Sunday, 24 March 2013
Thursday, 7 March 2013
Mandarin Oriental in a taxi. One of those iconic yellow ones that you can’t help but naturally associate with the United States – a patchwork of vast landscapes, cities replete with towering skyscrapers, yellow school buses, softball and baseball, and super-size me meals. For us upon arrival, baseball would have more of a bearing on our trip than first imagined - until that point, it had become a forgotten entity. As we hailed a cab from the airport the traffic on the freeway was almost at a stand still. We asked our driver why. “Something to do with the stadium” she replied, with nonchalance, as she surveyed the second of her two mobile phones, picking it up and then talking with the same tone of indifference in some strange language that fell silent on our deaf ears. This stadium event we later realised when we strolled about the centre of this meaty metropolis, was Game 2 of the World Series - a craze that sweeps most US cities in a tidal wave of different team colours each October. At a non-descript diner later that evening (jetlag was a good excuse: we had to do it once), instead of all eyes being glued to the mammoth sized sandwiches that fought their way to the orange booths like ours, the rest of the customers sat with heads fixed, staring up at the TV screens that re-capped the highlights of the game that from earlier: the black and orange Giants had beaten the Detroit Tigers 2-0. Two days and two games later they would win the whole tournament. Their seventh title yet.
They say every city is the same, every hotel room no less different. Yet this city – the one ‘by the bay’, the saintly San Francisco, goes somewhere further against the grain. For me, it is a city reminiscent of Buenos Aires – a curious observation since when I was in Buenos Aires, people told me it reminded them of San Francisco. I rest my case. But like the city down south, this is an urban space that oozes with an underlying bohemian soul, a personality that underneath the glass fronted towers that curve up into the heavens, offers an injection of sunshine and happiness into metropolitan life. For us, this image of the city was greatly enhanced by our second welcome of the trip, by two red-coated doormen of the hotel who unburdened our sight-seeing, cable-car hopping, weary bodies, ensconcing us into this particular luxurious institution, admired the world over for its style and reputation. The building itself, in the superbly positioned crux of the Financial District, could be forgiven for classing itself as just that and nothing else. Yet when you reach the top 11 floors and delve into the bedrooms, you’ll soon realise there’s a whole lot more to be said. And unlike at the office, you’ll want to stay here until well past hometime. Dual aspect windows greet you as you walk through sleek, seemingly very private, doors for views of the city and that infamous bay that you’ll struggle to peel your face back off the glass from – those that suffer from vertigo are ill-advised to stay here, unless you simply want to concentrate on what’s inside. Bathrooms are a marvel of marble and come complete with heady Mandarin Oriental Moulton Brown toiletries, big fluffy robes and super powerful showers. General Manager Clifford Atkinson leaves his mark on your stay with a plateful of moreish biscuits left underneath the large plasma screen that plays TopGear amongst other internationally acclaimed programmes. And you’ll find a mini-bar with clever things like a USB stick too, for business folk and photo-full memories alike.
Saturday, 16 February 2013
At approximately 11am, a white silence steals our breath away as we step almost seamlessly from the plane door on to a train that would carry our winter-coated crocodile through a snow-clad Switzerland. A blanket of thick powder covers everything in sight, wet snowflakes gently splattering against the wide windows on the exterior of our red metal cocoon – a swissrail first class carriage. Outside, monochrome sugar dusted evergreens and an eerie low-lying mist steer our eyes and imaginations further into this enchanting landscape, to our destination: to St Moritz.
Once feet crunch again on hardened ground we are met by a vintage Rolls Royce Phantom, one that bears the symbol of a triangular shaped golden palace on its derrière. Moments later there we arrive: Badrutts Palace - a luxurious, five star hotel that beams with a decorative richness and a tangible sense of elite history. In 1896 Hans Badrutt, son of hotel pioneer Caspar Badrutt opened what still stands as the modern day Palace. It is a haven of contemporary tradition, awarded with countless accolades not simply for its indelible reputation as one of Switzerland’s top hotels, but also for the guests it has hosted, past and present. We arrive days after the building opens again for a new winter season. A vast Christmas tree sits outside, towering up to the sky, grazing the highest levels of the hotel’s pointed towers, glistening with red and golden baubles that likely match the coloured jewels of its equally ornate visitors. Warm smiles, classically uniformed doormen and personal butlers greet us at the door. Check in occurs in one of the 37 private suites, and we are reminded instantly of lives that might have been otherwise lived in one of the hilltop castles that we passed by on our train minutes earlier. From Zurich you’ll reach St Moritz in under 4 hours, from Milan it’s around the same. Of course, on board some guests’ choice of private jet, it becomes decidedly quicker.
