4 Feb 2015
CRAFTED from fermented grains, distilled, then matured in porous clay pots, baijiu is China’s most popular spirit. However, for a Western dilettante the drink’s distinctive profile may seem unusual. Hammant Patel Villa of Brixton’s Courtesan ‘Birdcage Bar’ and ‘Boudoir’ notes, “It’s a very complex, earthy spirit – brooding, dare I say it, angry – challenging every aspect of a Western drinkers’ notion of an enjoyable practice.”Read at Alexander & James >
28 Jan 2015
RESTAURANTS: Oakley Court
TONIGHT’s meal, realised by sous chef, Meaden was bright, meticulous and very edible while being dramatically at odds, stylistically, with the presently drab dining room. However, when plans to redecorate are enacted, I predict a healthy tremble of critics will visit given the team’s inventiveness and energy. Indeed, I learnt at my 9am breakfast that Futcher had only finished hand-washing his much-loved comprehensive range of Riedel XL glassware a few hours before...Read at Harper's
21 Jan 2015
WINE: Fluid Investment
SPIRITS: The Land of Cîroc
WHY, he wondered, did I stir the spirit in an ice-laden shaker for a full two minutes? With Cîroc, there was no need, he explained, to insist on dilution and chilling to the point of killing flavours, seeing as there were few if any harsh edges to begin with, thanks to the grape base of his drink...Read at Alexander & James >
12 Jan 2015
CARS: Joe Macari
I FOLLOW a willowy receptionist up spiral stairs to a small door marked ‘Private’. Joe Macari is beyond. “I’m not a front person,” he says lighting a roll-up. “I’ll always have a dark blue car over red.” News scrolls across screens while banks of CCTV feeds show very shiny bonnets. Beyond an entirely glass wall one of only four California Spiders in aluminum (valued at $12m) undergoes painstaking restoration.Read more »
16 Dec 2014
CHRISTOPHER Beaumont-Hutchings and I sip violet-tinged Aviation sours alongside positively fatty Scottish oysters at the Rib Room’s bar. The sturdy looking, brass and dark wood build of this old-school drinkers’ haven at the five-star Jumeirah Carlton Tower seems appropriately grand given there is cause for celebration.
11 Dec 2014
SPIRITS: Haiti’s Bittersweet Fruits
I STAND amid two years’ worth of skins in sacks. The neatly-stacked stockpile allows Grand Marnier to continue to fulfil orders of its 12 million bottles of liqueurs per year in the face of earthquakes, strikes and even revolutions. “But if we leave Haiti,” says Maille reading my questioning expression, “what happens to the 200 families of the workers?”Read at Alexander & James >
17 Nov 2014
TRAVEL: Terminal Dining
“OUR studio is like a salmon: swimming against the tide,” says Afroditi Krassa. Her accent is attractively deeply-spiced. Born in Britain in 1974, but raised in Greece, Afroditi defied both her endocrinologist father and solicitor mother by pursuing design rather than follow in either of their footsteps. We meet at a no more than two-at-a time security booth somewhere below the concourse at the recently-rebuilt Queen’s Terminal, Heathrow. As I have my less than enhancing pass picture taken against a makeshift white paper background, Afroditi confides that, despite considering nearly every detail, today will be the first time she will actually dine at Heston Blumenthal’s ‘The Perfectionists’ Café’...Read at Good Things magazine >
3 Nov 2014
SPIRITS: Great British Truffles
HIS name is Rudi - short for Rodolfo il Caricatore del Tartufo – Rudolph, charger of the truffle!” says silver-haired James Liddell of his shaggy Lagotto Romano dog who gallops into the distance. Despite having a cute, sheep-like coat, kept closely trimmed – ‘tiresome for a working dog, attracting burrs and grass seeds,’ the enthusiastic beast who constantly, audibly tastes the air, has already unearthed several black ‘diamonds’. “Watch him carefully,” advises James as we try to keep up. “He dictates the speed of the hunt.”Read at Alexander & James >
14 Oct 2014
TRAVEL: Winter in Mauritius
TO their surprise, two drifters, just married, become six drifters as four journalists clamber aboard the craft to bob upon the inky waters. Once aboard, fisherman Dessie punts ‘Hasslo’, a wooden fishing skiff named after his grandfather, to deeper seas. A cloud of spent two-stroke momentarily chokes the air, hardly visible in the before-dawn darkness. In the distance, clouds shaped like mountains, battleships, and even the island’s mascot, the dodo, threaten to eclipse the sunrise to which we steer...Read at Arbuturian >
Photos at Visuals >
13 Oct 2014
RESTAURANTS: Steve Manktelow
'I WORKED in bars since age 17, beginning at “The Rock Garden”, Auckland. When the Whitbread Round The World yachts docked, I drudged through double shifts. But, even on a rare morning off, my boss still summoned me in. “Dude, I just worked a week which destroyed me,” I protested. “Just trust me – come,” he urged. When I got in, U2 was singing “Where The Streets Have No Name”. Despite my exhaustion, I remember thinking I had the world’s coolest job...'Read at Harper's >
9 Oct 2014
RESTAURANTS: The Salmon
Designer, Afroditi Krassa's inaugural issue of newspaper, The Salmon asks, 'If Chefs Are The New Rockstars, Why Is Fine Dining So Un-Rock ‘n’ Roll?' It also features an interview with me (p. 13).Read The Salmon >
8 Oct 2014
SPIRITS: The Wild, The Refined
THE ‘Glorious Twelfth’ of August is one of the busiest dates in the game season, being the first day from which one may aim a shotgun at the warbling red grouse. I recall landing one of these portly little birds on a heather-strewn highlands moor a few years ago. Instantly plucked then barbecued, it was served on incongruously immaculate linen in a remote bothy with Dalwhinnie, the aromas of heather and wildflowers in the dram echoing the scenery.
