Wednesday, March 14, 2012

London Restaurants: Archipelago

For my 50th birthday trip to London Helen and I enjoyed numerous restaurant meals; Archipelago in Fitzrovia had to be one of the more unusual.  From the first encounter on entry  your senses are walloped by bold colours  of  earthy greens and Chinese reds. The menus are Indiana Jones inspired rolled-up scrolls and mise en place is a mixture of miss-matched flatware, cutlery, and stemware. Walls, tables, and floors are covered in buddhas, peacock feathers, and other Indo-Chine inspired art and sculptures.  The real reason of our visit was to try the "exotic" lunch tasting menu   £15.00 per person (minimum 2 guests) a sharing platter of   African crocodile bits,  spiced Australian kangaroo fillet,  springbok "Ropa Vieja",  Savoury Baclawa ( manouri cheese, basil and pine nut parcel), Soba Noodles with sour green mango , a side of   toasted coconut and turmeric rice, and for a £3 supplement the "Lovebug salad" with deep fried chilil locusts and crickets on a bed of rocket. The springbok was my favourite dish with its deep earthy slow cooked flavours along with some tender well seasoned kangaroo. A hit and conversation starter  with our table neighbours was the Lovebug salad. The deep fried chilli locusts and crickets had a "popcorn" like flavour and nicely balanced by the pepperiness of the rocket. Archipelago has a small compact wine list, less than 30 bottles, most starting at £30. We opted for a bottle of Lebanese Massaya 2008 (St.Emilion/Vieux Telegraphe project) in the Bekaa Valley. A bit steep at £40, the wine is a blend of Cinsault, Cabernet, & Mourvedre, with some solid tannins, and flavours of leather, spice, tobacco, olive, and dark chocolate.   In place of dessert I opted for a visit from the "witch doctor"  our  friendly and knowledgeable server reappeared dressed in a witch doctors outfit with a "medicine chest" of double shots of infused spirits.  Overall a delightful lunch in London. 
Service 4/5
Food 3.5/5
Value 3/5

110 Whitfield Street
Tel: 020 7383 3346
Fax: 020 7383 7181

James Smith & Sons Umbrellas

Whangee Cane Fit-Up Umbrella

Along a good suit and well made shoes, a proper umbrella is a much needed gentleman’s accessory; practical for inclement weather, a fashion statement, and in the past a weapon. On my recent trip to London I purchased a James Smith and Sons whangee cane fit-up umbrella.  The shop steeped in history since 1830 is a throw back to the grand shops of the past. Impeccable service, selection, master craftsmanship, and history. While waiting for a correct fitting of my umbrella I marveled at the old ledgers of former clients including Prime Minster Gladstone and Bonar-Law and the well dressed gentlemen dropping in and out of the shop in the west end. As I perused the selection of umbrellas debating the type, fit-up, solid, handle material, and colour I decided on the eccentric looking whangee cane (a water bound sub species of bamboo). After finding the handle that "spoke" to me it  was cut to my perfect walking height while I waited in the shop discussing the weather, the lack of good umbrellas in Vancouver, and of noteworthy pubs to enjoy lunch after my purchase with the friendly and knowledgeable staff. My fit-up umbrella is made from two pieces of wood ( a spruce shaft and a whangee handle seamlessly connected together. The two materials are light weight yet still strong enough to act as a walking stick. The canopy is made from Italian nylon, a Fox frame, and a brass fenule as an end cap.  Attention to detail is the key to the craftsmanship, no Velcro here but two buttons to hold the canopy folds in place when dry and wet.  A brief tutorial on the folding and care of my umbrella resulted in a most delightful London shopping experience. Bespoke pricing $415 CDN but a lasting sartorial investment.