Food/Travel 2017 – Pink Floyd: Their Mortal Remains, Victoria and Albert Museum, Mere, London

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Saturday 9th September, 2017 – Pink Floyd: Their Mortal Remains, Victoria and Albert Museum, London

On Saturday we headed off into town to catch up on another exhibition we’d been after getting too for some time, an audio-visual extravaganza on the life and times of Pink Floyd, titled “Their Mortal Remains” at the Victoria and Albert Museum. It was a very thorough exhibition, and I seriously doubt there was a single stone left unturned. There were stage designs, diaries, costumes, pieces of the band’s history presented with the assistance of an audio guide that was triggered when you came into proximity with each exhibit. My only reservation about it was that you really had no choice but to use headsets, so you couldn’t discuss what you were looking at with whoever you had gone there with. It was somewhat alienating, which, given their music and lyrics, may well have been the effect the curators were after. We stopped off for a cup of tea in the slightly mad tea rooms afterwards, and then hit the museum shop, hard. Sadly, we didn’t really have time for anything else in the museum because we needed to get moving in the direction of dinner!

Image (c) Victoria and Albert Museum

It was an excellent exhibition, though I think the Rolling Stones one might have been more user-friendly.

I’ve long been a big fan of Monica Galetti on TV and as an acerbic judge with a scary eyebrow raise on MasterChef: The Professionals. I’m also a big fan of her former boss, Michel Roux Jr, and of his cooking, having been lucky enough to eat it once. So when Monica went off and opened her own restaurant, it was obvious we would have to give Mere a try. It proved a damn sight easier to get a table there than at le Gavroche as well. Knowing we’d be in London anyway, I had a look to see if I could get a dinner reservation, and lo and behold it proved a simple matter a couple of weeks out. It wasn’t a simple matter to get there from the V&A though, let me tell you!

Half the underground lines seemed to be out of action, there was a huge demonstration on, and just to cap it all off the Proms in the Park celebration of the Last Night of the Proms for 2017 had brought the area round Hyde Park to a complete log-jam. It took us forever after leaving the museum to actually get to Charlotte Street, and we were only just in time as a result. Luckily the front of house staff didn’t seem at all concerned and were more than happy to park us in the bar with a couple of Champagne cocktails to give us time to recover.

The bar decor is somewhat startling – for example:

Some critics have been a bit sniffy about it, but I rather liked it. The room otherwise would be very restrained, and without a talking point. I just felt it lifted the space. Anyway, after a cocktail we were ready to study the menu over a second cocktail. We did the sensible thing and went for the tasting menu with the matching wines. Nothing else would have made sense really, and we’d have struggled to make a decision. We were taken downstairs to the dining room once we’d finished our cocktails, and found the dining room to be pleasant, with lots of mirrored surfaces to make the room seem much bigger. A bread roll and butter was quickly delivered to us, and proved to be very good, with the required levels of crunch in the crust and softness in the middle.

The first course was billed as tomato, but came with more than just tomato, with smoked bacon, pickled shallot, tomato jelly and – and this was the only bit I had my doubts about – Marmite emulsion. I needn’t have worried as it turned out; the marmite just lent the dish a small kick of savoury flavour, stopping the tomato from being too sweet. It was a small jewel of a dish and we were off to a good start.

With it we drank a lovely fresh Riesling – Wild Earth, Central Otago, New Zealand, 2016. The young waiting staff were very prompt with the delivery of fresh glasses for each wine, though they did get a bit behind when it came to removing the empties afterwards. It was quite disconcerting to have your new glass arrive before you’d quite completed the previous one, but they did seem t0 be very busy that evening.

Next up was a lovely deep red piece of salmon, cured in beetroot juice, and served with a manuka honey soda bread and that most traditional of accompaniments to smoked or cured salmon, a beautifully mild horseradish ice cream. That is so going on my list of ice creams to try to make myself when I have time (and an ice cream machine for preference). It’s up there with mustard ice cream, though neither of those will ever beat the foie gras ice cream we were once served in Germany!

The accompanying wine for this was an Assyrtiko Wild Ferment from Gaia Wines, Santorini, Greece, 2016 and was on a par with the intriguing orange wine we drank at Juuri in Helsinki in 2017 (and then tracked down in Germany later in the year).

We stayed with fish for the next course, with a portion of pan fried John Dory, served with mussels, escabeche vegetables and a scattering of bottarga. The fish was executed to perfection, and the various vegetables were lovely little things (even if they maybe should not have been away from their mothers’ that young!) It was all delicious and so far we were very impressed.

I was again much taken with the wine choice too, because we were being served drinks I would very likely have chosen myself. I’m especially keen on wines from places that don’t get all the love they should. Austria is one of those places, never really having recovered in the eyes of many after the ridiculously stupid 1985 anti-freeze scandal that pretty much destroyed the reputation they might otherwise have built up. The wine chosen was also of a grape variety that doesn’t get much love, being a Gruner Veltliner – Kaferberg, Weingut Rabl, Kamptal, Austria, 2015. It was terrific and I would have happily drunk more of it but we were moving on to meat, and red meat at that.

The next course was lamb, both grilled rump and glazed shoulder, the former meltingly tender, the latter unctuous where the fat had rendered down and the meat had become a tangle of fibres that fell apart under the fork. It was seasoned with harissa and served with feta and mint, and was so good I completely failed to take a photo of it, so you’ll just have to try and imagine it for yourself. It came with a very rich, ripe, wonderfully fruity Rioja Reserva – Hermanos Pecina, Spain, 2009.

There was no place left to go but cheese now, and this was a portion of p’tit Basque cheese, a new-ish cheese, served in a frilly bundle on the plate, with verjus jelly and a seeded cracker or two. It was very tasty and very clearly a sheeps’ cheese with that tang they have. It was also nicely kept and nicely presented.

Oh and it came with another of my favourite vinous things, a 10 Year Old White Port, from Kopke. An excellent prelude to dessert.

There were some clever elements in the final course which advertised itself as Pimms and contained several of the elements you’d expect to find in a glass of Pimms on a hot summer day. There was watermelon, strawberry mousse, lemon in the form of a sorbet and some very intriguing cucumber, which actually tasted sweet and had been concentrated down, possibly by drying. It was refreshing and sweet and lovely and a big bowlful of it would have been very nice.

And just for good measure we were served a 2014 Jurancon Uroulat by Charles Hours. It was a brilliant end to a very good meal and we went home content.

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