Saturday, 14 March 2015

Ladies that brunch: featuring redemptive French toast and a rose scent recce with OT's Birgit and Tara

Source: Foxcroft & Ginger
It is almost exactly a year to the day that I set off for Berlin, the first stop on The Monochrome Set's 2014 spring tour. On a whim at the airport, and notwithstanding the preternatural sparrow's fart of an hour in question, I decided to have breakfast, and was promptly confronted with an absolute travesty of a dish calling itself French toast. So remote was this all-but-eggless, deep fried monstrosity from the fluffy primrose layers of my recall, that the chef apologised profusely and gave me a full refund.

And now, here I was in Soho, cosily tucked into a corner of the edgily named cafe Foxcroft & Ginger - which I persisted in referring to as Foxtrot & Ginger, even though I neither dance nor have occasion to use police radio - with Birgit and Tara of Olfactoria's Travels, when I spied a French toast option on the menu for the first time since that fateful meal at Frankie & Benny's.

But I am running ahead of myself...there is a bit to say about the journey down to London first. For starters, it took a mere hour and twenty minutes this time!, owing to the fact that I had snaffled a Virgin ticket for just two quid more than I would have paid on my usual London Midland service that takes about two and a half hours each way. Also - and readers may find my wonderment surprising - there were refreshments on the train. On the train - fancy that! In an actual buffet car dedicated to the purpose, where a cup of hot chocolate cost 30p less than in the cafe at the station. By the time I had finished marvelling at the amenities of the Virgin service, I had arrived at Euston, and a quarter of an hour later, found myself disgorged from the Underground and standing on a sunny pavement in Soho with Birgit. As we waited for Tara to arrive, we chatted about Tara's recent visit, from which they were newly returned. I also admired Birgit's HSOTD (Hermes Scarf Of The Day: a beautiful cashmere number in shades of grey - I counted more than two, but fewer than totally torrid, hehe. ;) ) I can also reveal that it was tied in a 'cowboy knot' - I thought it might be a style called 'the waterfall', which I saw in a YouTube video once, but I was mistaken. It looks rather like the Maxi Cheche in this link, but with the two outer points tied in a cowboy knot as a last step. A very elegant and relaxed look, anyway.

Source:  Foxcroft & Ginger

Shortly afterwards, Tara popped up and we made straight for Foxcrop & Ginger - I mean Foxcroft...I only finally mastered the name today, would you believe?! - where the waiter directed us to the last available table downstairs. At the far end was a wall of white subway tiles, a sure sign that you are either in a hip and trendy eaterie or a turn of the century public convenience. Menus appraised, the others plumped for Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon, which looked delicious, while of course I had to order the French toast in a bid to exorcise the painful memory of the last one. In fairness, it was more of a French Toast-Croque Monsieur fusion dish, owing to the addition of ham and cheese. Basically, it was the non-pareil of toasted sandwich-like entities, as you can see in the photo.

Unfortunately, we had to be pretty disciplined about the time, as Birgit had a theatre show to catch in the afternoon, however, we did manage to slip in a quick rose scent recce in Liberty, still on the quest of a Holy Grail rose perfume for my friend Jessica. It was great having the combined thinking power of Birgit and Tara and a very helpful male sales assistant as we speed sniffed our way round the perfume hall, scoping the fixtures for rosy inspiration. The top contenders were:

Acqua di Parma Rosa Nobile
Maison de Kurkdjian A la Rose
ODIN Milieu Rose
Keiko Mecheri Attar de Roses
Serges Lutens Fille de Berlin

Jessica is going to check them out on her next trip to the West End, and I will report back on her findings!

After the Liberty detour, we ambled down to Haymarket - or elbowed our way through the crowds, more like. Tara and Birgit lamented the fact that London is a lot more densely populated with tourists than Vienna. After picking up Birgit's ticket, we still had a little while to kill, so we walked round the block, enjoying the sunshine and loitering out of the wind here and there. On one of these street corners, we conducted a side-by-side comparison of Puredistance WHITE on my skin versus Tara's. I had written in my review of how my skin seems to amplify the coumarin facet of the tonka, making for a slightly dry, austere opening, and sure enough, the OT duo agreed that WHITE was 'sharper' on me than on Tara, whose skin seemed to grab the basenotes and go straight to that softer, more dreamy phase of WHITE's development. So to anyone out there who doesn't believe in 'YMMV' skin chemistry, we stick up two empirical fingers at that preposterous notion! Birgit and Tara also sniffed me wearing Opardu, but I will save those musings for a separate post.

