Oops. Apologies everyone for slipping back to bad habits and not blogging regularly. I do enjoy it - honestly - but just never seem to find the time. But Saturday 1st October 2011 was definitely well worth taking the time to blog about.
Those of you who read my last blog may remember that at the end of it I alluded to seeing Phantom of the Opera in October. This wasn't just any showing of Phantom however, this was the 25th Anniversary performance at the Royal Albert Hall. Never having seen Phantom live before, and never having been to that particular venue before, it's fair to say we were more than a little excited. Even more so because two of the lead roles - The Phantom and Raoul - were being played by two of our favourite musical theatre performers: Ramin Karimloo and Hadley Fraser respectively.
As the Royal Albert Hall is in London, we took the chance to partake in a nice lunch. This time we decided to revisit a restaurant we'd been to previously; a wonderful Indian tapas bar called Imli. On our first visit we had a really nice set lunch. That didn't seem to be available this time, so instead we plumped for four tapas dishes; two smaller ones for starters and two larger mains, with rice and a naan bread as accompaniments.
For our starters we went for the Kheema Pav and Spicy Chicken Satay. The Kheema Pav was a wonderfully spicy dish of minced lamb, potatoes, peas and chillies served with pieces of lightly toasted bread. The Satay Chicken was what you'd expected, thin chicken strips and a spicy coating, served with salad and a delicious beetroot chutney. The chicken was beautifully flavoured, hot but not overpowering, and left a really nice tingle in the mouth long after eating.
Our main course choices were the Honey Grilled Duck and the Palak Methi Chicken Curry, with the aforementioned rice (pilau) and naan (cheese and coriander). The duck was sweet, lightly spiced and tender, served on some fluffy and tasty turmeric mash. While not overdone, the duck was not as pink as we'd have liked, but that's only a minor criticism. The chicken curry was wonderful; strongly flavoured and pleasingly hot, with tasty thigh meat rather than often-bland breast. The naan deserves special mention too, tremendous with coriander flavour and molten cheese.
We enjoyed this meal even more than our first visit, and would definitely recommend Imli to anyone that likes Indian food with a bit of a difference. It is slightly more expensive than a typical curry house, but the extra money is definitely worth it for the quality of food and service on offer.
Food devoured, we set off for another usual London haunt of The Porterhouse. We're both big fans of this place which has an excellent atmosphere and an extensive range of draft and bottled beers. As well as one of their own-brewed stouts each, Clare had a bottle of honey beer (delicious) while I had a pint of strawberry beer (nice but sickly). Then after a quick sit down in Tavistock Gardens and a wash and brush-up at the hotel, it was off to the show.
The Phantom of the Opera needs no introduction. Sir Andrew Lloyd-Webber's creation has been wowing crowds worldwide for 25 years now, though, as said before, this was our first time seeing the show. It's fair to say we were impressed! From our seat up in the Gods we still had an excellent view of the lavish set, which included boats, bridges and the famous chandelier.
The casting for this production saw Ramin Karimloo play The Phantom, as he had done in the West End production of the Phantom sequel Love Never Dies. Christine Daae was played by Sierra Boggess, who had also played the same role in the sequel, and the main triumvirate was rounded out by Hadley Fraser (whom you may recognise from my previous blog) as Raoul. All three of these performers provided stunning vocals and presence. Ramin and Sierra's rendition of the title song was spine-tingling stuff.
The rest of the ensemble were also excellent, including Wynne Evans as Piagi. Don't recognise him? Picture him with a stupid zigzag moustache signing a VERY annoying song about comparing prices and he might become more familiar...
After a fantastic performance, we received a few extra-special surprises. Sir Andrew Lloyd-Webber himself gave a speech about the show, and was then joined by producer Sir Cameron Mackintosh who added his own choice words. Then, in a wonderful finale, the original Christine Daae - Sarah Brightman - treated us to a rendition of a couple of the most well known songs, accompanied by four Phantoms including Colm Wilkinson and the current wearer of the famous mask, John Owen-Jones. Brilliant stuff and a fitting end to the evening.
So, another fun weekend is now at an end. What to blog about next? Considering the goings-on at Nottingham Forest today, it might have to be that.....