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London has been quite cool and showery so far this May. It is easy to want to tuck into a warm and inviting restaurant during shopping or museum visiting. After seeing Matisse, His Art and His Textiles at the Royal Academy of Arts, we decided to continue our debate on why Matisse hasn't become more of an art auctions hit at Cecconi’s in Burlington Gardens behind the Academy. Cecconi’s was the hottest spot in London back in the seventies and eighties, a celebrity watering hole that has mellowed into a dependable and elegant destination place for food and ambience. All the pasta dishes are good, as well as the fish. Starters are superb, and this is one of the few Italian restaurants at which I would recommend the vegetable soup. Fresh peas dominate a pure and simple broth. A glass of Prosecco, some Dover sole or turbot, and you have a winning lunch.

We love the Greenhouse in Hay's Mews and await its second Michelin star. One enters the glass and wood modern building through a refreshing stone Zen garden. The charming international staff takes great care in explaining the haute Italian cuisine, which includes a "Cuisine Classique" menu each night with items such as rabbit. But if you are looking for light and contemporary Italian cooking, this is the place. The wine list is impressive.

I adored Gordon Ramsey at Claridge's if for no other reason than seeing Paul and Heather McCartney in the room enjoying the most modern of modern British chefs' inventive light food. Paul got right into it--he doffed his jacket and showed us his bright blue shirt. I know I had something fabulous to eat but I can't for the life of me remember what any more. Some restaurant critic I would be! Seeing Paul was the biggest thrill of all.

Pat loves Floris shampoo, so we took a walk to Jermyn Street between rain showers to replenish. I was fascinated by the goose down powder puffs, and rarely see them any more. Along with Floris' boxed body powder, it makes a perfect present for any woman.

A trip to London is not complete without a stop to Vivienne Westwood's Davies Street boutique, where I stocked up on her highly coveted summer T shirts and sweaters, one or two recalling her "Too Fast to Live, Too Young To Die" seventies motif.

Finally, Le Gavroche is a conservative restaurant for the working and idle rich, with a luxurious ambience and French food at the haute level. I doubt this is a Paul McCartney kind of place, but I have seen men propose to women as they sat sipping champagne in the lush velvet banquettes. Maybe the Tories come here, but after the British elections, which were held the same week I was there, I still can't quite figure what is going on. It seems though Tony Blair was re-elected for an historic third term, he is nationally despised. In a Christine world, Tony would be the President of the United States, and George Bush would go back to owning a piece of the Texas Rangers. England under Tony Blair has been doing amazing. It is one of the most expensive places on earth, but one of the very few where you can literally fall into major museum exhibitions or see Meryl Streep (next month) on stage. Even if you go for only a few days, I encourage you to do it right-- London will not disappoint you.


The Greenhouse
27a Hay's Mews
Mayfair London
020 7499 3331

5a Burlington Gardens
020 7434 1500

Gordon Ramsey
Brooks Street
020 7499 0099

Le Gavroche
43 Upper Brook Street
Mayfair London
020 7408 0881

89 Jermyn Street

Vivienne Westwood
6 Davies Street
020 7629 3757




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