there.

No sooner had I arrived at our luxury hotel, when Nik and I decided that a mad dash to Harvey Nichols was in order. We embraced the idea of fashion week and had soon turned the men's department into a cyclone of designer clothes... Galliano, McQueen and Lacroix. I came very close to buying a black Lacroix sweater if for no other reason than to be able to casually quote the often imitated yet never duplicated Edwina Monsoon. I too wanted to be able to say "it's Lacroix, sweetie" and actually mean it.

Nik is great to go shopping with as he gets soooo excited that his whole speech pattern changes. He suddenly exaggerates and emphasizes one word in the sentence... “Thaaaaats nice” or “Those are faaaaabulous” or even “that sweater is the quiiiiintessential must have item for the season.” I was informed in practically one sentence that cardigans and waist coats are in and that my current state of dress was most decidedly out. He never really came out and said such a thing, but I detected it in the undertones of his educational advice. Of course I tossed his advice out window the moment he bought those ugly beige cashmere gloves. I tried to tell him that gloves are only ever to be in black, midnight blue, dark grey or black. Beige is just soooo, well, it may be fashionable but that doesn´t make it right.

Then it was off to shoes... Prada, MiuMiu and the rest of the gang were all there just begging us to give them homes and a chance at a better life. I was scouting for a pair of casual Gucci winter boots I had seen, but they were nowhere to be found. I wasn´t planning on buying them, I just wanted to give them a bit of a cuddle. Before long the stress of labels, prints and cashmere got to us and we had no choice but to take the elevator to the 5th floor for a relaxing drink at the Fifth Floor Café. The Café had wisely teamed up with Vogue for fashion week to bring us all the "most eagerly awaited spring and summer 07 collections" which were aired minutes after they were presented at the shows themselves.

"Join us," the card read, "in the Café for breakfast, lunch and dinner, or just a leisurely latte, and be one of the privileged few who get to see the new season's trends first." That all sounded well and good, but we skipped the leisurely latte and headed straight to the more necessary and well deserved cocktails. A few glasses of champagne later and we were ready to tackle the grocery section. I hate grocery shopping, but the food department at Harvey Nichs is one of the most amazing places I have ever been and I found myself suddenly driven by a mad desire to buy spices... Chinese 5 spice, chopped lemon grass and even some cracked black pepper. And as if that wasn't enough, I also picked up fig infused balsamic, Singapore sweet hot chilli sauce and, saving the best for last, lemon stuffed olives which will be put to full employment during the next round of lemon martinis. Exhausted but ecstatic, we made a mad dash back to the hotel to change into something a little more black for dinner.

At last, black is the new black so off we went properly attired to the hottest place in all of London, L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon. We waited outside the hotel for 15 minutes before managing to flag down a taxi only to realize we were right around the corner, but then one should never arrive on foot. Our shoes were made for looking at, not for walking. For some inexplicable reason, we ended up arriving early and were promptly shown the door. The door to the elegantly appointed elevator that is... The very same elevator delivered us to the third floor bar where we were immediately deposited on a blush black sofa. The bar itself was done in a Gone with the Wind brothel circa 1980’s look and feel. You know, the kind of place where you would expect to run into Lola, still in that dress she used to wear, that faded feather in her hair. Thick, lush red velvet curtains, black crocodile skin tables, a golden carved bar dark red walls and the necessary lighting that reduced the obviousness of facial wrinkles while at the same time creating just the right atmosphere for a chat over one of their many original cocktails.

And what cocktails they were… We decided to embark on our epicurean adventure with pomegranate martinis accompanied by champagne granite (pronounced gran-i-tay) and blackberry and basil caipirinhas which in a very Dickensian moment, we raised and clinked to the ghosts of supermodels past and future, taking a moment to briefly reflect on how truly fashionable we truly were. See, L’Atelier is so new and so hip and so incredibly faaaabulous that it is not in any guide or even on the radar screens of the wannabe fashionistas that littler London like the yesterday morning’s coffee grounds. Getting back to that caipirinha, I want it known here officially that it has become my new signature drink. Or at least it should be, but I have no idea where else I will ever be able to find one. Nik says he can make it, I say he better get cracking as there’s a friendship at stake here. Two cocktails later and we were taken to the 2nd floor for dinner. Where the bar was all red velvet and black lacquer, the restaurant was black and white tiled and contained the largest collection of Rosemary plants I have ever seen in my life.

