Land of the long white cloud – II

Cloudy Bay vines

We arrived in Blenheim somewhere in the early evening and checked into a motel (somewhere in between seedy and luxurious). A spot of twitter and internet searching later and we’d discovered a decent sounding restaurant called the Hotel D’Urville. It certainly looked the part in a vintage building with fancy looking furniture, polished surfaces, dim lighting and well adorned staff. Sadly it all went downhill from there. The service was unwarrantably snooty, the food even worse. Everything tasted as if it had come straight out of a fridge. Bland lifeless salmon on top of pasta was a particular low light, as was the salmon mousse with pumpernickel amuse bouche, that did not amuse any bouches.

The only high point in the entire meal was opening the bottle of the 2005 Pegasus Bay Merlot Cabernet we’d purchased earlier in the day. A wine of great length and substance. It’s fortunate that credit card bills take a long time to come through, thus the sting of actually having to pay a substantial amount for blatant mediocrity was less severe than handing over cold hard cash.

The night was due to pick up though. I’d been in contact earlier in the day with Aaron, winemaker and internet marketer extraordinaire for family owned label Fiasco Wines. Aaron’s family had planted some of the first vines in the Marlborough region, and he was now taking the finest of them to make wine of his own. But the reality of the situation for Aaron is that whilst making your own wine is a labour of love that you hope will pay off eventually, you need some money to pay the bills in the meantime.

So in the evenings Aaron is a contract wine maker at a facility on the outskirts of Blenheim and makes wine for labels of epic proportions. We’d been in touch via Twitter and Aaron kindly offered to give Jon and I a tour of the facility.

Marlborough Sauvignon BlancFamous NZ Sauvignon Blanc in grape juice form

I had no real idea what I was in for when we got there actually, but to call the wine industry in Marlborough in any way boutique would be a complete misnomer once you’ve encountered this kind of operation. We sat in slightly bewildered awe as swollen trucks dumped tonne upon tonne of grapes into hungry hoppers. Then we were slowly guided by Aaron through the entire process as it was crushed, pulped, fermented and hit the holding tanks. Getting a chance to try one of NZ’s most popular export wines (no guessing) as a rather tart grape juice.

Apparently this one facility produces up to 15% of all of the wine in NZ… and can store millions of litres of wine in it’s tanks. I was torn between being fascinated and being disturbed by the scale of it all, but Aaron is no nonsense kind of guy and did his best to keep things real whilst showing us around, something I have a lot of respect for. Wine can be a very glamour focused industry, so seeing the scale of this was a great way to put things in perspective next time you hit the bottle shops.

After checking out the red wine area, where apparently you can quite easily die if you stick your head too far into a vat of fermenting grapes (note to self: too much C02 == bad), it was time to hand back our fluorescent safety vests and head back into town. Aaron very kindly gave me a bottle of his 2008 Tall Story Sauvignon Blanc, that went down a treat upon my return to Australia.

So the next day was all about Marlborough. We started the day completely by accident at CPR (Coffee Premium Roasters). My keen coffee sensing skills must have been on overdrive because we just happened to walk into this place and then noticed a roaster out the back. A quick chat to the girl managing and turns out we were in Blenheims only boutique coffee roaster, who also happen to hold coffee appreciation classes and tasting sessions. Score.
A quick test of the coffee via a flat white and an espresso proved that indeed they did know their stuff.

A breakfast of champions at a nearby restaurant fueled us for the day ahead and it was off to the vineyards. We sampled wines from Lawsons Dry Hills, Cloudy Bay, Fromm, Huia, Allan Scott, and Nautilus. Beer from Moa kept Jon’s palate refreshed and I almost started contemplating getting into some myself as the gooseberryesque Sauvignon Blanc that the region is famous for began to take it’s toll. Crisp, herbaceous, and refreshing in it’s best incarnations, bitingly acidic and grassy in it’s worst. I can see why it’s a contentious little varietal at the moment.

I did however get right into a lot of the Gewurztraminer of the area. It’s a lovely aromatic varietal traditionally grown in the Alsace region of France, and produces some delightful wines. Everyone in NZ seems to be very specific on letting you know the level of residual sugar in their white wines, so you can be quite certain as to the level of apparent sweetness before trying anything. Something I think makes a lot of sense when it comes to comparing wines of the same variety made in different styles.

I tended to prefer the off dry, spicy Gewurz such as that from Huia and Lawsons Dry Hills. Both of which I bought, and added to a small but growing collection.

