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Curios of Olde London with Dad

Posted on 2011/02/05 10:07:49 (February 2011).

[Tuesday 1st February 2011]
Dad was passing through London today on his way back from Guildford to North Wales.

We met at Temple tube at lunchtime, and I started our afternoon's tour of "curios of olde London" by quickly showing Dad the Old Roman Bath tucked down a little alleyway nearby. Apparently Charles Dickens had bathed here.

I decided we should go and have lunch at Simpson's - as Dad doesn't come to London very often it seemed a waste to have lunch anywhere that wouldn't be particularly memorable. It seems to be relatively quiet at lunchtime in the week so we had no problem getting a seat. The vegetarian option was, again, surprisingly pretty good (considering Simpsons being famous for roast meats etc), as it had been last time - I had a very nicely assembled plate of baked mushrooms, with artichokes, tomatoes and some other vegetables. Oh and a cheese and potato bake on the side, which was very good too. Dad had a sort of shepherd's pie but made with venison, which I don't think he enjoyed quite as much as what I had, as it turned out - I think he likes his game to be a bit more rugged and challenging - this looked as though it may have been designed for gentlemen of very delicate palates who don't necessarily have their own teeth. We shared the mixed dessert platter which I think went down rather well, and had a bottle of Nyetimber with the meal - the Queen's favourite English sparkling wine. The grand setting and gratifying decadence of a rather extravagant meal on an otherwise insignificant Tuesday, at lunchtime, was all rather fun.

Next, on to Temple Church, which I'd been wanting to visit for some time (as much to see some of the courtyards and passageways of two of the Inns of Court - Inner and Middle Temple - as the church itself), but it only opens to the public now and again, and typically Monday to Friday in the daytime. Fortunately it was open this afternoon, and knowing Dad is also a bit of a fan of church architecture it seemed like the perfect opportunity. It was a little more modern looking than I was expecting - I think it was damaged during WWII and may have undergone some fairly extensive repairs - but it was still interesting nonetheless.

From here, we walked North along Chancery Lane to Lincoln's Inn - another of the Inns of Court - and again, another place you can't really visit unless you're free in the daytime Monday to Friday. The grounds are rather superb - with the sort of grandeur of an Oxbridge college - and yet it's a place many people who live in London don't even know is there.

This then led us on rather nicely to the Seven Stars - which I believe to be the oldest pub in London - and indeed part of the reason for it's longevity is the way it nestles close to the ancient and largely unchanging Lincoln's Inn. Although I'd taken Dad to lots of my favourite pubs in London before, he'd never been here before. The Seven Stars certainly doesn't try and make a big deal out of its antique status but there is, quite naturally, a definite sense of history here, and it isn't that great a leap of the imagination to picture yourself supping an ale with Pepys and Dr Johnson.

After leaving the Seven Stars we headed in the direction of Holborn tube, across the impressive Lincoln's Inn Fields, witha brief detour by way of the Old Curiosity Shop - just to take a glance at the building itself, as it is a rather impressive survival (dating back to 1567 - 35 years before the Seven Stars even).

At Holborn we took the tube to Bond Street, so that we could briefly pop in to Selfridge's (we had clearly departed from the old London curios theme by this point), as Dad wanted to buy some sugar free chocolates for Janie. This was pleasingly efficient as the Food Hall at Selfridge's is on the ground floor, near one of the entrances - so there's no need to wade through perfume counters etc in order to get to it.

From there we headed on to Royal China on Baker Street for some late afternoon dim sum (sort of an early dinner) - and got there just in the nick of time, as apparently they stop serving at 4:45. It was probably a little too soon after lunch to eat again, but as Dad would be stuck on a train from 7 until 11 it seemed important to have something. I don't think I'd ever been for dim sum with Dad before, so this was fun.

Dad's train was going from Euston, we considered getting the tube from Baker Street to Euston, but as it was now getting into rush hour, and we still had plenty of time (not to mention some dim sum to walk off) we decided to go there on foot instead. So we had quite a pleasant stroll through Marylebone to Euston.

We rounded off the afternoon with a drink or two at the Bree Louise, which is conveniently located very close to Euston, and is more or less the unofficial headquarters for CAMRA in central London - somewhat fitting as Dad was one of the founding members back in the 70s. I could see his heart gladdened by witnessing a real ale pub like this thriving three-and-a-bit decades on, absolutely packed to the gills on a Tuesday, albeit that I think he would quite have liked somewhere to sit down! A particular hit here was the Orchard Pig cider which had a wonderful sharp and intense quality that strongly reminded me of blue cheese - particularly stilton.

After that we walked to Euston and I waved Dad off. It had been a very enjoyable afternoon.

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