Wednesday, February 14, 2007

From Manchester Square to Regent Street

The Wallace Collection is surely one of the artistic gems of London. Stepping out of the Bond Street Tube Station, in the heart of the shopping district, I walked past James Street, with its many little eateries, onto the quieter Manchester Square, a leafy area where Hertford House – site of the Wallace Collection – is located.

There I met up with the Sister. But before we could partake in the art, we had to take care of the palate. So we went straight to the Wallace Restaurant, a central tearoom and French-styled restaurant under a sunlight sky. The setting was rather lovely. I ordered a bowl of onion soup and a tartine with white crab and tarragon dressing, and ended with a nice cup of café latte disguised as a cappuccino. But the experience was marred slightly right at the start, when they said that they didn’t serve Diet Coke, nor any other sodas. I don't get it - why do they need to be so atas?

So onwards to the art. The Wallace Collection contains rich holdings of medieval European and oriental armour, and also a wide range of French paintings and decorative items. But I found myself drawn more to its smaller, yet more pleasing Flemish collection – folks such as Frans Hals, Jan Steen and Pieter de Hooch. British masterpieces from Reynolds and Gainsborough were also well represented.

We wandered up to a large upstairs hall, where we chanced upon two ladies harpists, who proceeded to perform a selection of pieces from modern musicals, and with quite a few wrong notes. In an adjoining room was an exhibition of works now reattributed to Rembrant, after years of uncertainty about their provenance.

The Wallace Collection was bequeathed to the nation towards the end of the 19th century, with the assembly of artworks having been acquired by generations of the aristocratic Hertford family. Entrance now is free to all, and I wonder how the current trustees and management of the Collection manage to fund its operations. Perhaps they have a large fat trust upon which to tap. Meanwhile, members of the public get to benefit from the wonderful accessibility thereby afforded.

After a drink or two with a friend from the hall at the Moët Café in nearby Selfridges, I joined the Sister and the Brother in Law for a sukiyaki dinner at Mitsukoshi Restaurant along Regent Street near Piccadilly Circus. It was definitely very satisfying, and I had two full bowls of rice. But looking at the large sukiyaki pot, the shape somehow reminded me of a large bowl of fish head curry, brimming with asam juices. I couldn't help but sigh wistfully, for that was another dish from home which I miss a lot. What am I going to do?


Post a Comment

<< Home