London Going to the Victoria and Albert Museum has changed in the era of Covid. At least that’s what one guard gave as the reason one can no longer enter through the main doors, and stand underneath it to admire the Chihuly chandelier, which seems to fit so perfectly there.
No, instead, you must enter on the side of the building, inconveniently distant from the tube stop. But worst of all, your entrance is brought to you courtesy of the Sackler family of opioid fame, who have sprinkled their ill-gotten largesse all over the world’s great cultural institutions. We are quite proud of the Metropolitan Museum in New York for erasing that ignominious name wherever it appeared there. According to a sympathetic guard, the issue is still under discussion here.
But, back to luxury goods. What better place than the V&A to see what people valued, wore and safeguarded throughout the ages. It was a bit disconcerting to see young people taking photos on their latest cell phones of the first iPhone, which is now museum-worthy, it seems. First introduced in 2007, for young people today that makes it a relic of the past, along with a plaster cast of David.
My personal favorite is the Great Bed of Ware, which either was a fun party or a super-spreader event, depending on whom you were sharing it with.
Whether too contemporary for comfort, or amazing artifacts of design and beauty from the past, the collection is wonderful to visit time and again, even if you’re tired and you just want to curl up in that bed and dream of times gone by.
But there is so much current luxury one can personally acquire in the vicinity of the V&A. Why, just down the road is that bastion of excess and status, Harrod’s. You can tell you are in the right place to spend money as the store is teeming with Arabic women with the most incredible makeup and Russian couples in furs. (And it’s really not that cold out.) Asians seem to be taking a back seat these days, but they do far outnumber tourists from the U.S.
Our favorite place in the store is the Food Halls. Once we rented a flat nearby and had frequent cocktail parties with friends, catered by quick trips to Harrod’s. Ah, the wonderful 90’s.
Now, we mostly window shop, which is a treat in itself.
Don’s Food Corner
The last two days had few food highlights — positive or negative. Let’s just say it was more fuel than adventure.
Yesterday’s main meal was at a local Turkish restaurant. Nice starters of hummus meze, tasty olives, and some passable fried calamari. For a main course, Jo had a ground lamb kebab, nicely seasoned. I had a healthy vegan concoction of lentils, black-eyed peas, and spinach in a spiced tomato sauce. All as you would expect, but nothing to write home about — although I guess I just did.
Lunch at the V&A museum meant navigating through a complex series of cafeteria “stations” – one for hot food, one for cold food, one for hot drinks and cakes, one for cold drinks – before finding another station to pay for everything. Jo had mushroom soup, which had a pronounced favoring that I think was marjoram. We split a baked tortellini with mozzarella/tomato sauce. Again, nothing unusual and nothing to write home about. And, again, I just did.
The best part of the V&A meal was sitting in the spectacular and beautifully preserved dining rooms from the 19th century. Beautiful.
The food highlight of the day was a stop at the coffee bar in Harrod’s Food Hall for tea, a Victoria sponge cake for me and a slice of creamy cheese cake for Jo – with gold leaf accents. Like the V&A, the surroundings were more spectacular than the food. Tip: You pay a premium to sit in that room and while the food might be forgettable, the experience is not.