With one day spare, what did we end up doing? Yup, we went on a "Canal Walk/Tour", to be precise we walked the whole length of Regent's Canal on a cold winter's morning (Doesn't sound very interesting right? But the walk turned out to be very pleasant).
Have you heard of Banksy? He's a famous graffiti artist in London - who in the world likes graffiti, I hear you ask? Well, actually Banksy has fans from the likes of Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and Christina Aguilera. And his work is no longer called graffiti, but "artwork".
After a while, it was quite an adventure trying to find Banksy's artwork along the canal.
Banksy in the local papers
Some parts of the canal were actually quite picturesque
Ducks landing... they glided gracefully across the ice! Yes, the water in the canal was frozen solid!
And we spotted a fox frozen in the water!
See this artwork below? Banksy altered the original work by some guy called King Robbo (which was untouched for 24 years!), and it started a graffiti war. We managed to take a picture of Banksy's work before King Robbo retaliated by spraying his name in 3ft letters on the workman. Never mess with another graffiti artist's work!
For lunch, we have booked a table at Foliage, a 1-Michelin star fine dining restaurant (which they have held an impressive eight consecutive years) in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. This restaurant wasn't actually at the top of my list, but when we walked past the hotel on the way to Harrods one day, I was wowed by its beauty and striking interior. Mandarin Oriental screams grandeur and sophiscation at the same time.
The trendy Mandarin bar
Thousands of wine bottles on display on the striking glass walls
We had a great view of Hyde Park from our table.
Cute little reindeer ornaments
Following the orders of the man who designed the restaurant, Adam Tihany, a waiter is dispatched each morning into the park to gather leaves and then place one at each table setting underneath a glass plate in order to “bring the park into the restaurant”.
The food here definitely surpassed my expectations. One of our top two meals in London!
Delicious amuse bouche of salmon and potato fishcake with pickled cucumber and fried capers
I had to pay a £5 supplementary for my starter as it wasn't from the set lunch menu, but it was well worth it. Scallops with cep, turnip and walnuts and a sherry based sauce. The scallops were glazed on the outside but stayed tender and moist on the inside. A perfect starter indeed!
This didn't sound much on the menu, but Hubby was pleasantly surprised when he tasted his starter of Poached hen's egg with Jerusalem artichoke, ceps and crouton.
For the intermediates, I had the Sea bream with shellfish nage, clams and samphire. This is a very good fish dish, the sauce was extremely delicious with lots of fishy goodness - love the clams and samphire!
Apparently this is one of Foliage's signature dishes, Gnocchi with brocolli, stilton and mushrooms. The gnocchi was light and fluffy, they are truly delicious. And the presentation on the grey slate is very nice.
For my main course, I had Braised Ox Cheek with smoked mash, Bourguignon mushrooms and pickled pearl onions. I've eaten braised ox cheek 3 times in my life, and this is the best by far.
Hubby had the Lamb with salardaise potato, baby turnip and caramelised onions. The lamb was cooked to perfection.
For dessert, I had the Chocolate Brownie with candied fennel, beetroot and blood orange sorbet. The brownie would have been better with vanilla ice-cream (my personal preference). Sorry to say this, but I think the chocolate brownies that I make are much nicer.. :-P
Hubby's dessert description was quite vague on the menu, but it turned out to be quite a creative dessert - Banana with amaretto, sea salt caramel and beurre noisette (that is brown butter). Extremely rich and delicious.
Petit fours consist of freshly baked madeleines dusted with icing sugar - soft, light and airy with a crisp crust. And they smell wonderful!
After our lunch, we headed to Harrods, a place not to be missed whenever we visit London. Not sure why though, we always just window shop here.
The theme for Xmas 2009 in Harrods was The Wizard of Oz. Everything green.
I joined the crowd and took a picture of this 30million year rock
A visit to Harrods is not complete without a walk through the Food Hall... all that yummy food! Pity I've just eaten..
I regretted not buying one of these Dyson fans and bringing it home. If anyone sees it in Malaysia, please please please let me know where I can buy it.
Our last stop for the night, Covent Garden to watch some "live show".
Goodbye London. It has been a really memorable holiday. Thanks again Hubby for flying me there. And ooooh, I got to fly first class on Malaysia Airlines from London to KL (my first time, lucky me :-)). The lounge in Terminal 4 is spanking new, very chic with quite a decent buffet spread and free flow alcohol (champagne everybody!).
Verdict: Food at Foliage was excellent, however the dining experience was marred slightly by a group of very loud diners.
Service: The service was excellent. Hubby was extremely pleased that the sommelier poured him 3 glasses instead of only 2 he was supposed to get with his set lunch.
Price: Set lunch is a steal at £29 for 4 courses (without wine) and £37 for 4 courses plus 2 glasses wine.
Nearest tube: Knightsbridge
Note: Foliage has since closed in March 2o10 to make way for two new restaurants opening in Spring (Bar Boulud by the famous chef Daniel Boulud) and Fall (Dinner by Heston Blumenthal of Fat Duck) of 2010. Should be interesting!