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July 1, 2008

Britannia rules the waves

Filed under: Asian Food,Food and Fashion,Restaurants,Vegetarianism — Mr. Henry @ 1:47 am

All week Londoners have been enjoying an unusual spell of sunny weather. Could this be the explanation why low-cut blouses and scanty dresses dominate feminine fashion? Not since he walked the beach of Nice at age 17, a peak experience of his late boyhood, has Mr. Henry seen so very much of so very many bosoms.britannia.jpg

Like great white naval vessels riding the high seas, bouncing breasts command the London concourse. Rule Britannia!

In every cafe, pub, and restaurant he visited this week, the waitress chose her outfit for a stage audition. Mistress Quickly, a tavern wench, or the village strumpet are juicy parts, to be sure, confident to bring advancement. These actresses really can fill the role.
Lately when Mr. Henry thinks of scones with clotted cream, visions of Devonshire dairy maids pop up. The word “pudding” now animates Mr. Henry’s imagination towards sweets not available on the menu.

Bottoms are nearly as uncovered as tops. Rare English sunshine illuminates scanty pants beneath gauzy skirts. It’s a little bit much, really. Or rather, it’s a little bit too little.

Mr. Henry likes the female form. He adores the female form. The unengaged parts of his brain think of little else but the female form. In his considered opinion, there is nothing like a dame. But he finds himself distracted by seeing so much female nakedness in this traditionally prudish country. Bombarded by pale-skinned and dark-skinned beauties, how can he be expected to absorb the subtleties of English Gothic architecture? Concentration flags. Mental acuity goes mushy. His train of thought follows the wrong signal switch and then he wonders why he bothered to trudge all this way just to abuse his feet on medieval paving stones.

When a man is tired of London breasts, is he tired of life?

Seeking revival in traditional pub foods – bangers and mash, fish and chips, shepherd’s pie, ploughman’s lunch – time and again Mr. Henry found the menu listing duck breast salad or felafel instead. The English pub has gone gastro.

On nearly every menu now there is a vegetarian selection indicated by (v). This represents a genuine revolution in English cooking. Results are mixed, but in two cases so far the felafel has been first-rate – freshly prepared, brightly seasoned, and crisply fried. Salads have been excellent.alphonso-mango.jpg

The steak and ale pie Mr. Henry snagged at the Wellington on The Strand lived up to tradition. Judging by the crust’s sturdy exterior and soggy interior, it could have been made in the 18th century. It was timelessness itself.

The week’s most exciting taste without doubt were the Alphonso mangoes from India, pale orange with the creamiest, most aromatic flesh, available for only a few weeks each year. Mr. Henry bought them at the Saturday farmer’s market on Portobello Road. They are the food of Shangri-La.


  1. Mr. Henry, your description of those mangoes nearly caused me to short out my keyboard with unsuperfantastic drool.

    I decry the move to gastropubs giving the nudge to traditional pub grub. While I adore a good duck breast salad or felafel as much as the next girl, and certainly appreciate the efforts to feed vegetarians as well as carnivores, I think it would be a shame beyond expression to lose such taste treats as the Ploughman’s Lunch, Steak and Ale Pie, or a proper Cornish Pasty.

    And suddenly all I want to do is steam a proper suet pudding. Perhaps a Spotted Dick or a Drowned Baby. I just wish I wasn’t absolute rubbish at making custard sauce.

    Comment by Twistie — July 1, 2008 @ 8:24 am

  2. My first lunch on a London visit is a white cheddar and Branston pickle sandwich on whole grain bread. Duck breast will NOT do the job.

    Comment by Casey — July 1, 2008 @ 9:54 am

  3. Oh, Mr. Henry, food is supposed to make you feel sexy. Sweets not on the menu and fanciful dairy maids…what’s wrong with that, if it’s not a flat-out, lingering, life threatening obsession, or the means by which you’d transform this blog into yet another sex blog?

    That being said, I’ve heard from someone in the know that the bared breast is more and more visible in the UK, even in non-food contexts. Events such as technology trade shows, for example.

    Just look at her eyes, just look at her eyes, just look at her eyes.

    Comment by ChaChaHeels — July 3, 2008 @ 5:46 am

  4. Hmmm…. Mr Henry, my experiences of UK are that the English are far from prudish – the home of the Page 3 girl!

    Comment by Leanne — July 4, 2008 @ 4:24 am

  5. “… how can he be expected to absorb the subtleties of English Gothic architecture?”

    Indeed, how can you NOT? There are flying buttresses, and Gothic arches, all around you!

    Comment by La BellaDonna — July 10, 2008 @ 11:08 am

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