Wednesday, January 12, 2011

London 22.12.10: Christmas Markets and Nutmeg Candies

Sitting now in a Pain Quotidien in Covent Garden, waiting for our evening musical, “Oliver,” to begin.  It’s just up the street.  We bought tickets at the half-price booth early today.

We ate in one of these Pain Quotidien places in New York last time we were there, near the Strand bookstore, and liked it.  Getting a table this evening was an adventure.

As we walked by, we could see inside, and I spotted an alluring table for two next to a brick wall, with a candle on it.  But how to get inside was a conundrum.

The place is long, and we walked and walked, seeing only windows, but no doors.  People eating inside, like a Grimms’ fairytale in which you can spot the food and wine, but it vanishes if you reach for it and there’s no door to the banquet hall.

Finally, a narrow door, which admits us to an antechamber that’s maddeningly sealed off from the back of the restaurant, where “our” little table awaits us.  But stairs do lead up, and so up we go, only to be told, No, sorry, no tables, please try downstairs.

And we’re now shown the magic staircase down, down to the coveted interior, and immediately a waiter ushers us to the very table I’d spotted where we now sit writing.

And where our glass of Malbec has just arrived (Steve's glass, of which I'll take a sip), along with a raspberry tart of which I have allowed myself a bite, and a plate of charcuterie.  Which I’ve now eaten and enjoyed—or as much as I dare, of such rich food.

We were fortunate to spot the open-air Christmas market up the street from our theater, since we had several hours to while away before the show.  I bought handmade candy for gifts for family and friends—nutmeg-flavored candy of dark and light sugars, apricot and brandy pieces, vodka and orange, plain bitter chocolate, and candied ginger in chocolate.  Steve bought kielbasa at a Polish deli booth, and we got rose-scented handmade soap at another booth. 

A nice evening, desultory shopping in the very cold night air, with a brisk wind blowing in from the east.

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