A Taste of London
On the second Sunday of Advent, the 4th December last, saw some 40 Gastronomes, family and friends, join the regular congregation of St George’s Hanover Square to our 27th annual church parade. Our Chaplain the Revd Roderick Leece (who is only the 13th rector of the Parish church of Mayfair since its consecration in1724 some 288 years ago) welcomed us.
The setting of the sung Eucharist was the Mass in G Minor by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958). Written in 1921 the setting was perhaps notable as the first mass in a distinctly English manner, since the 16th century. The composer dedicated the piece to Gustave Holst and it was first performed in Westminster Cathedral. Vaughan Williams had been a pupil of Parry at the Royal College of Music and was especially indebted to him and wrote “we pupils of Parry have, if we have been wise, inherited from him the great English choral tradition” .
Father Roderick’s sermon covered a number of relevant issues –
“Food and beverage is of course at the centre of your work…and therefore… I was very surprised to learn from Adrian Bannister, as was he, that food and drink is outsourced at such a prominent place as The Savoy.
Outsourcing is usually a way of saving money…of employing people who are forced to re-apply for their jobs (provided the jobs have not gone to India) on less favourable terms and conditions. And as a customer, it is frustrating not being able to deal with the boss. I don’t know how it works now at the Savoy, although sadly cannot pretend I have been there in the past either, and so could not compare!
Mercifully, as far as the Christian faith is concerned…outsourcing is an unknown concept. You could say that other religions outsource the revelation of divine love…to prophets…sages…and gurus…and also that this is part of the Christian tradition.
But God does not engage in outsourcing. Everything remains in-house. So that God spends more…not less. In fact…as we discover when the Crib ends up at the Cross…he spends it all. He both gives all of his divinity in becoming flesh…as a child born in poverty and humility…and spends all that love can accomplish…on the Cross.
This divine generosity is what we celebrate at this time of year…and gives us confidence to look at ourselves more deeply…and re-examine our priorities. Confidence to re-claim the real me…rediscovering our true identity…and finding our own particular place in the story of divine love…in short what God’s plan is for each one of us.”
After the uplifting service we all made our way to the first floor suite at the Intercontinental Hotel, the Grays Room, where we watched the World go by with a wonderful view over the hurly burly of both Park Lane and Hyde Park Corner. Committee member Wendy Alders, Director of Banquets, together with Sous Chef Elliott and the Director of Service, Tom Wiggett, had prepared a splendid lunch for us.
The beautifully marinated loin of salmon (rather than sliced salmon) was served with a warm blinis sized lobster fish cake – delicious.
The Casterbridge Somerset Sirloin of Beef comes from traditional breeds of English beef sourced from selected farms in the six counties of South West England. All the cattle are finished on a natural grain diet that ensures a controlled protein intake and guarantees consistently high quality. The meat is produced in Somerset – improving animal welfare and reducing food miles.
Executive Chef Paul Bates says “with Casterbridge, I know I am serving English quality standard beef where I can be totally confident about the quality and absolutely certain about the consistency.”
Casterbridge has a lovely flavour and it has good marbling, the fat is a beautiful colour and it has a delicious aged flavour being tender and moist to the taste. Those of us fortunate to have eaten it can testify to this.
Concluding the lunch, the dark chocolate torte was a real treat for chocolate lovers.
We had a choice of four white wines, together with Vina Alarde, Berberana from Rioja.
Of particular note was the Château Haut Bernasse 2003 from Montbazillac. This is an area of rolling hills south of Bergerac, which provides rich wines made from grapes with “noble rot”. The clay and limestone soil bring an intense aroma to the wines, as well as a strong and complex structure. This pudding wine was a treat – but I am not sure which was the sweeter, the torte, or the contents of the glass.
St George’s Church Hanover Square has just won the 2011 architectural award for the restoration of a Georgian church from the Georgian Society (Patron – HRH the Prince of Wales). The group recognises expert conservation in the UK and rewards those who have shown the vision and commitment to restore Georgian buildings and landscapes. At the time of going to press, the refurbishment is being completed by the installation of a new organ. The cost of this phase is some £1million and donations are still welcomed. It is hoped that this will be completed during the course of the year. If you wish to support this project, please contact the Fund Administrator tel – 020 7629 0874 or email@example.com
Unfortunately, the President was very sorry that, due to the pressure of work at the beginning of the busy December season at their Black Boys Inn at Hurley, he and his wife were not able to be with us. He had, however, asked Past President Simon Roberts to host the occasion on his behalf, which he did with his usual charm and efficiency. Simon was particularly pleased to bring to the attention of the guests the fact that our one time Treasurer, Leslie Oblath, had just celebrated his 90th birthday.
After the meal, the very pleasant day was beautifully rounded off by a quartet from the St George’s choir, who entertained us with seasonal music and who then led us in the singing of several well known carols. A number of members mentioned afterwards how much they had appreciated the traditional finish to such a relaxed and informal start to Christmas tide.
Past President, Alan G Fairbrass