Roux at The Pembury
London SW1P 3AD
A Review in Letters
1. Sasha to Kina
You were, of course, my dear Kina, surprised by my unexpected departure for the country. I hasten to explain everything to you frankly. The month gone past, I was with Lisa at Princess M’s ball when Lady Olga, apropos of nothing, said to me that I must pay a visit to her son in his new enterprise, The Pembury, one floor up from Michel Roux Jr’s esteemed dining establishment, Parliament Square. Being dutiful servants of her lady’s recommendations of fashion we, Princess M and I that is, called in on Prince Abdulai one evening. You well know, my angel, that Abdulai and I spent many happy childhood years together but that I had not seen him since he joined the Service to wage war alongside our good patriots against Napoleon, that bane of the world. What I have never told you, or anyone, was that we made a secret engagement before he joined the hussars, when he promised to marry me upon his return. And so I was most surprised to learn of his return, as I was not aware, you understand, that he was again in London, let alone that he now planned to stake his family fortune on this newest endeavour. When Lisa and I arrived at Pembury we entered into a beautiful room most luxuriously furnished and were made welcome by Prince Liam, whose charming manners were nearly enough to make young Lisa fall rather in love with him. I left them, speaking together on the peculiarities of water filtration systems, to search for dear Abdulai.
I approached the mirrored glass with some trepidation. Would A still remember the promises he had made to his childhood friend? Finally, a man emerged from behind the glittering bottles and, though he had changed in many ways, in essentials he remained ever the same. We spoke of his mother, Lady Olga, and of his adventures in the hussars; very little was said by way of our years together growing up. In all things, he was much changed, but one thing in particular: he has become enamoured with alcoholic punches, though all the time referring to them as “cocktails”. Apparently this is the new fashion. Most peculiar. He insisted I try these cocktails, one after another, and conversed with me only on matters related to their composition, ingredients and unusual names. I did not know what to do. My head was in a whirl. Naturally, I gave way to his insistent urgings and sampled all of the drinks he put in front of me. I cannot even begin to describe the peculiar pleasure of what then followed. Lisa and Prince Liam had by this time rejoined us and Prince A had placed in front of us a number of punches to sample. A had bestowed each punch with its own unique nomenclature, often quite unusual, to provide some indication as to the composition. The Three Citrus Ricky was made with such exotic ingredients that I had to ask over and over what Ketel One Citroen (our fine Russian vodka, made in the Netherlands, wherever that is. They add lemon to it. Most unusual), fino sherry, and yuzu were. Prince A remarked that soldiers are far more worldy than young London ladies. I admit it was pleasant to drink, but not as pleasant as the next glass he pushed across towards me. He called it the Penultimate Word, which Lisa and I both agreed was very witty. It tasted like the Lapsang Souchong tea Natasha poured from the samovar just this morning. I said this to Abdulai and he only laughed at me and said that was because it was made from Don Julio Blanco, green chartreuse and coriander. I wanted to ask what green chartreuse was, but by this point my head felt rather strange and I wished our resumed acquaintance was more like the happy, earnest carefree days of our youth, not so formal and single-minded as all this talk of chartreuse and coriander.
Conscious of the necessity to say something, I mentioned quite irrelevantly that he was much changed since our last meeting and that his new-found devotion to punches that make one feel so lightheaded must leave little time for other pursuits. He seemed very cross with me and in a low voice said something about not being obliged to fulfill silly childhood promises. At once, I understood the meaning of his words and that he did indeed remember his promises to me and was little interested in fulfilling them. I was a miserable creature and made my excuses to sweet Lisa, who seemed rather taken with Prince Liam and he with she. I left Pembury immediately. I could not bear to remain in town, for I knew I would have to see Lady Olga again and I could not bear to have her ask me for news of her son’s latest enterprise.
This is the truth of it. I know you will think me ridiculous, but I really could not stand to meet with anyone who might ask me how I am and whether I have been to Prince A’s Pembury of late. I wish him well with his newest endeavour and his strange new passion, but I daresay I will never forgive him for breaking our engagement, even if that engagement was but a childhood folly.