Friday 16th November - French and Japanese food, and British art on the road west

To the West Country bearing gifts. Broke journey for a brief visit to Chichester . Set 2 course lunch at Brasserie Blanc (***). Very busy spacious modern room. Nearby table of Ladies who Lunch became gradually , but not unpleasantly, voluble. Friendly staff but I suspect not enough of them. Very slow service. Mrs. M. had Haricot Bean soup. Didn’t live up to its promise as smooth and thin – not a bean in sight. My Welsh rarebit (originally Welsh rabbit according to Kingsley Amis who writes at some length on the etymology in The King’s English) was a little short on cheese and the sourdough a touch hard – perhaps the proffered poached egg, which I declined, would have improved it. Would that have made it a Lapin Madame? Mains were a distinct improvement. Fortunately we still had our appetite – just. Steak frites, a medium-cooked minute steak, garlic butter and crisp chips was as it should be – but why was the green salad served on the warm main plate? Mrs. M. wisely removed it to a side plate. I’m not sure how “slow-cooked” my pork tenderloin was as it was still a touch rose it the middle, but not dangerously so. Actually it was nicely rustic when served with tasty winter vegetables. Many good wines by the glass (and no doubt by the bottle). A Chilean viognier had attitude.

A quick visit to one of Mrs. M’s favourite clothes shops called Indigo. (*****) It is one of the few such emporia that your man enjoys visiting. Always striking designs and extraordinary colours, with comfortable seating for those merely expressing an opinion rather than trying the clothes on.

Then to the Pallant House gallery, another favourite. (***** gallery). The gallery is in two parts. The older part is a magnificent Queen Anne mansion dating from 1712 (opening as a gallery in 1982). In the 1990s a modern entrance and extension were added. Designed by Long and Kentish in association with Colin St. John Wilson (architect of the British Library). The basis of the extensive holdings of 20th Century art came from Walter Hussey who was Dean of Chichester Cathedral. This was supplemented in the 1990s by the collection of Wilson and his wife M. J. Long. In addition to the permanent collection there are always several worthwhile temporary exhibitions. On this visit the main show featured the work of Julian Trevelyan (1910 -1988) (***) (On until Feb 10th). Trevelyan was a founding member of the British Surrealist Group and then went to Paris in 1931 where he was influenced by Giacometti, Andre Masson, Picasso, Miro, Max Ernst and Paul Klee. While the works he produced are fine things in themselves which your man would like to have in his collection, judged by the highest standards they are very derivative. He, himself, recognised them as clichés. He then worked for Mass Observation, developing his own style producing striking images of northern industrial towns up to the Second World War. During the conflict he served in the army as a camouflage artist in North Africa. After the war he turned to teaching and became Head of Printmaking at the Royal College of Art, teaching Hockney, R.B. Kitaj, and Norman Ackroyd. Sadly, to my eye his own later work, while very skilfully executed and popular (especially the prints), seem to me rather trite – but perhaps I’m missing something. Far superior in my view are the wonderfully evocative black and white etchings by his pupil Ackroyd of wild islands of Britain, on show in the print room– worth the admission fee in themselves. (*****).

On to Dorchester where we stayed in one of my favourite small hotels, Westwood House (*****). Comfortable rooms in a Georgian house in the main street, and a delicious breakfast in the pretty conservatory. I recommend the pancakes with maple syrup and bacon. After arrival we then had dinner at a superb Japanese restaurant, Myras Kaiseki.(*****) We started with Sake based cocktails accompanied by perfectly prepared vegetable sushi. Homemade Hanumaki rolls and prawn gyozas were equally successful. Mr’s M.A.E. had large, succulent tempura prawns with a crisp Panko coating while your man went for Chicken Katsu. O.K., nothing too exotic but a high standard of cooking. More unusual dishes are available including fresh fish. A sorbet platter and Doriyaki (pancakes with green tea) to finish. We drank a Japanese white wine (a first for me I admit) Grace-Koshu Kayagatake 2016 from the Koshu grape. It was crisp, citrusy with a touch of white pepper on the finish (90 points). It accompanied our menu choices well. Service by a Japanese lady was both helpful and charming. Overall an unexpected treat on a cold evening.

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