Soon though it was time to keep on moving. We bid farewell to Blenheim and surrounds and headed on towards Nelson, passing through Havelock, supposedly the home of the NZ green lipped mussel. It being near lunchtime and with only cheese and crackers from various wineries in our bellies so far, we decided we’d better stop and sample the local delicacy. So it was off to The Mussel Pot we went.

I probably should have guessed it wasn’t going to be great from the gaudy tourist look of the place on the way in, but we figured we’d try it anyway. I ordered a pot of mussels with a thai style sauce (lemongrass, coconut milk, chilli), and Jon ordered something that had blue cheese in it. The flavours of the sauces aside, the mussels are just not good. NZ green lipped mussels are huge, chewy, horrible things, that spoiled any hope of my falling in love with them. Especially when I found a tiny crab living inside one… A basket of stale bread and a packet of butter didn’t go any futher towards sweetening the deal wither. Lets just say that this day the magic of NZ did not quite live up to what we were hoping.

So back into the car we headed, and other stunning drive from Havelock to Nelson up and down and around hills and mountains and lakes. I had never been through this part of NZ as a child, and so it was all quite amazing to see. The only problem being that New Zealand was beginning to become too beautiful. We’d stop at the top of a hill, take photos and gaze out across the distance, then drive around the corner and over another hill, and want to do the same thing all over again. Quickly becoming fairly blaise about the wonder of nature all around us as it blurred past us at 120km/hr.

We stopped briefly in Nelson, which itself is a very boutique little city. It’s becoming built up quite a bit, but still retains an edgy facade of coolness. With more local coffee roasters and enough decent sounding pubs and restaurants to keep the relatively discerning locals and tourists happy. But instead of lingering we decided it would be best to keep on driving down towards the west coast. Ending up for the night in Murchison, and old gold mining town that’s now a hub for whitewater rafters. Sadly nothing particularly adventurous was open when we arrived though, and the best we could do for dinner that night was a roast dinner at the local pub. Oh to have brought my camera with me, as a veritable feast of microwaved meats and formerly crisp vegetables was presented with a spattering of gravy. Memories of boarding school came flooding back with the stewed peaches and ice cream for dessert, and we left satisfied if not entirely fulfilled.

We had a nice example of kiwi hospitality as the lady motel owner handed us the keys without taking down any of our details or asking for any money, and a bottle of Nautilus Pinot Noir provided a very relaxing end to a full day.

Salmon mousse 'amuse'The best thing about this restaurant was the wine I brought myself*Lamb Rack with mash and dolmadesThe worlds most tasteless salmonThe whirly bit makes the grapes go somewhereFamous NZ Sauvignon Blanc in grape juice formBubbly goodnessMarlborough Sauvignon Blanc25,000 kg per loadCaution: Person In PressThe vats... they twinklea journey into the nightThe best stuff happens at nightAaron of Fiasco WinesA vat of pinot noirCPR: Coffee Premium RoastersCPR: Coffee Premium RoastersEspresso from CPR BlenheimBreakfast at Raupo : BlenheimThe best days start with a well poached egg.Cloudy Bay vinesChampagne fancierThe rowsHuia : Late Picked ReislingMoa NoirHuia : Marlborough Pinot NoirHuia : The lineupIf she didnt hate me then, she will nowlunchtime anticipationbread baskets & pNZ Green Lip MusselsThe best thing about the musselsAnatomy of a musselOk, so we still ate them.*Nautilus: Marlborough Pinot NoirFromm : Marlborough La Strada Pinot NoirMotel refinement

Land of the long white cloud – I

Fields of dandelions

Aotearoa, New Zealand, Home.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been back to the land that bore me. I would love to say 20 years to the day I left, but I have neither the organisational skills, nor the flair for melodrama to manufacture something quite so grandiose. Still, I left when i was 9 years old and came back for only the second time when I was 29, so there’s got to be some poetic license in there somewhere.

The occasion this time around (not that there needed to be one of course) was my grandmothers 80th birthday. She is my sole surviving grandparent and matriarch to an ever expanding (except on my behalf) army of grand and great grand children. Having had 9 children of her own, she tends to take things a little easier these days, though she’s no less feisty than I remember as a small child, trying to raid her cupboards for girl guide biscuits, making forts in her hedges,áand generally causing mischief.

