Thursday, 22 May 2008

Super-posh intellectual dining

Last night I dined at one of the Oxford colleges, thanks to a kind invitation from a friend with a visiting fellowship. Whatever you think about elitism and snobbery, I love the traditions and ceremony of occasions like these. I haven't dined at a college for ages and it was great fun. The college in question was Corpus Christi which is a small and not very stuffy college - quite similar in size and spirit to the one I went to myself. It's beautiful, especially on a nice warm evening, with (I think) the only paved rather than grassy front quad of all the colleges. My friend gave me a brief guided tour of the quads and the chapel before we went up to the SCR (Senior Common Room) for drinks. I'm like a kid in a sweetie shop in hotel rooms, looking through all the cupboards and the complimentary goodies you get, and I think my friend was a little startled at how lively I became at the sight of so many bottles and juices and types of tea bags you could *just help yourself to*! I am very fond of my institution but it rarely gives us access to crystal glasses and sixteen types of Twinings tea.

The meal itself was pretty nice though these things are a bit wasted on me, fussy, small appetite person that I am. The first course was poached egg on asparagus with hollandaise on the side. This is a combination of some of my favourite foods, and as someone who can *just* manage to poach one egg successfully, the sight of about 35 all done to perfection and served at the same time was pretty impressive (cue more enthusiasm and no doubt more discomfort on the part of my host who could probably see his fellowship being revoked for bringing in unsuitable guests). The next course was fish, and some deep fried spring rolls for me, which were ok, and then stuffed pheasant (or something similar) for the carnivores and a Mediterranean tart for me. I'm not too keen on tarts, so I mainly ate the roasted veggies which were very nice. And finally, dessert was chocolate creme brulee, which was very rich and decadent. There was a layer of crunchy sugar under the torched brulee - is that normal? I didn't know whether to be impressed or surprised. All of this was accompanied by both red and white wines, and fully butlered service.

So far so decadent - we'd just eaten four courses, after all. But no, there was still "dessert" to come. This was back in the SCR, with a new seating plan, and consisted of dessert wine, claret and port, with fruit platters, and plates of truffles and petit fours (mmmnnnnn). I had to leave a little early to get my train but it was a lovely evening of conversation, good food and a nice dose of nostalgia. I have to admit that I did snaffle a little treat to take home to The Scientist - they really will never let me back. I hope my friend's fellowship is safe!


Johanna said...

Sounds like the sort of thing that is fun every once in a while but would be tedious too often. Is that a chocolate button in the picture? (And this story reminded me a little of Philip Pullman's dark materials trilogy which I have recently read)

Lysy said...

I forgot to say what the photo was! I was writing that post in a rush before we went out. It was really a posh chocolate button though now I think about it. That's the college crest on it, which I thought was very funny. You're right about it being fun as an occasional treat, though in many colleges it's quite normal to dine every night wearing a gown. It is also very like the Philip Pullman books - I always think of the poisoned Tokay wine when I see dessert wine now! I think that a lot of that was filmed nearby where I was, at Christ Church, which is Corpus's bigger neighbour.