No sooner were we seated than the champagne was thrust upon us and not wanting to be rude or offensive on our first visit, we accepted using that nonchalant tone that says “we are so bored with champagne, but ok” while at the same time saying “bring it on and keep it coming, baby.” The menu was amazing and our first nibble was a tiny glass, at the bottom of which was foie gras crème, followed by a rice-paper thin layer of berry compote, topped off with a cloud of parmesan mousse. I didn’t even know one could mouse parmesan. I do try to learn something every day and suddenly and quite elegantly the mission was accomplished.

Next came one of the most delicious meals I have ever eaten and the best part of the meal was the mashed potatoes. They weren’t so much a dish as they were a sexual experience which teased and taunted all the senses. A sort of heroin for the tastebuds for lack of a better analogy. One taste and you will forever be wanting more. They had an enoooormous amount of crème and butter with just a touch of truffle. These ingredients were lovingly whipped into oblivion so that their whole consistency was like thick butter. In other words, a heart attack in a dish and Nik and I almost got into a fist fight for the right to lick the bowl clean.

We spent an hour or so basking in the afterglow of our shared potato experience, ranting and raving about them over Cointreau and Sambucca, feeling the waves of pleasure washing over our bodies. Totally spent, we left the hotel and hobbled back to our hotel where we decided to jump into a life of crime. We were like a gay Bonnie and Clyde, only better dressed and without any weapons. But I will say that we were the victims in all of this, and I am sure after catching up on all the details, you will agree with me.

See, we became obsessed with the “do not disturb” door hangers at the hotel. What made them so special? Well, instead of the usual boring text, these read “getting ready for a fashion show, please come back later.” So our dilemma and alternative lifestyle began when we realized that we not only had just one of them between the two of us and there was no way we could share, but to make matter worse, there was a bend at one corner. It was blemished and this being fashion week and all, there is simply no room for anything less than perfection. So, we did what anyone in our designer shoes would do, we started at the top floor and worked our way down to our floor, taking each and every one of the signs we could find hanging on the doors. The hotel is built around a courtyard, which facilitated our daring activity. Of course, we were always moments from possible detection and had to be extremely careful not to be seen by some unsuspecting guest or staff coming around the corner, but also we had to make sure we didn’t make any noise at the door. It was a hair-raising ordeal and suddenly I felt alive like I hadn’t for days. All in all, we managed to collect 24, which considering the size of the hotel, wasn’t very many, and we figured that 24 upset people wasn’t really a lot of extra work for reception.

After the excitement of the evening and the late hour (it was now about 2:30) we exfoliated our faces of all guilt and debris of crimes past and settled in for a short sleep before starting our Friday. Nik was leaving early for work while I was planning on acting out my own version of Pretty Woman, taking a bubble bath followed by a healthy dose of high street shopping. I was not about to pass on an opportunity to possibly run into Kate, Elle, Giselle or Naomi and I can imagine they were in bed thinking the same of me. Who am I do deprive my potential public?

1 comment:

  1. nik gantchev26/9/06 16:11

    How to make Divine Potato Cream (mash sounds all so ES3)

    Boil 6 large potatos to exhaustion (this is no salad business - make them sweat!), peel them and keep them in a warm dish.

    Melt 300 gr of unsolted fresh butter in a baine marie (not in a micro-oven) while whisking it with a mixer, add a can of clotted cream (room temerature) in and continue whisking in a higher speed.

    Start adding pieces (spoons) of the potato mix and try to beat the mix with the same speed until the consistency allows you. Switch to a lower speed and continue beating (mind you, we are not mashing here we are beating it), add salt butter and if you ask me also that randon pel of truffle lying in your fridge .....

    Leave it in a warm place to rest and after a few hours start beating again .....beat and beat and beat until it's time to serve it (if aything is left that is)...

    No need to decorate or serve on the side, it easily is the main delight!

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