After a morning’s skiing, at lunchtime we discover the (arguably premier) reason for a winter love affair here: the food. I’ve always liked to imagine that car numberplates in Switzerland bear the letters ‘CH’ to stand for cheese or maybe chocolate (it’s true that on our Swiss flight over here, we experienced the beginnings of death by decadent chocolate over a mere croissant for breakfast), yet the cuisine offered to those who can afford to flock here will dazzle palates with more than just a heady injection of lactose. Here you’ll dine as kings. From a truffle and caviar specific menu at La Marmite, we sample tuna and veal tartar, followed by red deer meat with polenta and pesto, whipping up a frenzy of thought on regional food and drink (Swiss wine, for instance, seems to be causing a stir on the west coast of the US at the moment). This place is run by the son of owner and local man Reto Mathis, responsible for originally dreaming up the idea of the St Moritz gourmet festival, one that attracts Michelin starred chefs from around the world, and which in 2013 will celebrate its 20th year. The quality of the food in his restaurant is echoed back at The Palace later that evening where we begin the après ski in Le Grand Hall with a St Moritzino signature cocktail, made of vodka, almond syrup, lemon juice and cointreau. This evening we are participants at the chef’s table; witnesses to gastronomic creativity under our watchful eyes and eagerly twitching noses. It is a special moment for all involved. Later, head pastry chef Stefan leads us into a low-lit assault on the sweeter senses in a different prep room. Accompanied by up-beat music we sample countless hedonistic puddings and deserts. Our evening finishes at the King’s Club, a St Moritz institution, and possibly one of the most eligible dance floors in Europe. Tonight the hotel’s dancers are dressed in high-vis, such is the 80’s fluoro party theme. We stand and watch them sashay in and out of the crowd like the shadowy luminescent trails of a glowstick.
Indulged senses continue on visits to The Palace with welcome moments of stopped-time spent in the spa and wellness centre - an alpine styled space, created from local granite and wood, stripped bare to work in harmony with the overall Ayurvedic theme. Popular treatments include skin food rituals, hot stone massages and intracuetical oxygen facials, as made famous by the likes of Madonna, and the rest of Hollywood since. Couples can enjoy their own private therapy rooms, before joining the rest of the spa-goers upstairs at the rest of the well laid-out wellness stations (clothing, as the sign notes, is optional). Later, we peruse the shops that line the streets. Emilio Pucci, Tom Ford and the well-dressed windows of Moncler invade our peripheral vision, places that could prompt more melting of plastic than any cheese and champagne infused fondue gone awry. That evening we dine at Chesa Veglia – one of the oldest farmhouses in St Mortiz, and The Palace’s more informal restaurant, for more people watching yet.
Stays at Badrutt’s Palace reek of gastronomic enjoyment and refined indulgence yet achieve this without perhaps the oft’ expected sense of OTT exclusivity. It is a fairytale destination that inadvertently bulges at the seams with years of stories: “I’ve got a picture of my mother in a long black skirt on skis in St. Moritz” so says my 90yr old grandmother upon my return. “She used to talk on tape back in Tasmania about her travels.” Our own travel tales here are enriched by the charming hotel staff, and our native Australian ski instructor John Webster, who after 25 well-spent years of living here, has his own share of experiences to be told; some that we hear, some that we can only begin to imagine. On our reverse train journey that will eventually lead us home we return charmed and invigorated, ready to carve out new stories of our own; ones that we can only hope will prove as rich as those we’ve been a happy part of here.
Rooms and suites (in various different categories) range from CHF 490 – CHF 20,230 per night.
Spa treatments start from CHF 120
Seasonal opening dates:
Winter season 1st December 2012-1st April 2013 (closure 2nd April 2013)
Summer season 21st June 2013 until 8th September 2013 (closure 9th September 2013)
Fly with Swiss air from London to Zurich from £120 return
Sunday, 10 February 2013
St Valentine’s day needs nothing more than a bottle of the pretty Femme de Champagne Millesime 2000 from Duval-Leroy that gives you ladylike vanilla bursts of freshness and a very elegant bubble. This particular version comes in pretty little half bottles, available from Mayfair’s excellent Hedonism wines – so if you don’t pick up your future betrothed amidst the rest of the selection, you can be sure to enjoy the perfect date for one. 95% Chardonnay, 5% Pinot Noir. It's not only hearts that will flutter.