Before I reached the party, and as a way of reacquainting myself the country, I decided it’d be a good idea to hire a car and drive around. Reminiscing at former holiday spots, revisiting the scenes of near tragedies, seeking out wine regions and food haunts, and generally soaking up as much as New Zealand was willing to give. With my travel companion and apprentice wine sampler Jon as co-pilot, we did perhaps the fastest circumnavigation of the South Island possible in a Toyota Corolla. Which went a little something like this:

Day 1: Dinner in Christchurch at Le Cafe. We tried to get into “Cook’n with Gas”, which despite the name and the giant gas flame burner out the front of the restaurant, did look quite nice and had good reviews. Instead we ended up at Le Cafe, not my first pick, but a cute waitress and a glass of wine will do wonders to your expectations. The food was actually not bad, pork and fennel meatballs fueled our appetites and a slow cooked beef shin finished the job. I could have done without the 3 whole chillies chopped up and strewn through my ‘hot and sour’ salad, but all in all the meal was good. Added novelty when the lights were turned off for earth hour and we all got candles on our tables. Not the first or last time Jon and I would get confused for a romantic couple.

Moa BeerLe Cafe, ChristchurchFennel and Pork Meatballsslow cooked beef shin with hot and sour salad and riceDoneEarth Hour in ChristchurchA man of distinctionEveryone looks more poignant during Earth HourOutside Le CafeEarth Hour fire twirler

Big points go to the barista who looked like he knew his stuff, and convinced me it was worth trying a coffee. They were using Burtons (who are one of New Zealand’s main green bean importers, but also roast), and it was actually quite good. Latte art going out on every cup I could see and my espresso was very tasty, pulled as a short double with . All I could hope is that it was a sign of things to come.

Day 2: The starts slowly. A warm bed and a cold morning will do that to you. But soon we’re on the road and heading from Christchurch to Blenheim. A quick chat and a look at the road map says we’ll be heading through Waipara, one of New Zealand’s newest wine regions.

The main idea of the whole trip was to reacquaint myself with the country I grew up in,áyet know so little about in a modern context. New Zealand is seen by the rest of the world as a wonderland of organic produce and down to earth producers so I aimed to find as many of them as possible.

Passing through Waipara Jon and I stopped off at Pegaus Bay and Fiddlers Green.á Pegasus Bay is part of the Family of Twelveá, basically a marketing initiative to group together some of the founding wineries that are still family owned.á The homestead looked like a French chateau of grandiose proportions and a dark musky room for tastings decorated with vintage Premier Cru wine bottles as lighting.á I found it instantly likeable and despite the lack of personal service because the tasting guy was run off his feet, we found plenty of the winesáextremely palatable.á áTrying mostly Riesling, Pinot Noir, Gewurztraminer,áandáa stunning Merlot Cabernet that was swiftly purchased.

After Waipara we headed north and towards the coast up to Kaikoura, snapping photos out of the window and generally being amazed at how even mundane little towns were full of wonderful things.

Kaikoura is a tiny fishing village in between Christchurch and Picton on the east coast of the south island… and home to a big crayfish industry. The Maori name ‘Kaikoura’ translates to ‘meal of crayfish’ (‘kai’ = food/meal, ‘koura’ = crayfish) . So you would have thought we’d try some wouldn’t you ?

That would have been the case except for when we arrived at the beach side shack selling crayfish they wanted about $60 each for a tiny one… which was sadly more cash than I was willing to part with whilst sitting on plastic chairs and drinking out of styrofoam cups.

Whitebait fritter sandwich

Whitebait fritters on the other hand, were much more affordable, and are another famous Kiwi dish of much repute. I can’t say I had a taste for them as a kid, but things have changed a lot since the last time I was here. This was delicious.

Pegasus Bay  Merlot CabernetA fairly expensive approach to finding lighting fixturesInside Pegasus BayPegasus Bay dining roomSomeones been raiding the cellar*Sunscreen for vinesStrike a poseContemplating the tidesKaikouraKaikouraWhitebait fritter sandwichShots from moving carsShots from moving cars

After a brief stop for photos and some reflection on the beauty of nature, it was back into the car for more high speed rural action. Fording river and valley and all that was in our path on the way to Blenheim, and the heart of Marlborough.

continued…

Paris Days

C˘te de boeuf, gratin dauphinois, marrow!

