The Brass Rail, Selfridges, London
I love salt beef, not the processed plastic textured, pinkish council poop presented by gormless half wits up and down the UK, but proper kosher style pickled brisket. There are a few worthy institutions where they cut the mustard, literally, and cram layers of this soft, moist and very tasty traditionally cured beef in between slices of caraway seed bread along with sauerkraut, pickled cucumber and melted Swiss cheese. London is home to the finest salt beef on this island.
We’re in town to see Adele at Wembley, not my thing really but Debbie is juiced up at the thought. The girl can sing; in fact I would stretch that to declare she has an extraordinary vocal talent and is a remarkable entertainer; she chats to individuals as well as sections of the audience throughout her show. Everyone loves her, nearly 100,000 cheering, screaming, torch shining fans hung on to every sound she made. Me, I found an admiration for her which, prior to the concert didn't exist, despite only recognising two songs. The following morning she cancelled the remaining concerts on her tour as a result of strained vocal chords, “get well soon.”
Now when asked if I “could go a” Brass Rail I had to say “pardon?” For a minute I thought the question was about a brass nail, a completely different scenario altogether. Destination established, we set off on the short walk from Portman Square to Selfridges on Oxford street, sun shining, strangers smiling and we are ravenous after our early morning dash on the Glasgow/London Virgin train. I remember when good old BR did the locomotive catering with class and style, not so much on recent trips.
Selfridges is one of London’s amazing stores, my favourite for sure; I love the foodhall, like the best deli you’ve been in only 100 times bigger and better. The fruit & veg, fish, butcher meat, cheeses, salamis, hams, Middle Eastern delights, sushi and more cakes than you'd see at a vicar’s tea party amongst the goodies vying for your hungry eyes. There's an awful lot more.
The Brass Rail have been offering their fabulous selection of succulent cuts, salt beef, pastrami and ox tongue, for 50 years or so, not bad going considering the fickle nature of the dining public. There's chicken soup with matzah balls, (didn't know Matzah had them), beef hot dogs, latkes with smoked salmon and various salads if the brisket doesn't rock your world. I always have a wander through the various counters en route, salivating over the delectable dishes on display, mentally noting what to put on my post lunch shopping list.
I had the Reuben, described so beautifully in my opening paragraph, it was delicious. Debbie chose a salt beef and mustard sandwich with a pickled cucumber on the side. It was the most peaceful five minutes of the day, she was drooling. I ordered a side of macaroni cheese; I found it disappointingly tasteless. The macaroni was good but the cheese sauce was kinda cheese less. A wallop of strong cheddar and some freshly grated Parmigiana would sort that out, call me Mr Selfridge and I’ll talk you through it. The staff, behind the counter and on the floor are charming and very efficient.
It’s not expensive, certainly in relation to the enjoyment we experienced, a little over £30.
Stuffed full, we decided against desserts, settled up and left, only to walk past the Pan n Ice cart where the charismatic Kayleigh worked magic making instant and mouthwatering ice cream on the minus 30C freezer plates. “Eton mess flavour for two please.” Fantastic to watch and equally fab to eat. Get me outta here, I’m going to burst.
I was dog-tired after returning from the concert, couldn’t be arsed with the walk from Portman Square to Café Helen on Edgware Road. I lay awake wishing I had, for they serve one of the best take away shawarma sandwiches this side of Nahr Bayrūt. Damn!!!
Never mind, morning is a coming, as is breakfast in bed and lunch in the garden…… ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ
Home House, London
The sun is splitting the blue sky wide open, fortunately I’m in the shade, under the middle eastern marquee which covers elegant tables dressed with crisp white napiary, the glistening cutlery and dazzling wine glasses sparkling like costume jewelery in a West End musical. Where am I? I’m in the Palace of Pleasure, Home House, on Portman Square, London. In season, I am the Guy for all seasons after all, I could toss a white truffle at the door of Selfridges’ fabulous store on Oxford Street or with a brisk walk in the opposite direction be banging the brass knocker at young Sherlock’s Baker Street abode. Yet, in this tranquil and green oasis, I could be one thousand miles from the centre of London Town.
Now a private members club, this den of iniquity was born as the humble house of Elizabeth, Countess of Home, designed by Robert Adam. Over the years, there have been many scoundrels who have put their heads to rest on the fluffy pillows here, none more charlatan than the rapscallion Anthony Blunt, Art Historian to HM and secretive confident of the Kremlin. Nowadays, the posse is assembled from elegant, beautiful, bizarre and sophisticated creatures and me.
Everywhere there are displays with tennis balls and rackets, even Cedric is playing, Wimbledon is almost upon us. I’m thankful my dogs haven’t travelled south with me as Milo would have claimed them as he does in the park every Sunday.
Lunch was delightful; Gazpacho with grilled pequillo peppers caught the summer mood perfectly. Caesar Salad, Dressed Crab with Avocado and Longhorn Beef Carpaccio hit the spot with delicious accuracy for those with me. Off to a great start. All quite simple but executed in style.
The mood lifting effect of the sun is astonishing, there’s no desire for stodgy carbs, I’ve opted for the ‘clean menu’ Norfolk Grey Chicken with avocado. It was damn fine too, delicate and moist, I like moist, and gone in a flash. All around the table ear to ear grins; Grilled Tuna, Linguine Pesto and even more crab. New potatoes, cherry tomato salad and a wee bowl or two of fries to share, I’m scolded for calling them chips, FFS.
It was like The Famous Five meet Downton Abbey for a naughty afternoon of mischievous picnicking.
I’m not having a dessert as I’m in ‘clean eat’ mode. As is often said in Glaswegian circles, “aye, that’ll be right.” One Strawberry Eton Mess and one Knickerbocker Glory later and I’m ready to face whatever keigh the Virgin West Coast service cares to throw in my path. I missed two trains because of a ticket malfunction, by the time my pendulum stopped swinging at Glasgow Central I’d mentally dismembered, tortured and painfully terminated anyone remotely related to Casey-fucking-Jones. What a shower of Thomas The Tankers. Choo Choo chew on that!!!!
I’ve had a 36 hour round trip; eaten rather splendidly over two lunches and a breakfast, thank you Selfridges and Home House, seen Adele and been served a sausage that looked like a jobby, thank you Wembley. Time for bed.