Originally published on luxurialifestyle.com
Sunday, 20 January 2013
Istanbul Edition – the first of the new exclusive portfolio – muscling in ahead of the one in New York, Miami Beach, Bangkok and London (the latter is set to open in January 2013). The Edition’s exterior, previously an HSBC bank, to some extent still looks just like any other business tower, overlooking Metrocity, another shopping mall, and the rest of the city – minaret silhouettes grazing the horizon at every angle. Inside, however, the feeling is quite different. The hotel has been open officially since May 2011, collaboratively owned by business entrepreneur Ian Schrager and Marriott. It boasts Cipriani’s restaurant - the only one in the world to do breakfast – and what a breakfast it is. Beautifully presented fruits, pastries, the ‘haut’ of select Turkish cuisine, and its signature sophisticated service and design. Breakfast is a definite Istanbul ‘thing’. The next day we take it with the Turkish rock star at an upmarket café along the Bosphorous – one that offers us so much mouth-watering Izmiri food that we barely make it on to the plane later. It has an easy-going, lazy Sunday vibe to it, synonymous with the feeling of the area at large - Bebek. But even at the Edition, whilst there is a supremely polished sheen to its presentation, underneath there is a warm friendliness that is mirrored citywide in almost everyone else we meet.
|Breakfast in Bebek|
When there are new hotels opening in Istanbul all the time (a minimum of 20 this year alone), it can be a mind-boggling experience choosing the right one. On brand, on style, on luxe this one this one makes for a glamorous, yet chicly understated stay. One that’s fit for Turkish rock stars. And his two newest groupies.
The Istanbul EDITION
Buyukdere Caddesi No 136 Levent
Istanbul, Turkey 34330
Phone 90-212-317-7700 Fax 90-212-317-7710
as originally published on The Arbuturian
Sunday, 6 January 2013
It’s the last day of Christmas, but this isn’t a recycled post on what to drink with your leftovers, this is a post on a lesson in Turkish Wine. Last November I attended the EWBC, or as its now known, the Digital Wine Communications Conference, held in 2012 in Turkey’s coastal second city of Izmir. It was an eye opener to what this country can and has the potential to offer when it comes to the world of wine, and provided insight into where current production has progressed from in only a matter of years.
Prior to this relatively new interest for producing wine here (although still only a tiny 3% of grapes grown are used for such), it is interesting to note that Turkey is in fact the birthplace of modern wine grapes as we know them – evidence of wine here dates as far back as 5,000 years. I learnt this at one of the most attention-grabbing sessions of the conference, in a talk given on ‘The Source of Wine’ by Dr Jose Vouillamoz, co-author of Wine Grapes (along with Jancis Robinson and Julia Harding), and DNA and archaeological analyst. I first met Jose, a gentle and unassuming man from Switzerland, as a few of us congregated over lunch one day. Little did I realise that he would be changing our entire perceptions of the country we were now in and its place on the world map of wine, just a few minutes later.
Throughout the conference, and indeed afterwards, it was a pleasant surprise to find that, for the most part, the quality of the wine in Turkey exceeded expectations.
The regions, based on agricultural regions are dotted country wide, but the majority are found in the west, in the Marmara, Aegean and the Mediterranean. The rest spread out over Anatolia (from the middle of Turkey, moving east). Although European blends here are proving increasingly popular, it is the indigenous varieties that I find more interesting. The grapes are mostly listed on the front of the bottles for ease of read amongst the Turkish and include, but are not limited to, the following:
Emir – (white), known for being a good grape to use for use in sparkling wines and native to Cappadocia. Apples and citrus fruits are the most obvious of its aromas, and of the still wines I tried, this followed through on the palate with a crisp, minerally acidity. As for sparkling wines, the Kavaklidere Brut tasted on a post-trip here was fresh and pleasant, but the mousse needs some work – it falls flat quite quickly.
Narince – my personal favourite of the whites that I likened to our own native bacchus, with a flinty, grapefruit tasting acidity. It provides a wine with more body than an Emir on its own, but is still relatively light - in Turkish it means ‘delicate’, and it comes from Mid-southern Anatolia (also known as Tokat). During the grand terroir tasting we also tried an excellent Narince Chardonnay blend (Kavaklidere, Cotes d’Avanos, Narince Chardonnay 2011, [67% and 33% respectively]).