Most days it seems like it didn’t happen. It was an aeon ago and I was a different person then. So many things have changed now. I had grand schemes of coming home and writing up my adventures in luscious flowing prose that would transport you all to the exact cafe I was standing in when I ordered my first coffee, or to the crepe vendor who rolled my first real Parisian crepe. Picturing the look of intense fascination on my face as nimble hands carefully poured a thin layer of batter to the hot plate, smoothed it over, flipped it gently, and applied a generous helping of nutella before folding corner over corner and handing it to me without pomp or ceremony. Imparting the feeling that it was truly something special, not because it was the most amazing thing I’d ever eaten, but because for once I wasn’t living someone else’s experiences. It was me, and I was there.

Of course the natural thing happened. I came home, got back to the reality of work and life in Perth, and besides a few lazy uploads of photos, didn’t ever expand on the great time I had, the people I met, or the scenes of Parisian life I had acted out before me on a daily basis.

Which is indeed a great shame, because as short as my time was in Paris, I feel like I squeezed every little bit out of it that I possibly could. And I still think back very fondly of my time spent wandering aimlessly down Rue’s and Boulevards and trudging through Jardins… Being asked for directions by other hapless travellers and the occasional local, and being laughed at by old ladies who realised I was completely lost.

I could tell you about Berthillon ice cream and sorbet, drinking many a caraf of Provenšal RosÚ, street side crepe vendors of every description, duck confit, tart tartin, roasted Camembert drizzled with honey and slices of apple, steak tartare, bone marrow, cheap but expensive champagne at the top of the Eiffel tower (that I didn’t order), macarons, jamon sandwiches, foie gras shops, wild dogs, being bored out of my mind in the Louvre, loving the Pompidou. Being taken to dinner by famous food writers to 200 year old brasseries.

marrow !C├┤te de BoeufLamb with beansSteak TartareHaricots VerteWhitebaitEscargotThe view from my windowParis metro chicPont Marie MetroFoie Gras storeDo Not Enter with your delicious ice creamCheese !*Crepes MaisonA creamy salute to Notre DameI wish I was a touristEccentricity*Life by the SeineBerthillon Ice creamBerthillon ice creamBBerthillonPont Marie avenuesRumination on the Pont MarieCoq au vinThe Maitre dRose from ProvenceThe place settingLe Regent, BistroJardin du Palais Royal*SplitColonnes de BurenBig TriangleDescent to cultureHermesSome fairly elaborate cornice worklights and shadowsSome painting of a smirking chickThe Hallwaygateways*CaesarAnother magnum worthy shotNaked chicks always draw a crowd*Jules JoffrinNutella Crepe !Nutella Crepe !

I could also go on about the providence and connective powers of the internet. How friends across the other side of the world put me in touch with lovely local dining companions, suggested restaurants for me to try, and showed me some of the hidden sights of this city that holds so much potential.

But really, the images can speak for themselves. So please have a look through my little slice of the life Parisien.

SandraRoast CamembertThumbs up for camembertConfit of Duck with roast potatoesSalad with goats cheeseTart TatinCrepes SucreDimples for milesChocolate fondant cakeUne CaffeWhy you should never let amateurs take photos of you with hot womenHow i eventually hope to spend my daysFuzzyflowerLuxembourg HouseBarges on the SeineGathering gloom over the SeineMemorial de la DeportationMemorial de la DeportationA solemn momentMemorial de la DeportationLouis XIIIA very lovely looking red doorH├┤tel de VilleFountains near H├┤tel de VilleThe PompidouIrresitible escalator shotThe view from the top of the PompidouMaking art relevantBlue abstract tree thingSquiggly caveThis was all actual things stuck to the wallBeware the infinityNail textureAlien invasion wiresBig red rhinoIt took me 5 minutes to get it like thisMy masterpieceCafe Zephyr, rose de provence*Cafe Zephyr, steak & fritesCafe Zephyr, rare steakChocolate fondantCafe Saluna, clouds of smoke from the roasterYadh Elyes inside Cafe SalunaMaking espresso at Cafe SalunaYadh Elyes @ Cafe SalunaJeremy chillin at Cafe SalunaThe roast cools at Cafe SalunaWorlds Best CoffeesSaluna CafeSaluna Cafe menuJeremy in ParisAlto Cafe BaristaAlto CafeAlto Cafe macchiatoAlto Cafe menuParis street fashionBellota BellotaFormidable jamon, cheese, and mustard rollGalleries Lafayette fruitsLaduree MacaronsLa Vigna - vin dispenserSancerre @ La Vigna - ParisChateau Haut-Brion25 euros for a taste, 400 for a bottle.1917 Chateau Le Puy30,000.00 euro a bottle.  bargain********************At L'Homme Tranquil******Cornichon !**********Perhaps the best sandwich ive ever eaten

My First Night in Paris

Le Kokolion

I need to borrow 30c from some Canadian backpacker girls when I arrived at the Gare du Nord because the metro ticket machines wouldn’t accept my credit card, and don’t take notes. The wad of euros I’d conscientiously converted at the bureau de change before I left sat limp and impotent in my wallet, with not a tabac in sight to get some change.