Looking stylish despite the strong wind!

All too soon, it was time for the parting of the ways. Birgit and Tara's leavetaking was particularly poignant, as they had been constantly in each other's company for the past week. In time honoured perfumista tradition, I pressed a pair of tea towels on Birgit. I figured they would be thin enough to pack at least. Tara and I then made our way to Harvey Nichols. En route I clocked a number of young girls wearing jeans that were ripped at the knees. I suddenly remembered that the girl who was sitting next to me in the train down had worn a similar pair just like these pictured from New Look, and it was clear to me that denim's answer to self-harming must be a bit of a 'Thing' at the moment. I may be a middle aged old fogey, but I  really don't approve. When that trend is past, you will be left with a pair of foolishly mutilated jeans. It reminded me of that John Hiatt song lamenting those tempestuous rock stars who 'smash a perfectly good guitar'.

Source: New Look

Arriving at Harvey Nichols with a few minutes to spare, Tara and I stopped by Shu Uemura so I could buy a pair of their iconic eyelash curlers. According to Sali Hughes - despite their resemblance to an instrument of medieval torture - eyelash curlers are in fact an indispensable beauty aid for the mature woman, as long as you avoid crimping your lashes into the high kicking pose known as the 'hockey stick'. No danger of that yet awhile. So far I have only mastered one eye(!), and a look I can best describe as 'mildly surprised uplift'. As you can tell, I have been quite surprised lately, what with one thing and another. I kicked myself when I got home for not thinking to bring with me my Shu Uemura Hard Formula brow pencil, so that I could have asked the assistants to whittle it into a 'Samurai sword shape'. Well, that is how it is known, but to my eye it looks more like a canoe paddle or the bill of a platypus. Turns out that the pencil I have is not 09 but 06, which cannot be sharpened in that way anyway. Plus I think it's the wrong colour for my hair (Seal Brown), so in the bin it should go in my next decluttering putsch. Though I know I will struggle to throw away a 'perfectly good eyebrow pencil', if colour wasn't so key.

The sublimely sultry Tara

After roaming aimlessly round the top floor of Harvey Nichols, Tara and I eventually found the 'green bar' where we were due to meet Liz Moores of Papillon, who had kindly invited us to join her and her daughter Poppy (aka 'Pod')  for a drink. Readers, we could be excused for our failure to locate this stylish watering hole, a) because there seemed to be numerous bars and cafes on the same floor and b) because the seating was predominantly cream, with green accents. And when it came, what a drink it was!

An 'Enchanted Garden' no less, with edible glitter and pansies. I experienced collateral sparkling lip gloss(!) for the rest of the day - I had appreciably more glitter than the others, I should point out. It was, however, an age-inappropriate risk well worth running for the sheer fun factor and intoxicating deliciousness of this cocktail, which featured two kinds of fruit liqueur, vodka and champagne. I am used to drinking my alcohol one variety at a time, so this multiplicity may well have contributed to my feelings of pleasant muzzy-headedness on the train home. Which also took an hour and twenty minutes! A hop and a skip, merely exacerbating the dreamlike sensation I always get whenever I visit London.

Which was compounded further the next day by a 50th birthday party in a Wimpy...

followed by a bracing country yomp in all our finery.


Tara said...

It was so good of you to make the trip down, V. I'm glad you found that fast train too. Two and a half hours must be tiring as well as mind numbing.

Thank goodness Foxcroft & Ginger restored your faith in French Toast! It was a great find, thanks to you. Now I do remember your post where the chef came out and apologised.

I had no idea about the dangers of the "hockey stick" effect when eyelash curling. I shall have to get someone to check my technique :)

Soirées at Harvey Nics and Wimpy in one weekend - bet not many people have done that!

Vanessa said...