Bornova Misket – tried most memorably on the terrace of the Urlice winery near to Izmir. Similar characteristics to those of the more well-known Muscat. Melon, honeysuckle, orange blossom, and a beautiful acidity. For us, at Urlice, it was served as a welcome aperitif, in accompaniment to some tasty Turkish cheese, and their own natural version of cheese-strings.
Kalecik Karasi – a red grape that finds itself grown all over Turkey’s wine regions, but predominantly in the region of Ankara – that experiences very hot summers and very cold winters. It means ‘black from the small castle’. In general the grape is described as medium bodied, low in tannins and with “boiled candy aromas on the nose”. I tried a bottle of this from Vinkara both at the conference, and then again in Istanbul at Sensus Wine bar – I‘ve noted it as herbaceous and minerally with sour red cherries on the nose and pimiento peppers on the palate. It was easy drinking, and mighty tasty.
Öküzgözü – hard to pronounce, but once you’ve mastered it, you won’t forget it. When we visited the Kavaklidere winery in Cappadocia we tried Öküzgözü grapes fresh from the vines and they were some of the sweetest and juiciest I’ve ever had. Huge bluey-black balls (Öküzgözü means bull’s eye) with thick skins and large bitter pips: the “platonic grape” as someone in our group described them at the time. These grapes make wines that are redolent of sour cherries, raspberries, eucalyptus and mint (these two in particular often came through very well), ripe plums and a little spice. They age well due to their acidity, and often go into wines that are also blended with Bogazkere (another indigenous red grape – this one means throat burner).
*notes helped in conjunction with the conference’s handy Wines of Turkey guide.
Wednesday, 2 January 2013
Leaping on to the tapas flushed scene on Covent Garden’s Maiden Lane, recently opened Condesa brings a Mexican twist to all those Spanish themed places we’ve also seen of late. Here, alongside South American roasted coffee, Venezuelan hot chocolate and cake (where you’ll find free wifi too for long afternoons spent ‘working’) you can also tuck into a simple variety of soups and bocadillos. The décor is predictably laid back, with projected images of beach-baked Baja California at one end of the bar, and a stylish wooden-come-shiny metal decked apartment theme throughout. During the daytime and evening the petite space (with capacity for around 30 people, seated) serves up a variety of hot and cold bites.
Dueño Daniel Caballero, originally from Mexico, has managed to stay away from the hotter climes since, mainly though his gastronomic adventures through France and Spain, meeting aptly named business partner Rafael Serrano en route. What I’m most keen about in this place is that is that next to a couple of other Hispanic choices, it has three reasonably priced La Cetto Mexican wines on the menu – including a Chenin Blanc, a Zinfandel, and a Nebbiolo – all showing very well. The zinfandel is fresh and comparable to something from Sonoma, redolent of squashed strawberries and ripe fruit, and the Nebbiolo, a lighter, more floral version of the beloved bottles I used to know in Italy, but still with prominent violet characteristics.
Food-wise you’ll find classic lomos, choizos and cheeses, an interesting Cecina de Leon (12month old cured beef, akin to Italy’s bresaola), and Mexican ingredients such as agave syrup that comes drizzled on the blue cheese salad, green tomato salsa served on the pulled pork sliders, and a weekly changing ceviche. Changing specials include Mole chicken tostadas – not quite what you’d imagine if you haven’t been to Mexico before. The good news is that you don’t have to order food here with drinks just yet, so it’s an easy early pit-stop or place to nibble prior to more substantial meals elsewhere.
15 Maiden Lane, London, WC2E 7NG, Tel: 0203 6015752
Tuesday, 18 December 2012
Festive season is (already well) upon us. Fairly lights are reigning, and somewhat strangely, Marmite is filling us with savoury cheer over Oxford street this year. Here’s a round up of what I’m choosing to sensibly enjoy this December…
Billecart Salmon Extra Brut NV – with all the extra calories this month this zero dosage champagne is the perfect contender for charged glasses all over the capital and in cosy country houses over Christmas day itself. It's said to contain a mere 60 calories per glass but doesn't let you down on body - you’ll still get 4 years of ageing that supplies a delicious creaminess in addition to its initial freshness. Its mousse is vibrant, and it speaks in tongues of elegance from bottle top to the bottom of your glass. You can find it on the high street at Oddbins and from Berry Brothers at around £40-45.
