The Kings Cross line was supposedly now basically "OK" after the Hatfield disaster and faster than Liverpool Street, at least for my plans, so I risked it on the 16:24. Wisely I went 1st Class - Standard filled up completely. On a trip like this I need to arrive relaxed to avoid wasting my first evening. The train ran on time, including a planned long stop at Royston. As before I bought an Evening Standard and caught a taxi to the Strand Palace Hotel. The trip was much slower as the traffic was heavier. I got to my 6th floor room at 18:25.
Livebait is essentially round the corner from the hotel and I arrived a fraction early for my 19:30 booking but there were plenty of free tables. The decor is in a theme of white and black tiling.
I chose a half-bottle of Pouilly Fumé, Livebait Fishcakes as starter, a "catch of the day", sea bream, chargrilled, with new potatoes. I refused the bread and the free plate of prawns, not wanting to get too full.
The starter consisted of white fish with raisins and white sauce plus a strange Parmesan-based wafer on top (the combination didn't work for me). The wine was placed in a clever transparent cooler cantilevered off the side of the tabletop. The bream was good but the potatoes were dry and bland. For sweet I had rum and raisin ice cream - very good. The bill came to £40.35 - worth it for the experience but definitely overpriced. The service was fairly efficient - no very long waits. At least one got a cloth napkin, unlike in Cambridge's Galleria where I recently paid a rip-off £40 (including tip) for a 3-course meal plus wine on a paper table cloth with a paper napkin.
After my last Friday and Saturday night wanders I was curious to see how full pubs were and the Covent Garden area in general on a Friday night.
I went past Stringfellows (four bouncers on door), The Ivy (highly recommended restaurant - with a uniformed doorman), Royals Indian restaurant (recommended and has an "all you can eat" lunchtime offer) and lots of pubs (all full), ending up after about 75 minutes back at the Hogshead opposite Livebait. This wasn't quite full by now and I had a pint of Arundel Castle (3.8%, £2.24). Leicester Square had a fun fair in operation and was full of young people. I got a glimpse of the usual Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square from Oslo, which had just been dedicated. I went past a vast Borders in upper Charing Cross Road - a cafe as much as a bookshop - which was still open at 21:15 [apparently 23:00 is the usual closing time].
I was on the lookout for Earlham Street for its Freedom Brewery bar - the brewery only produces real lagers - but missed it and turned back southwards. On my way down Bow Street I saw a bright satellite pass (it moved in the same way as Skylab used to) so I wondered if it was the International Space Station. [It was about to get its giant solar panels. Upon checking after this trip it was more likely Mir. Heavens Above is an excellent site for satellite info.]