I have settled into my new status as a ‘lady of leisure’ with the enthusiasm of a child starting school holidays and the breeziness of a trust fund baby. It took me a couple of days to get into the swing of things but my days of sweaty tube scrums and clock-watching in the office are now distant memories. Instead, I am luxuriating in this sudden abundance of spare time. I can sleep in, I can stay up late, I have time to read the books I’ve been hoarding from the library and do the exercise I never got round to. Or… I can just do absolutely nothing and not feel one single iota of guilt. In short, my time is mine to do as I choose and it is all strangely liberating and deliciously luxurious.
So with all this freedom, what do I actually choose to do?! It turns out that being a lady of leisure can, at times, be not very leisurely at all… despite having no office to go to and no deadlines to meet, I am still very busy. But the fun kind of busy that involves indulging in all the things I love and embracing the lady of leisure stereotype by also transforming into a lady who lunches. I never understood nor had I truly experienced the joy of long, lazy midweek lunches until now, and for extra status points, I now occasionally do long, lazy Michelin star lunches.
I would have happily dined at Hélène Darroze at The Connaught by myself (a solo meal can be a luxury in itself) but somewhere like this is best enjoyed with other ladies who like luxurious lunches. Luckily for me, I have a couple of those up my sleeve so it was a merry party of three who set out to beat the Monday blues at its own game. We are also the very chatty, multi-tasking sort, so much so that the champagne, cocktails and canapés practically came and went without much interruption to our conversation. Though when it came to the menu deliberation, we did stop for air and some serious consideration.
The grouse starter, which was much like a terrine but with the added indulgence of being wrapped in a buttery pastry blanket, won all our votes. Being presented with a glimpse of the whole pie was quite cruel as we knew we would each only get a slither, but what a strapping, meaty slice it was indeed. As if the grouse itself wasn’t plush enough, there was also lardo di colonnata and foie gras thrown in for good measure. The dainty little vegetable sides tried their hardest to add some delicacy but they were really no match for those bold flavours, though that is in no way a complaint. I am a game girl, and this dish was the perfect shot.
Even though I ordered the venison, I couldn’t deny that the John Dory dish was mesmerisingly pretty. I am a sucker for a colourful array of vegetables which not only added vibrancy but actually made the fish stand out and look even more appetising. But I was more than satisfied with my choice of venison which also was no slouch in the looks and tastes department. The cluster of items on my plate appeared succinct and simple but the flavours and textures were extremely well balanced and executed – the Sarawak pepper brought woody, aromatic spice while the butternut squash introduced the sweetness which so often compliments venison.
My dessert took me to warmer climates and I could have loved it for that reason alone as I was still in denial about careering into the winter ahead. When I combined a cube of juicy Costa Rican pineapple with the airy coconut foam and sprinkle of sesame seeds, it felt as if I was eating a mouthful of sunshine in the tropics. It sounds ridiculous, I know, but if you just had a teeny tiny taste… you would no longer be a non-believer. I can’t imagine the decadent trio of chocolate dessert transporting anyone to an island, but I’m sure for the chocolate-lovers, it provided the same sense of euphoria!
Tea and petit fours were next to come and, I’m sure to the great relief of the restaurant staff, so was the end of our lunch. It was an elegant lunch; two Michelin star quality food which was classic and restrained but oozed the quality and skill you would expect from a chef of Hélène Darroze’s calibre and an establishment such as The Connaught. But it was also a long lunch which we finished a fairly impressive four hours later… But that is completely normal, is it not?! Ladies who lunch know that this game is a marathon to be paced and savoured, not a sprint to be raced through, and even more so when you are doing it in Michelin star style!
Are you a fan of long, leisurely lunches? Where has been your favourite spot to indulge in?!
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