Saturday, 15 December 2012
Summer 2012 saw a season of national celebration and well-deserved awards. Most of these of course were of a sporting nature, but elsewhere in our beloved capital a different sort of award has been being recognised. The Great Taste Awards – otherwise known as the ‘Oscars’ of the food world or the ‘epicurean equivalent of the Booker prize’ are organised by the Guild of Fine food. This year, in further delicious praise of them, The Cagodan hotel and restaurant has launched Great Taste - a series of lunch and evening menus inspired by the champion foodstuffs that come from the best ingredients grown and produced countrywide. And in a setting synonymous with British style and traditional elegance there can be no better place to serve them.
With over 8,800 contenders for this year’s competition, a panel of chefs, deli owners, food writers and professionals blindly whittled this list down to find the final gold star winners from all the various products entered. 123 made it to the prestigious three-star gold medals, and of those 123, a substantial amount have made it on to The Cadogan’s menus, rustled up by head chef Oliver Lesnik, previously of Petrus and Gordon Ramsay fame. Throughout 2012 and 2013, the menu will change every 6-8 weeks, working in partnership with other notable critics and prominent foodies, offering the best of what is currently in season.
The Cagodan sits proudly on London’s Sloane Street, nestled between fashion designer boutiques and red brick Victorian architecture for which the area is well recognised. Inside its pretty main doorway is the bar – redolent with comfortable tartan sofas and a classic drawing room style ambience. Quiet and relaxed, here you can enjoy drinks from the bar before making your way through to the restaurant, at the back of the hotel. Here, the first thing that will catch your eye as you wander through the doorway is the podium arranged to one side showcasing the prize selection of products that feature on the menu du jour. The second clue of the evening as to the provenance of the ingredients used comes from the bottle of Mackintosh of Glendaveny extra virgin cold pressed rapeseed oil – light and nutty - placed on one side of your table. If you can draw your attention away from the food then you’ll notice beautiful red roses adorn the otherwise elegant décor: plush gold trimmed, royal purple upholstered seats set against crisp white tablecloths are overlooked by dazzling chandeliers, creating an atmosphere that is refined, and quintessential.
Starters tried and tested, depending on season can include Cured mackerel, goat’s cheese and courgette flower, warm dressed crab and English asparagus. I chose the Steak Tartare with poached pheasant egg, sauce gribiche and crumbs in wagyu beef dripping; a heady reminder of the ‘carne crudo’ that I’d often order at this time of year when I lived in Italy. It was here that I first came across the Taste concept – visiting the ‘Salone del gusto’ show in Turin - Italy’s stunning, mountain shrouded, industrial capital. Here, mirroring our own British incarnations of the show, people will flock for miles around to try out the very best foods from all over the peninsula and the cream of the global crop from elsewhere.
Main courses from the menu at The Cadogan offer hearty meat-rich courses, and fish dishes, laced with further award-winning Taste ingredients. In a nod to my Italian memories, the Rabbit Ravioli comes highly recommended – accompanied by braised lettuce, smoked pork belly, scallions and St George mushrooms. Puddings on the Great Taste menu are yet another assault on the senses - indulgent and beautifully presented.
When I dined here I was with a very good, recently-engaged friend. This set the tone wonderfully. With the overriding sense of celebration that resonates in abundance, the restaurant’s current concept makes for an ideal setting to not only enjoy the producers memorable moments, but to also mark your own.
Monday, 3 December 2012
A couple of weeks ago I attended a lunch with Humberto Jardim from Henriques and Henriques, one of Madeira’s lesser known premium Madeira houses (next to the likes of Blandy’s or Symington’s perhaps). I was pleased to be joining as a happy reminder of an enjoyable few days spent on the island this time last year: it rests in my mind as a lush and pleasant exotica.
Maderia, as I discovered then, is sometimes better known for growing and exporting bananas rather than grapes – but yet a cool 3.01 million litres of Madeiran wine were produced last year (in 2010 it was 3.08 million litres). The wines that are made here come from five main grape varieties: Sercial, Verdelho, Boal, Malvasia (often referred to as malmsey, a varietal expression of Malvasia) and Tinta Negra. "Madeira is the art of blending" says Humberto, purveyor of 16 Maderia wines made in five different intensities. The base of this blend is usually Tinta Negra – a curious, oft-dismissed indigenous grape that accounts for around 85% of production. It is favoured for its resistance to disease (both pylloxera and mouldy old oidium) and is the only black grape of the other four. Nevertheless, it is known as “the grape of the island” so says Humberto.