Hi Tara,

For my part, I was happy to be invited to join you and B on this, the last day of your two-centre holiday!

We all liked the name Foxcroft & Ginger as much as anything, but it did come up trumps on the food front, certainly. I will no longer assume the worst in the eggy bread department. ;)

As well as grappling with eyelash curler technique, I took custody of a Gimme Brow brush today and am not sure I have a clue what I am doing with that yet. Another trial is indicated in daylight, I sense!

It was a weekend of contrasts, no question. But that's what I like about living up here, where the pace is much more relaxed, then popping down to London for a bit of a buzz.

Tara said...

Hope you get on well with Gimme Brows! It definitely only needs a light hand.

Undina said...

Fox...what? I'm still not sure I can get it right.

Sounds like a very pleasant (though not long enough) day. Now I want to visit London again. And Vienna. Both Tara and Birgit look great - you did good job with those pictures.

I'm too old for those jeans. Actually, I went even further: I refuse to buy jeans that look like somebody else has previously worn them.

crikey said...

Sounds like a lovely outing! And that is a super-fancy drink. Well worth glittery lips. Actually, glittery lips would be something of a bonus, but, I suspect I'm secretly an eight year old some times.

(I'm having a bit of a sulk about Virgin Trains, though. Because they have taken over East Coast, which was the prince among railways. And I do several trips a year from Embra to Peterborough*, in glorious East Coast first class** comfort with endless drinkable coffee and tasty, tasty foods delivered by waiters. Whereas the few long Virgin journeys I have done have been rotten, though slightly less rotten than CrossCountry, who, on an Edinburgh to Penzance trip decided they didn't need to have any food available, beyond beer and crisps. And both have had absolutely reeking loos after a couple of hours. Vile! Oh, and the fares seem to have gone up. Grr.

* and then on to Leicester, for college things.
**yes, I am self indulgent, but it was usually no more than 20-30 quid more, return.)

Vanessa said...

I had another go today, but I think it's got a tough job as one eyebrow is vastly more hirsute than the other, due to past overplucking mishaps...I may still require tuition, even though I have watched a bunch of vids already. ;)

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

& Cumin? It is a shifty name, even now...

Oh, do come back to Europe! I think I did a pretty good job of taking a photo as it was blowing an absolute gale. I do have a shot of Tara almost completely obscured by her own hair. ;) She still looks great, in fairness, whereas in the shots of me, I look like a little old (windswept) lady. ;)

The jeans are bad, aren't they? What I believe the French rather quaintly term: 'le jean destroy'.

Vanessa said...

Hey crikey,

'Super fancy drink' is about the size of it! Delicious it was. Slipped down far too easily. Glad you approve of the glitter. I have fond memories of little plastic purses embedded with glittery gold chips, so I know what you mean about a throwback to your childhood.

I didn't know Virgin had taken over the East Coast route. Was amused at your mention of Embra, which is how my SIL spells it. I am from Norn Iron, by the same token. ;) Gosh, I do very vaguely recall sit down meals on trains delivered by waiters - but we would have to go back to the odd business trip in the late 80s or so, when the MD was feeling flush. A few years ago I treated myself to first class on a train between Brussels to Paris for a nominal on-cost and remember recouping all of it in bottomless hot chocolate and croissants. CrossCountry sounds like out London Midland, with whom I normally travel. Fortunately I am very continent en route as a rule, and tend to splurge on a 30p toilet at the Euston end.

crikey said...

There was a *huge* amount of controversy--particularly up here--about the re-privatisation of East Coast. Virgin took over a couple of weeks ago, but say they won't make any "significant" changes in the first year. We shall see! (I figure I eat and drink and gobble free wifi to pretty much the difference in fares over the 4 or 5 hours, so, that's how I justify it to myself. Suspect I'll be back to standard in the future, though.)

The Brussels-Paris train is fab, isn't it? I did that a few times for previous work things some years back.

Olfactoria's Travels said...

A lovely account of a lovely day, thanks, V.
Those dish towels are surely the pride of my kitchen now! xoxo

Vanessa said...

Hmm, I am always suspicious of companies that swear they won't make changes. There was the saga of Kraft and Cadbury, for example. Crossing my fingers for you that it won't go the way of CrossCountry...trains turning back due to whiffy loos and other nonsense.