After catching the first metro in the wrong direction for 10 minutes I eventually realise my mistake and switch lines. Excuse moi and pardon will become my most frequently used pieces of French vocabulary for the next few days.

It’s Saturday night in Paris. I arrive at my hostel Le Montclair Montmartre at 10pm. I sit in the foyer of the hostel while two German guys berate the night attendant for help at having “misplaced” their car. Turns out they’d parked it illegally for the better part of 3 days while they were on a drunken Parisian bender. I listened enviously as the attendant switched between French, German, and English while trying to understand what the hell these guys are on about.

I’ve been charged for last night because I was supposed to be there then and didn’t call to say I wouldn’t be, and my booking has actually been canceled. Luckily they still have room and can un-cancel the rest of the booking. I even manage to get an upgrade to a single room, not really willing to endure the boarding school-esque communal dorm situation after the day I’ve had.

I finally get my key and check in. The room is tiny but perfect. It has possibly the worlds smallest double bed and an ensuite bathroom. It’s heaven to a weary traveler. I take a shower, leaning back on the patented hostel push button hot water system to keep the flow of water going just long enough to make me feel human again.

Finally relaxed, the hunger pangs that I’ve been ignoring all day in the face of unspeakably horrible train / ferry food have risen to the surface. After a brief consultation of Clotilde’s lovely book I find a couple of likely restaurants in the area and settle on L’Homme Tranquille. Stepping past a couple of guys smoking out the front I wander in an empty but open restaurant, and stand around for a few minutes waiting to see if someone is going to appear. Shortly thereafter the guy smoking outside comes back inside, and it turns out he’s the owner, Antoine, and that unfortunately it’s been a quiet night so they’ve closed a bit earlier. However if I want some dinner he’s happy to recommend his friend around the corner at Le Kokolion, who will be open til much later.

So I wander around the corner, admiring the sights and sounds and smells of Monmartre, the cobbled streets, the flickering neon lights, the array of people of all kinds both strange and enticing. Casually lounging in bars and cafes, making me wish I’d taken up smoking.

Le Kokolion looks like somewhere out of a dream I’d had once. A cliche of a French bistro trapped in a time gone past, but perfect in it’s simplicity. Painted in faded red with gold lettering, it felt like the right place for a first meal.

I entered and was greeted by the manager with a matter of fact “Bonjour Monsieur”. To which I stuttering replied “Bonjour. Une table pour un sĺil vous plait”. Suddenly the reality of communicating in a foreign language became apparent and all my careful study went to crap as I realised I really had no clue what to do if the conversation didn’t follow the painfully basic routines I’d practiced.

Fortunately though my attempts were met with polite acceptance and a guiding arm led me through to a dimly lit enclave with candle lit tables and old movie posters on the wall. A menu was presented and then some space given so I could peruse in peace. My “menu French” finally having a moment to become useful I scanned for something I’d want to eat. Settling on the terrine du canard for entree, the onglet de boeuf for main, and a creme brulee for dessert.

The waiter returned and I dutifully gave him my order in as good a French accent as I could muster, pointing at the same time to make sure I didn’t leave any room for confusion. “Une carafe de vin rouge, s’il vous plait” was also met with understanding, and I soon had a small carafe of wine sitting in front of me like it was always meant to be there.

I pour a glass and sip casually, looking around in the dim light at tables filled with friends a lovers, talking close and laughing loud. Another table sports a single diner, carefully working his way through a bottle of wine, putting me at ease. My terrine arrives, a thick wedge of duck pate with other bits of liver and duck. It’s served with toast and a small salad. I take big slices of it and smear it over the toast, it’s rich and gamey and tastes like everything I’d imagined it should.