Today our quest is to taste a variety of single grape variety wines, matched to a variety of courses. We are in for some great discussions, and a lot of very good food.
H&H Sercial 10 yr old: A dry and astringent white grape, an ideal aperitif or salty smoked fish starter partner. Our two dishes were Tian of crab with guacamole and celeriac remoulade, and Tataki of seared Tuna with a soy, shallot and ginger dressing. The wine brought out the sweetness of the crab, but for me the clear winner was the tuna and the soy – creating ‘buzzword’ of the moment – umami (harmonious sweet and sour, as I understand it). It has a nutty, raisiny, caramel nose with good acidity on the palate, a pleasant warmth from its 19% alcohol and a dry finish. Given the fishy theme, I ask how the wines go down in Japan – thinking that perhaps sushi could also work as a pairing. Humberto is enthused but tells me they still need educating on what the wines are and their importance at a dinner. Over a mouthful of limey guacamole he comments “we have to start from the beginning” he says. “Right back to explaining where the island is.”
(£18 Chamberlain, Fortnum & Mason, Villeneuve wines, Wine Society)
H&H Medium rich single harvest Madeira 1998: Since 1993, it has become law to ensure that each bottle contains at least 85% of the labelled grape. This one is 100% tinta negra. It has the nose of the old barrels used to age it – oaky, almost mouldy, but yet there are also ripe figs and rose petals, giving it a more floral, richer punch. Its palate is warm and Christmas spicy with good acidity and undertones of rich vanilla custard. It pairs beautifully with our matches – wild mushroom, spinach and (subtle) truffle oil tartlets topped with Yorkshire blue rarebit and mixed leaf salad, and then Parma ham, fresh fig and dolcelatte salad with wild rocket and a reduced balsamic dressing. Both of these work beautifully - the saltiness of the blue cheese making our mouths water in conjunction with the fresh acidity of the wine, and the sweetness and texture of the Parma ham and the figs also working extremely well. The dolcelatte perhaps is a little too much, softening the wine a little more than desired, but the balsamic rounds it off providing a final happy underlining of flavours.
(£18.99 Waitrose, Fortnum & Mason, Ellis Wharton)
H&H 15 and 20 year old Verdelho: This one has “a touch of acidity and freshness” so says Humberto as he swills his glass under his nose. The 20 year old has a nutty, intense nose that enters our flared nostrils with notes of raisins, sultanas and rich dried figs. It has a great balance between sweetness and acidity – such is the style of a verdelho, but it is the intensity of its subtle acidity that carries the flavour through. The 15 year old has a drier nose, a spicy palate and is zingy but yet caresses the palate more gently. Humberto encourages us to get a better sense of the flavour by tasting at the back of our heads “you smell with your mouth and nose at the same time”. Curiously he is right. It takes me back to singing lessons at school – where you learn to reach the high notes by focusing on your cortex (crown), chin down, eyes focused. The same method works here, although the notes of course are full of flavour, not of sound. It is served with a salt beef, quails egg and lincolnshire poacher salad (reminiscent of parmesan), and another salad comprised of smoked duck, buffalo mozzarella and orange.
(£25.00 Waitrose, Noel Young (15yro))
H&H 10 year old Malvasia: This wine comes paired with two puddings – ones that look so delectable its impossible to reject them despite our bellies slowly rising. A mouthful of each suffices: sticky toffee pudding with warm toffee sauce and vanilla ice cream, and chocolate and cinammon torte with orange blossom mascarpone cream. The malvasia here supplies darker, richer, smoother flavours with redolent choco-toffee notes (otherwise known as ‘torrefaccion’ I believe). Malvasia can often be quite blunt, but here it shows off a breath of acidity in conjunction with the delicious but sickeningly sweet duo of puds. To afford us some in between time before cheese, Humberto shows us a couple of photos on his phone of his latest high tech winery equipment that he is demonstrably excited about.
(£18.00 Cambridge Wine Merchants, Fine Wine Company, Majestic, Tanners)
H&H Bual 1957 Rare Vintage Madeira: a rare treat! Paired with various cheesy offerings from Paxton and Whitfield. Our chairs begin to creak. Humberto describes this one as ‘simpatic’ a beautiful word that makes perfect sense to me – simpatico as they say in Italy: lovely. It shows off real spice, raisins, and a chewy salted lick of caramel on the palate – created through its depth of flavour and resonance of acidity. You still get the mould on the nose, but this noble grape puts its money where its mouth is. Not too much. Not too rich. It regales of a raisin marmalade topped off with honey. Delicious.
