Sir John Soane's museum is a maze of rooms filled with marble fragments, plaster casts, bas reliefs and statues. There are alcoves full of artifacts, dark wooden panels, secret doors and double walls that open to reveal painting upon painting. In the cellar, the alabaster sarcophagus of Seti I dominates and in the courtyard an enormous and ornate tomb for his wife's beloved dog, Fanny. Disorientating, labyrinthine and drenched in yellow from roof lights, reflected by mirrors; the tall and narrow house in Lincoln's Inn Fields was surely home to an eccentric and a hoarder.
(image from http://www.fwalondonartsandculture.co.uk )
My favourite room of those we were allowed to see (whilst the temporary exhibition rooms were changed), was the south drawing room. Painted in Turner's Patent Yellow the most fashionable colour of the time, with a beautiful crystal chandelier at its centre, it was spacious and light filled. A tonic to the warren of rooms we had left behind us. Quirky and packed to the rafters with antiquities, the house gave a glimpse into the life of one of Britain's most distinguished architects. The museum also organises candle-lit evening tours which I imagine would be even more atmospheric, particularly in the depths of the cellar. Arrive early, if you don't wish to hang about outside queueing and, don't bring anything too bulky with you.
(South drawing room image from www.guardian.co.uk)
After our visit to the museum, we ate a late lunch at Tonkotsu on Dean Street and having missed the lunchtime rush, we didn't have to wait long for a table. I'd never eaten tonkotsu before and have never been to Japan, so although I can't vouch for its authenticity here, I can tell you it tasted pretty damn good. Tonkotsu, a noodle soup and street food, originates from the Kyushu region of Japan. This is not a hot and sour ramen that kicks the palate and cleanses the soul but, a warm fuzzy comforting hug of deeply savoury broth with a generous knot of wheat noodles.
Milky white and creamy, the stock gets its richness and consistency from pork bones, collagen and fat being boiled together at a high heat for over 18 hours. Served with pickled ginger, spring onions, thin slices of pork belly and half a savoury egg, we pepped it up further with a slug of chilli oil. A slow burner of an oil rather than a firecracker and, MSG free to boot, it had bits of garlic, onion, red miso and sesame seeds making it completely addictive. The other revelation was the savoury egg. Soft boiled to perfection with the shell carefully removed then marinated in soy; I saved mine 'til the end for one last umami filled mouthful.
If tonkotsu sounds too rich or doesn't take your fancy, they serve Tokyo and miso ramen also and a range of gyoza and side dishes. We tried the chicken karaage -succulent pieces of thigh marinated in soy, garlic and ginger, dipped in potato flour and fried until crisp and golden. Served piping hot, we smothered them with chilli oil too. If there's one thing the Bristol food scene is missing (in my opinion), it's a decent Japanese restaurant. So, Tonkotsu and Tsuru, if you happen to chance upon this -fancy opening an out-post in the Southwest?
Labels: Beyond Bristol, Lunch