Vanessa said...

Hi B,

Aw, it was good to see you again. Am happy you like the tea towels. I thought the designs might also appeal to the kids. ;) xx

Suzanne said...

Vanessa, you did a great job capturing your outing, from the French toast of your yummy looking sandwich to what surely must be the toast of all cocktails. That is one pretty and glittery drink! And, of course, you captured Tara and Birgit splendidly. I'm glad those two had such a good visit together in Austria, and that you got to catch up with them in London.

Ines said...

Oh, that drink looks like a little colorful work of art. :) Probably tastes like that too.
I love hearing all about these meetings - everyone says something new and posts great pictures. :)

Anonymous said...

Foxcrop and Ginger? Sounds a little - hum - Sohoish. Hahahaha. I guess it´s the "crop" that does it. I digress. Great post and would love to have been there. I am however überspoiled this year so I surely cannot complain. I love ripped jeans but prefer my old ones that have ripped on their own. matching ripped knees have zero coolness factor. Photos are all brilliant, especially the sultry one of Tara. I love Gimme Brows, indeed I bought ma firestone with tara in London. I am now on my second one. You do need to take some of the product off before using it but I love it.
Dunno about the drink but would love a Wimpy. Less glitter, and I am so fussy about my lip gloss. We will see us soon. Ja Wohl. xxxxxx

Anonymous said...

Firestone? Hahahahahaha. That should read "first one". I have nothing against Firestone, indeed my parents used to sell them in their petrol station.

Carol said...

You'll have to visit us again - we can make you proper American French Toast! ;)
I haven't worn jeans in probably 20 years! I do wear jean skirts, though.

Sun Fontaine said...

Sounds like a lovely day Vanessa! :) Glad you enjoyed some good company.

Vanessa said...

Hi Suzanne,

The food and drinks were a highlight, but the company topped them all the same, as is always the way. Tara had a fantastic holiday and it was lovely hearing all about it. It was also good to chat to Liz at more length than at the last Les Senteurs event - she is an absolute hoot! (Well, she does keep pet owls, so go figure. ;) )

Vanessa said...

Hi Ines,

Colourful work of art is a good description! The barman said it was the most difficult cocktail of all to make, apparently.

I know what you mean about how the different perspectives on the same event can complement one another.

Vanessa said...

Hahahaha. Thanks for the decoding of Firestone. Though I know the make of tyre very well from my various jobs in lubricants. ;)

Vanessa said...

Hi Val,

I recognise your comments long before I get to the end, where there is normally a Germanic clue, hehe. It would have been great if you could have come over, but as you say, you haven't done too badly this year with various get togethers and we will of course see us soon!

Matching ripped knees is a bit naff, and the whole deliberate ripping aspect rather than the effects of genuine wear and tear.

I have the Light/Medium Gimme Brows which Tara recommended and which I imagine would be your shade too? I don't want my brows to go darker, you see, as they are already a bit darker than my hair.

Vanessa said...

Hi Carol,

I would love that - fond memories of another brunch round at yours...!

I hadn't noticed that you didn't wear jeans. You do have such a personal sense of style, so I guess it isn't so surprising.

Vanessa said...

Hi Sun Mi,

Thanks - it was indeed!

Thinkingmagpie said...

Sounds like you all had a great time! Both Tara and Birgit look stunning!

I actually have a pair of jeans like that. No, not on purpose. It happened when I was sawing a piece of wood to fix my wardrobe. Now I'm proudly wearing it when I do some gardening, I don't think I would wear it to go out though. ;) I like the sound of the eyelash curlers. I have very stubborn lashes and even if I curl them every morning, by the middle of afternoon, they look like I've done nothing at all. I should have a look.

Vanessa said...

Hi Yuki,

What a funny story about your jeans - if your unfortunate DIY mishap was on a YouTube video, I bet you would have a million views! Gardening sounds a suitable occasion for wearing them now they are a bit worse for wear.

I am still a novice at mastering the eyelash curling technique, but She Uemura are said to be the Rolls-Royce of curlers and I have been pleased with how they work so far.