With stomachs suitably stretched, two of each course has set us up well for a very slow walk home. It gives me time to think, and as the sky darkens above my head I reflect on Humberto’s concern with a need for education in the Asian markets on where this island is. Perhaps it is similar to explaining Tasmania to those unfamiliar with the geography of Australia. Whichever the case, one thing remains true for both: once discovered, never forgotten. Expect more tourists.
Wednesday, 28 November 2012
Vistajet provides private jets for charter by individual clients and in Thomas's own words is a business "founded on guaranteed availability". They also function on the premise that they will only use planes still under the manufacturer's guarantee and therefore will replace them every two years. Their aim is to be able to fly their clients to any destination in the world, non-stop at only 24hours notice. Quite some claim given the stretch of infrastructure in some of the countries they are offering to connect. Their planes, built by Canadian manufacturer Bombardier will also be capable of flying up to 47,000 feet thus being able to fly above any adverse weather conditions that might otherwise require pit-stops en-route. Other journalists tweeting in the room come from Russia, Brazil, and India - highlighting the target market that Thomas wishes to attract. Indeed, in India he talks of a mere 13 minute wait (that he times with his personal stopwatch) from plane door through customs to waiting onwards transportation. He also talks about flexibility - in that they will be able to find permits for out of the way airports (he mentions Ulaanbaatar "the capital of Mongolia" he makes a point of clarifying, a number of times, a market known most recently for its precious metals) that can last as long as required - so if business meetings over run from pre-empted finish times of the night before to next day, Vistajet can pick you up accordingly. Despite the recession, there's obviously a market for this ultra premium form of transport - figures from last year show 25,000 single passengers used the service on 10,000 single flights. Not great for carbon footprints, but better for doing business 'in person' providing what he describes as a "personal touch".
What can clients expect on board? Aside from the "largest private cabins" built in "the spirit of technology" so says the Bombardier front man, red and grey dressed cabin staff will serve snacks and nibbles from internationally renowned brand Harvey Nicols, toiletries from Kiehls, Ruinart Brut Champagne as standard, and wines that include the 2008 Antinori Tiganello. They're certainly looking competitive, but will they deliver these ambitious promises? Only time will tell. Delivery of the planes will commence in January 2014. I'll be waiting for my ticket.
Sunday, 25 November 2012
As I glance down to the digital clock hidden beneath the dark shards of cracked glass on the device that accounts for my second brain, I notice the minutes rushing by at an alarming rate. I'm late (again). This latest sense of urgency courses through my veins accompanied by the sound of high heels striking the grey paving stones beneath me with some force. As I rush, I eye up a parking space nearby that I stopped in last time I was on this street - in an Aston Martin. ‘If only I was so fortunate again this evening’ I muse, my scarf and hair trailing wildly behind me in the breeze.
In a static two seconds, I check my now glowing reflection in the exterior gold plaques that belong to the London restaurant institution that is Le Gavroche. I enter the red tartan flushed bar to join a circle of wine tasting companions as a guest of the CEO of Bordeaux CA Grand Crus (Credit Agricole’s vineyard arm), Thierry Budin. We sit down to talk and taste through his range: Thierry is initially reticent to give his thoughts on how this year's vintage is holding up compared to last year's, but with some enthusiasm he soon reveals he hopes it to be positive "It seems that the condition of the grapes may be better – even after the wet months of June and July." Tonight however, the focus is on 2010. Different shades of rouge from violet-ruby through to deep purple slide elegantly down the inside of our glasses, showing off their well-conditioned, never-ending legs.
We taste the following:
Wednesday, 21 November 2012
ña (small beer) for €2 which then worked out as around £1.40 With our beer we’d receive a complimentary tapa. It’s a sad fact that I’ve not returned to the vibrant Moorish city since (there have been far too many other places to discover in the meantime!), but I hope to go back there one day soon: to clap hands in time with the flamenco guitarists and stay up long in to the night solely on the adrenalin of the characters around me. I also miss the alfresco paella in the albacin.
