Food, sport and entertainment - who wants more?
Trip Start Jun 25, 2012
32Trip End Aug 25, 2012
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It was a relief to know we didn't have to be at Olympic Park until 1.30 so we all had a nice sleep in! The kids enjoyed kicking back and watching the Olympics on television and being connected to the internet, but eventually we got our act together and headed out.
When we reached the stadium, I waited for a while and caught a lift with Rachel on the mobility vehicle while Tom and Michael raced off to the Hockey stadium, a good half hour walk. When we were dropped off there we bought some pies for lunch and wandered up to our seats. We had only missed about half an hour of the first game between Germany and India, which Germany went on to win easily.
We were careful not to eat too much as we had our big dinner at Heston Blumenthal’s 'Dinner’ that night. We left 5 minutes before the end of the game and then headed back to the Stratford gate. I hitchhiked a mobility vehicle and squeezed on while the others walked. From Stratford we went to the International Station and caught the Javelin into St Pancras and then a tube to Knightsbridge, so that was all very easy and efficient.
Our booking was for 7 pm and we got to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Hyde park a quarter of an hour early so we ordered drinks at the bar, and then shortly afterwards were shown to our table. It was very exciting to be in the kids’ and my first Michelin starred restaurant, and the good news is that it wasn’t stuffy at all. The place was beautiful, looking out over Hyde Park, and the staff were really friendly and welcoming. The menus were in little holders, each with a different tidbit of historical information about British food and habits. The menu itself is Heston’s reinterpretation of traditional English dishes, sourced from historical cookbooks and worked out in a project with the Hampton Court Museum kitchens.
I started with the famous ‘Meat Fruit’, a version of a c. 1500 dish which was incredible. It looked like a standard, everyday mandarin on the wooden board with a rustic piece of toast, but when you cut into it you discovered that the skin was a kind of edible gelatin and the pate inside was the most delicious I’ve ever tasted! Fortunately it was quite rich so I didn’t mind sharing it with the others too much, but we all decided my entrée won that round. The kids had ‘Rice and Flesh’ c 1390, a delicious saffron risotto with calf’s tail cooked in a red wine sauce. This was really delicious also, and Michael had the c.1730 Broth of Lamb with a slow cooked hen’s egg, celery, radish, turnip and veal sweetbreads, which he quite liked, but not as much as the others.
For second course I had the c.1670 Powdered Duck Breast with smoked confit fennel and umbles which was delicious, Rachel had the c.1780 Spiced Pigeon with ale and artichokes, also delicious, and Tom and Mike fought it out for the best dish with theirs – Tom’s c.1670 Chicken cooked with Lettuces with spiced celeriac sauce and oyster leaves was the best chicken I’ve ever tasted, whilst Mike’s 1820 Black Foot Pork Chop with Hipsi cabbage, lardo, ham hock and Robert sauce was amazingly tasty and delicious.
We were pretty full by now, but insisted on dessert, this time choosing a c.1810 Tipsy Cake with Spit roasted pineapple and a c.1591 Tarte of Strawberries with macerated strawberries, chamomile, orange blossom and strawberry sorbet.
Saturday 4 August
We had a nice brunch at a café in the Markets, watching GB beat Australia again in various events, dammit, and then wandered off through the market which was really lovely. Tom had a great time taking artistic shots with his new camera! Eventually we all caught a bus into London and a tube to Green Park, fare welling Chris and Andy the stop before. It was lovely to wander through the park and past Buckingham Palace on our way to Victoria where we had tickets to see ‘Billy Elliot’.
We nipped into a local hotel to use the loo and while there caught the last of the Hewitt - Stosur doubles match where they lost to, guess who? Bloody GB! Anyway, then we wandered off to the Victoria Palace Theatre and watched ‘Billy Elliot’. As tickets were limited I’d bought restricted view ones for the front row of the dress circle – there was a hand rail about 10 cm above the metre high balcony wall - but we found you could look between them pretty easily so it wasn’t a great problem.
The show itself was really impressive with a great cast and hard edge to it in terms of the bleakness of the setting with the long and ultimately unsuccessful miners’ strike in response to Maggie Thatcher privatizing the mines. We really enjoyed it, although Tom struggled at times to understand what they were saying as they all had authentic accents!
By the time the show had finished it was 5.30 and we had the Athletics at 6.50, so we hot footed it to the Tube station, went a few stops up to Kings Cross St Pancras, and caught the Javelin to Stratford – amazingly quick! We even had time to queue up and get some food for dinner at the stadium – in fact that queue was the slowest thing in the whole day.
It was really exciting walking into the stadium at last – it’s really beautiful and we were seated quite close to the Olympic cauldron which is quite stunning! I was intrigued to see it close up. Anyway, Saturday night went down in British history as their most successful hour of sporting success and it was incredible being there! The atmosphere was electric, and it was unsurprising that the GB athletes kept winning as the roar from the crowd every time they walked onto the ground was deafening.
First they had the semi-finals for the Men’s 400m hurdles, which we had a few Aussies in but they didn’t make the cut. We then watched the lovely Jessica Ennis win the heptathlon easily for GB. She only had to finish within something like 10 seconds of her rivals in the 800m to win, but went on to win the actual race streaks ahead of the rest – it was really inspiriting. Then the British Long Jumper, Greg Rutherford, beat our Aussie bloke – at least we got a silver medal and got to see the Australian flag running around the stadium as the boys did their victory lap!
We stayed to watch the victory ceremonies of Farah and Ennis, which were very moving, and sang ‘God Save the Queen’ uproariously with everyone else, before heading home with all the crowds.