The beef came next. I’d ordered it ‘saignant’ and it was cooked to perfection. An onglet cut is basically a skirt or flank steak. A cheaper cut that can often be tough, but cooked rare this was beautifully tender. Served along with haricots verte and pommes frites it was the simple meal I wanted. The beans were presented in a neat little stack and crowned with a knob of butter that coated them in deliciousness.
The frites were actually thick pillows of potato deep fried to crunchy perfection. Giving both texture and flavour.

I looked up halfway through the course, realising I’d totally lost myself in it. The length of the day had faded away and the ordeal I’d had to go through to get here seemed so insignificant. The restaurant was now half full of people. I check my phone for the time, 12:00am. The table next to me had just arrived and ordered a bottle of wine and 3 courses. Unheard of in Perth at such an hour. I could get used to this very quickly I mused.

Finally the creme brulee arrived. The waiter pouring some alcohol (which may have been calvados) on top and setting it alight, and interesting take on the flame throwing technique of caramelsing the sugar on top. He looked at me wistfully as he placed it before me, still aflame, and said something that I can only assume meant “Wait til it goes out before you start eating or you’ll burn your face off”. I smiled knowingly at my translation of what he said and dutifully waited for the light blue flames to die down and the thin layer of caramelised sugar on top to fully form.

I then cracked through to the creamy goodness of the brulee. I melted a little as the first taste hit my tongue, smooth and rich and luscious, coating my mouth with caramel and taking my level of satisfaction to ludicrous levels that can only be attributed to a virgin Parisian dining experience.

Closed La Marmite

After a casual “l’addition s’il vous plait” I was presented with the bill. My attempts to convey just how much I appreciated the meal probably got lost in translation, so it was with a simple “Merci, Au revoir” that I left and wandered into the Paris night, sublimely satisfied at a great first meal.

I took a long way home, photographing every in sight. Walking up and over the hill around the Sacre Coeur and then back down the other side. Arriving back at my hostel at 2am, walking past a grocery store that was still open and selling wine, I knew this was somewhere I’d grow to love.

Borough Market

Salted beef heaven Jarlsberg perhaps

If you run a food blog, or have even a passing interest in food, and live in or near London, then you will well and truly know what Borough Markets are all about.

They are essentially the food lovers markets of choice for all things different, fancy, organic, local, and artisan, in the area of bread, cheese, meat, charcuterie, hams, seafood, wines, beers, ciders, chocolate, truffles… You name it, someone is probably selling it at Borough Markets.

Anything I have to say about the markets has probably been said before on lots of other sites, but I will say my favourite stand out of all of them was perhaps one of the simplest. Selling nothing other than salted beef (which I guess is the same as corned beef) sandwiches with lettuce and mustard. I ordered one of these and then sat watching the guy heap mountains of delicious beef inside a fresh roll, until I was sure it could fit no more, and then keep going. Pure joy for 4 pounds.

Here’s a few photos of the rest of the markets.

Borough Market
http://www.boroughmarket.org.uk/

St Pancras International Grand Champagne Bar

St Pancras Grand Champagne Bar

Aka, I was supposed to be in Paris.

So finding out that the very day I had chosen to get the Eurostar to Paris there had been a massive fire in the tunnel, was not the best news I’d heard all week. A freight train was going through one of the tunnels and carrying a truck full of chemicals on the back of it. Somehow the chemicals caught fire, they suspected the fire started in a truck’s braking system that overheated and spread to a tyre. 200 firefighters and a day later they had the fire under control, but all trains for that day (and the foreseeable future) were cancelled.

Rather than sitting on my laurels however, I figured it would be good to get an accurate assessment of the situation from Eurostar themselves. Rather than desperating clicking refresh on their website every 30 seconds hoping to see that the trains were running again.

Turns out that the website was in fact, a whole lot more helpful than the people standing at the Eurostar office. With clipboards in their hands and stern looks on their faces, dealing with hundreds of other irate tourists who didn’t want to be in London either.

So rather than dwelling on the situation, we headed upstairs to the Champagne Bar to wet my sorrows (I would say drown, but one glass of champagne is not that big, and my sorrows are strong swimmers), and reassess the situation.

Canape Plate at St Pancras champagne bar

It was nearing midday, so the canape plate sounded like a good option for something to snack on while trying to make alternate arrangements to smuggle myself out of the country. It wasn’t overly impressive, and vaguely reminiscent of something you’d be served at a stuffy cocktail party hosted by people you don’t like. But then the two little tastes of foie gras with a crisp glass of Pommery Brut Royal NV did make me feel that little bit closer to Paris, if only momentarily.