To reminisce over these well-spent days, I content myself instead in London with visiting some of our beloved capital’s tapas-famed watering holes - ever still the trend du jour. Here’s a round up of where I’ve been recently:
Located in Brixton Market – a whirling dervish of flavours and differing clientele with a pretty cool set up. When I was there last there was a small area of faux grass and deckchairs just outside the front that complemented the vintage furniture on the inside. You’ll find old suitcases used as table tops and a bookcase of classics underneath the bar that are arranged in colour order. If you don’t get here early it makes it more of a challenge to find a seat, but upstairs is a surprise - more spacious and equally as quirky with walls covered in old newspapers for added tea-stained effect. We ate pimientos del padron, patatas bravas, and had a large sharing board of meats. All tasty. All washed down with ‘Mas Amor’ – a fresh and floral rosé with a graffiti style label, summing up the energy of Barcelona’s streets with what’s inside the bottle (garnacha, carignan and more unusual sumoll). It was given to us at no extra charge when another choice was unavailable chilled. Here they also serve pinxtos (Basque style cocktail sticks of food), and cocktails - worth coming for alone at a bargainous £5 each. A great find.
Market Row, Brixton SW9 8LB, United Kingdom 020 7998 3309
Market Row, Brixton SW9 8LB, United Kingdom 020 7998 3309
Time Out Cheap Eats award 2012. It was a good night to dine as it meant that it was busy – people stood waiting in the bar area as you walk through the door, noticing the café next door (closed, but one to poke my nose in at next time I’m around during the day). The restaurant is billed as being in Clapham – near the common. It certainly has this vibe inside – brimming with young professionals and groups of semi-single friends, but transport links will find you closer to Brixton. On the menu you can spot all the usual suspects, tantalising you from the red and black themed paper beneath your plates. There’s also a daily specials board. We chose a wine from here – aptly called ‘otoñal’ (autumnal - although that was the only information supplied). Further investigation tells me it is a Rioja, as suspected. Very pleasant. And well matched to the food. We ordered the Spanish classics: tortilla, croquetas, Canelones de berenjena, Cochinillo asado, rape a la catalana con gambas (Catalan style monkfish with prawns). I’m sure it was a one night glitch owing to their award-induced busy-ness but our plates did arrive a little tepid, and the tortilla, sadly, was a little dry – although perhaps I am simply spoilt by my half-spanish tortilla-making friend who gets it just right (Sara, your recipe needs supplying!). The suckling pig on this occasion didn’t rival a beloved Granadino restaurant we affectionately named ‘the pig restaurant’ but the dish itself was as authentic as you can get. With the provision of a few more heatlamps then this could make a great place for a slightly more upmarket date.
192 Acre Lane, London, SW2 5UL TEL: 020 7733 4408
192 Acre Lane, London, SW2 5UL TEL: 020 7733 4408
Click here to see the full list. They also serve a sparkling red – la pamelita, as a more unusual addition. Food chosen from blackboards that overhang the bar is piping hot and tasty – pan con tomate will transport you back to breakfast in Spain in seconds, the croquetas are wonderfully creamy, lentils with chorizo just the right amount oily and the meatballs will be gobbled as soon as they’ve arrived. It’s a popular place for all the right reasons, and one that come rain or shine delivers a happy customers back out on to Bermondsey Street at the end of the night.
Nb. Drinks must be ordered alongside food.
104 Bermondsey Street London SE1 3UB, United Kingdom, 020 7403 4902
104 Bermondsey Street London SE1 3UB, United Kingdom, 020 7403 4902
Another award winning venue – it’s not hard to see why this place is always buzzing with post-work drinkers and eaters. I first visited Copita during the London Restaurant Festival just after it opened when the paint was barely dry. Having been back a few times since the vibe hasn’t changed and nor has the quality of the food. I particularly like it for its interesting twist on choice of tapas and it’s décor – stools, long tables, white tiles and naked bulbs that hang down from the ceiling. Sherry is a staple here – best washed down with some interesting cheeses, white asparagus pomegranate and mint, delicious octopus carpaccio with chorizo (so genuine, so good), smoked haddock, egg yolk and broad beans and one of my favourite dishes: pea, goats cheese and truffle oil croquettes. Yum. Also great for a Raventos Cava pit-stop accompanied by the serious Hispanic snack that is toasted maize and crispy favas (broad beans).
27 d’Arblay Street, London W1F 8EP, 020 7287 7797
27 d’Arblay Street, London W1F 8EP, 020 7287 7797