To London on the 9.24 a.m.from Eastbourne. Arrived Victoria a few minutes late. Main purpose of visit was to meet three former teaching colleagues for lunch at Richoux in Piccadilly. Having an hour to spare, and being an RA member, I was able to pay a fleeting visit to Burlington House for the Oceania exhibition. (*****) This shows, and sets in their historical context, an extraordinary collection of artefacts from the islands of the Pacific Ocean. I expected not to find this of great interest having rather grim recollections of wet games afternoons spent in the ethnographical galleries of Exeter’s Royal Albert Museum with canoes hanging from the ceiling and dusty Egyptian mummies in glass cases. Well, this exhibition was a revelation. Yes there were canoes, but they were long ceremonial ones covered in carved imaginary creatures. There were huge patterned cloths made of bark, enormous headdresses, masks, and feather cloaks. I marvelled at the navigational skills of the islanders.
The exhibition marks the 250th anniversary of Captain James Cook’ expedition on HMS Endeavour. He sailed just four months before the foundation of the RA. The exhibition also shows modern pieces which reflect those 250 years of contact between Oceania and Europe. The most extraordinary of these is “In Pursuit of Venus [infected]” by Lisa Reihana, which I won’t describe except to say it is spectacular and has to be seen. I would advise not even looking up about it before going. You won’t be disappointed.
If you don’t know Richoux, a café in Piccadilly just opposite the RA, it is a very useful spot for breakfast, coffee, a light lunch or, indeed, afternoon tea. It is part of a small chain and is always very popular. It has a certain old-fashioned elegance with banquette seating and chandeliers. To eat there are old favourites such as shepherd’s pie, fish pie, Welsh rarebit, a burger plus slightly fancier dishes such as beef stroganoff and crab linguine. We had a very jolly time discussing old times. Normally I would give Richoux four stars. My white wine by the glass was pleasantly crisp and a good accompaniment to a rosette of smoked salmon. My omelette was on the heavy side but this may have been partly my fault for having three fillings (cheese, ham and mushroom). Strawberry tart could have been more French in style by omitting the cream filling, though I’m sure many would like it. If you want coffee to follow the dessert order it afterwards. Nice lunch but only *** on this occasion.