After a bit of quick shopping for some warmer clothes (to replace the jackets in the suitcase), brunch was at a Viennese restaurant, mainly because we needed to eat at 11am and pretty much everything else around the Strand was closed at that hour. Despite the nine different types of sausages on offer (including American hot dogs and three different things I'd never heard of before), I went for the surprisingly decent pancakes. More importantly, I finally got to meet Kate's Aunt Linda (probably the closest relative that I hadn't yet met), who turns out to be delightfully down-to-earth and fun.
Then off to The Globe to see Richard III:
Linda, knowing the lay of the land, got us a few of the actually good seats. I'd been aware that half the people present would be SRO groundlings; what I hadn't realized was that even most of the seats have no backs. So she got us seats way in the back -- which, mind, still isn't very far, since it's a fairly small theater -- so we'd have the wall to lean against.
The production was a delight. I've seen Richard III a couple of times before, but I've never seen it quite so darkly funny before. Richard was portrayed as surprisingly mild-mannered (if often exasperated and sometimes bowled over by what he was getting away with), which underlined the horror of the story with a lot of laughs. I knew that parts of the play could be funny -- alexx_kay introduced me to A Bloody Deed many years ago -- but this production did a great job of keeping the dark and light well-mixed. Somewhere in the middle, I decided that this must have been one of the inspirations for Blackadder.
Sadly, though, we only got to see the first half of the play. By 3pm, the airline still hadn't come by with the suitcases, and Miko had things to do, so we headed back to the house. Of course, as soon as we got there, the airline called to say, "So you know how we said we'd get it to you within a couple of hours of noon? Well, that is now looking more like 7-10pm." We made it clear that no, there wasn't going to be anybody at the house at that hour -- we had plans -- and no, you're not dropping off the suitcase with a random neighbor. So we ordered them to reroute it her her parent's hotel at the Strand. We were now officially honked off at the airline (and one of today's projects is submitting the paperwork to get them to pay for the new clothes).
Anyway, in the late afternoon we headed down to the Strand to meet family for cocktails, and get changed for dinner; the suitcase did actually arrive spot-on 7pm. And then, we were off to The Ledbury for dinner.
OMG, the dinner. Kate's mother officially decided that this one was our engagement dinner, so we'd do it up right at the best restaurant in London. My app was a char grilled mackerel, juicy and moist under the flavorful char. We went through umpteen bottles and glasses of wine, the highlight being a Chateuneuf du Pape that was probably the most expensive thing I've ever drunk, bursting with intense flavors. My main was one of the winners of the evening, a "pressed pork" that is best described as Creme Brulee of Meat: a shatteringly crisp covering over melty fat over fork-tender pork, served with paper-thin truffles, stir-fried shiitake and a balsamic reduction. Dessert was the most uneven course, and Kate didn't love her rather high-concept dish (a sort of pudding of flowers), but my Pave of Chocolate was excellent -- a half-inch thick rectangle of very dark chocolate mousse with a crunchy chocolate bottom, cacao nibs on top, and a lovage ice cream on the side to go with. (Accompanied by a madeira recommended by the sommelier, who turned out to be a friend of a friend of Aunt Linda.)
Per-person, that may have been the most expensive dinner I've ever had, but it was absolutely great. If you're in London for a special occasion, The Ledbury is definitely worth checking out.
Back to the Strand with the family, and then a tube ride to drag the suitcase back to the house, and thus ended the first leg of our journey. Next, on to Bath...