Don’t get me wrong. I like fancy. And my pinkie involuntarily drifts North with the right teacup. But Harrods kinda freaks me out. Ironic since our entire trip evolved from a single, ho-hum text.
Me: Don’t you wish we were at Harrods right now? Drinking champagne and eavesdropping?
(I’d probably just mopped up cat puke, and sent this strategically, of course.)
My husband (for example) would rather scoop out his corneas with a grapefruit spoon than sit in Harrods doing anything let alone eavesdropping.
—But not my friend Tecla!
Her: Um . . . yes? When?
Careful what you wish for and all that.
Because there we were six month later on a sparkly escalator. Gliding through British opulence. Lost between floors. Darting between diamonds and runway couture looking for The Champagne Bar.
No easy feat, I assure you.
Harrods is like a casino. Glittery. Expensive. Designed for distraction. A chandeliered labyrinth of escalators and corridors and pretty staff trained to sell you a better life.
We eventually found The Champagne Barwrapped L-shaped around a small corner in Ladies Wear. I mean, it sounded good. But all that glass and white lacquer conjured A Clockwork Orange and I wanted something a little more . . . Absolutely Fabulous. And not to worry, sweetie darling.
‘Spoiled for choice’ is an understatement.
Harrods deals eateries like golden aces with world class chefs at every helm. The trouble was finding them.
We actually got hungry looking for a place to drink.
So we started withtabbouleh and lamb charred medium-rare at Mezzah Lounge overlooking Knightsbridge.
The rose tea was almost too pretty to drink.
And the tahini was so creamy I drank it too, because I’m ghetto like that.
Also delicious was the people watching. No bootie-digging, lice-scratching kids up in the Mezzah Lounge, ya’ll. Large families with well-behaved children dotted the place. Next to us, three young Arabs watched YouTube on someone’s new iPhone X, plucking fresh fruit from a gutted watermelon with toothpicks.
Exotic women in bright pink saris glided through clutching designer handbags while another two in black burkas sat still and silent with a bearded man on a very long phone call. A Richard Gere-y Frenchman beckoned our waiter with a pressed cotton Rolexed arm s’il vous plaît andI breathed it all in. My happy meter wiggling at MAX.
God, I love London.
Even the bathrooms sparked joy.
Not for the attendant providing make-up and perfume for après-dining touchups — nah.
All that white porcelain reminded me of Titanic.
I wanted to perch in one of them water closets and WRITE. But perfume makes me nauseous and Tecla was waiting. And anyway . . . champagne.
We headed downstairs past
and bowler hats.
and — oh!
At last . . .
we passed through a magic portal on the ground floor where time and monetary discretion d i s a p p e a r.
Where greek gods lie naked in pools of crème fraîche, whispering naughty things.
J e n n i f e r . . . they beckoned, sleepy-eyed and sensuous. C o m e.
(Foodies, hide your boners.)
How can I possibly convey the Harrods Food Hall except to say it’s a culinary WONDERLAND. An epicurean cornucopia where caviar dreams and champagne wishes do come true.
We floated on an icy sea of lobster, oysters, and crab past an open kitchen grilling Wagyu fillets and $40 hamburgers.
The Sirens purred, their wanton whispers curling around my conscience. You are special, Jennifer, and your cellulite is minimal. You deserve that burger with sautéed onions, oyster mushrooms, smoked applewood cheese, and lollo rosso lettuce served with the side of your choice. We don’t know what lollo rosso lettuce is either. But you deserve it, girl. Go on. Get the mac and cheese for your side.
“Jenn.” Tecla pulled my arm and I snapped-to.
Ribeyes. Sushi. Charcuterie. Champagne. Internationals slid forks and chopsticks and fingers in their mouths. Licking. Swallowing. Their mid-day decadence the pictures of privilege. And there we were among them. Jet-lagged and lamb-bellied. Smiling like idiots. Drifting past sashimi. Caviar. Sake. Shrimp. Corks POP! ping
whoops, excuse me!
—and vintage merlot spilling into sparkling crystal.
I seriously considered eating again. But wood-fired sourdoughs and baguettes lured us to the next room where buttery pies and jelly-tiered cakes gave way to a wall of stinky cheese. (Down boy, DOWN.) And we saw it together. The pick-your-pleasure pastries shingled in decadent display near an art deco coffee bar.
“THERE,” we agreed, claiming two stools circling the copper behemoth.
Tecla ordered tea. But not just any tea.
The No.16 Ceylon Afternoon Special Blend with a Victoria Sponge, darling. I ordered coffee and pain au chocolat and we launched into my very favorite game.
“Guy next to me,” Tecla whispered sideways. “What’s he do?”
I pretended to stare past him, stirring my latte.
Thin. Tall. Hitler-y haircut. Straight nose. Straight posture.
I licked buttery flakes off my lips, considering his brand new clothes.
Black on black. Every blonde hair in place. Guarding his mouth with a coffee cup. Swedish, I concluded. Maybe German.
“Architect.” I whispered back.
And we went around the circle, writing people’s lives.
It’s a voyeur’s heaven and I could’ve stayed all day. But it was time for champagne! And what the hell time was it? Casino, I tell you! Did we want a crisp Italian vibe at Canti Prosecco Bar upstairs? Or vintage Paris at Ladurée ? Maybe neither?
Feeling all que sera sera, we wandered past fresh roses and the Salon De Parfums to a new set of elevators, letting button-pushing strangers determine our fate. And the best thing happened.
The doors opened.
Not to retail.
But to quiet Victorian elegance.
–Ironed white table clothes. A vaulted atrium ceiling and a tuxedoed gentleman making love to Beethoven. Pianissimo.
After a crisp flute of brut rosé and enough how may I assist you, madams I actually considered the $1100 Moschino My Little Pony Lunchbox Purse Thingy.
(Just kidding —I’d never.)
And really, I’d had enough.
We passed two stunning women on our way out.
Magazine-perfect, I tell you. Deer-legged and precariously balanced in Christian Louboutins, struggling to fold a stroller. They barked at each other in raspy Italian, their movements comically limited by matching fur coats and long, curved nails clacking against metal. Next to them a regally dressed toddler –all buttons and brown curls — stood still. A silver pacifier in her rosebud mouth. Waiting.
I cannot articulate why.
But this summed it up entirely, why I was done.
I like fancy.
I really do.
But I prefer fireplaces and cracked teapots in dusty old pubs.
—and so does Tecla.
We ran home to change for our hot date with a Potter exhibit at the British Library.
Dear God — I unclasped my pearls and pulled out my wand.
Thank you for today.
Tecla yanked off her boots and busted out her Hufflepuff scarf. I adjusted my Ravenclaw collar and double-checked my glitter.
Thank you for everything, really. Especially kindred spirits.
“Ready?” she asked.
And rocking on the underground, I thought of the chauffeur outside Harrods, standing next to a Rolls Royce pulled haphazardly on the curb, its back window cluttered with bags. He looked every shade of OVER IT, and I wondered if he belonged to the stroller ladies.
Hi, I nodded, and he tipped his cap, silent.
But his weary eyes said plenty.
. . . . . . .
Me too, mister.