Today we had one of our favorite types of excursions – an outing curated by dear friends Alan and June, aka Lambert Tours.
We didn’t go far. A quick 12-minute train ride from Victoria Station got us to West Dulwich, which turns out to be a very posh village with a notable museum we toured after a cup of tea in its cafe. (Yes, we are back in the land of elevenses!)
The Dulwich Picture Gallery considers itself the first purpose-built public art gallery in the world, making its debut in 1811. It was originally started by the actor Edward Alleyn (1566–1626), with his own art collection. It was improved upon by Sir Francis Bourgeois and Noël Desenfans, who created the gallery we see today. It has just the right amount of Old Masters and enough only slightly lesser artists to make it easy to take in.
Its founders realized that they couldn’t take it with them when they died, so they decided to just hang around and make sure things were well taken care of after they departed. Their on-site mausoleum is rather unusual, but it does indicate their passion for this project.
Lovely Dulwich has many lust-worthy homes, plus a picturesque pub complete with a buxom barmaid busy pulling a pint, where we took our Sunday lunch.
Even more eccentric was our next stop, the Horniman Museum in nearby Forest Hill.
The museum was founded in 1901 by Frederick John Horniman, who inherited his father’s tea business, which by 1891 had become the world’s biggest tea trading company. Its success funded his lifelong passion for collecting, covering natural history, cultural artifacts and musical instruments. Quite an quixotic array, starting with some animals that demonstrate “Crochetdermy,” rather than the usual skins and furs used by taxidermists. Bit odd to see dogs on display, but one must understand their evolution from wolves, it seems.
We ended the afternoon with more tea/coffee, watching an amazing sunset through the conservatory of this funny little museum.
All in all, a very satisfying day.
Don’s Food Corner
With only a few days in London, we concentrated on embracing the traditional without comprising on anything resembling “reconsidered” British food. That meant our two trips to tea rooms — one in the late morning and one in the late afternoon — featured classic sweet concoctions of carrot cake with walnuts, scones with clotted cream and jam and a two-layer Victoria sponge cake with jam between the layers. Those who have watched the Great British Baking show would recognize these delights, giving reason enough to visit here.
For lunch, we found our way through a fully intact Victoria era pub (photos above) into a more modern addition that housed a sleek restaurant. The modern surroundings gave me a little pause, but happily the menu was fully British with just the stuff we were looking for. Jo went for a beer-battered fish and chips meal, although it was unclear exactly what kind of fish was used. I zeroed in on the leg of lamb with all the fixings — roast potatoes, carrots and parsnips as well as a perfectly ballooned Yorkshire pudding and all slathered in a dark, dark gravy. June joined Jo for fish and chips and Alan went for the steak and leek pie. I didn’t get to taste any of these choices, although, to be fair, I didn’t offer anyone a taste of mine. But since they cleaned their plates, I assume that all was satisfactory.
For a little dessert, Jo and I shared a sticky toffee cake with vanilla ice cream and caramel poured all over. Again, the classic recipe. (It was consumed too quickly to photograph.)
Yes, this is why Great Britain remains great.