Yesterday I went with Alice Mansfield to the Royal Academy to see the Spain and Hispanic World collection of Archer M Huntington, the son of a railroad magnate and avid collector around the turn of the twentieth century of Spanish paintings and artefacts.
Alice considered Spanish art underrated compared to French and Italian, pointing out that the country could boast of Velazquez, El Greco and Goya – as well as modern titans Picasso, Dali and Miro who are not represented in Hartington’s collection as they came after him.
I thought the same could be said of Spain whose rich and diverse past was celebrated. Prior to the unification of Spain under Ferdinand and Isabella the Muslim and Jewish people coexisted but the reunification was Catholic-based and the two peoples were banished.
A similar lack of respect existed towards South American culture when that continent was colonised by Imperial Spain.
I enjoyed the exhibition and suggested to Alice we went afterwards to my favourite Spanish restaurant Barrafina in Dean Street Soho.
In walking through Soho – one of my favourite quarters in London – it seemed much has changed.
It is less sleazy now – and gastro pubs have replaced duller hostelries – but The French House, Lena Stores and the Groucho Club were still there.
Barrafina is a small restaurant with no tables and just a bar.
I do not find sitting at a stool that comfortable but you are closer to the inner workings of the restaurant.
I ordered a plate of delicious Iberico ham, octopus and prawns. The octopus was too oily but otherwise I found no fault.
I was impressed by the energy and application of a young waitress who never stopped working and varied plates of food and drinks cheerfully too the diners with a cry of “Oi waitress” in case the team of chefs might knock her over.
I had a Manxanilla sherry and two glasses of Albariño and the total bill was £126, I gave the waitress £5 on top of the service charge.
All in all a most satisfying experience and day showcasing the eclectic cultural and gastronomic delights that central London offers.