Read at Alexander & James >
1 Oct 2014
WINE: Rough Seas at Quo Vadis
BIBENDUM held a dinner for four of their top South African producers at the much brightened Quo Vadis, Soho, where arguably argumentative art has been removed in favour of characterful woodcuts on menus. The merchant’s head of marketing, Gareth Groves introduced the event: “We thought we’d round them all up in the same place, open some good bottles and enjoy some of chef, Jeremy Lee’s brilliant food.” Gordy Newton Johnson from Newton Johnson, Springfield Estate’s Jeanette Bruwer, Rollo Gabb from Journey’s End and Tertius Boshoff from Stellenrust took turns swapping places and stories around the long table of gannet-like journalists...Read at Harper's >
22 Sep 2014
WINE: Jackson Estate at Chiltern Firehouse
“I BELIEVE Marlborough will be known for producing the best Pinot Noir over time,” declares Matt Patterson-Green, winemaker of Jackson Estate. In his glass is one expression, Vintage Widow 2012, named, he says, “after women who lose their men to the vineyards...” We meet at Chiltern Firehouse, the Marylebone restaurant voted Best Newcomer at this year’s Harper's Awards. Beside us, beneath lighting globes, a table totalling six young women and one mature gent drinks Champagne...Read at Harper's >
17 Sep 2014
TRAVEL: Celebrating Scandinavia
AT a recent lecture at Habitat, Swedish “king of the red thread”, Staffan Tollgard attributed the success of Scandinavian design to a deep sense of integrity far removed from the approach of “dip MDF in gold and call it luxury” prevalent in his adopted city, London - something “neither democratic, nor honest.” Tollgard’s remark is revealing. Scandinavia’s design culture, where matt triumphs gloss and silver is more apparent than gold, mirrors the local mindset.Read at Aga Living >
11 Sep 2014
TRAVEL: Hidden Places
SPIRITS: Myles Donneky
THE 22 year-old bar manager of “Hutong” above Aqua on floor 31 of The Shard talks to Douglas Blyde about tea punches, pride in service, and competitive pong-pong...Read at Harper's >
1 Sep 2014
SPIRITS: The Mushroom Man
MICHAEL Hyams treats me to a bacon sandwich at Tony’s’ greasy spoon in New Covent Garden market. The time is approaching 7am, the end of his working day, but the beginning of mine. “I sell most mushrooms between 11pm and 3am,” he explains...Read at Alexander & James >
23 Aug 2014
CARS: Joe Macari
4 Aug 2014
SPIRITS: Western Spirits, Eastern Table
FROM the mountainous north to the tropical south, a network of 1,483 miles of high-speed railway lines, welded together to stymie vibration, links Japan’s fast-living cities - epicentres of arguably the most refined dining culture on the planet...Read at Alexander & James >
1 Aug 2014
WINE: Rosé d'Anjou Writers' Event
Above: a nice little video piece covering an event I helped bring to life towards the end of May.
31 Jul 2014
LUNCH begins with a colour-coordinated scallop ceviche woven with lemon confit, baby gem lettuce, green almonds, a little vanilla and camomile (£14.95). Viscardi selects 2011 Friulano from a three hectare site in Friuli (£8.50/175ml, Isonzo, Blason). He says of the match: “It’s from the same region as Pinot Grigio, but much more interesting and cleaner.” Its citric edges provide attractive bite, partnering with the pretty dish’s preserved lemon and satisfyingly crunchy facets.Read at Harpers >
25 Jul 2014
TRAVEL: Cherry Red
IN honour of today’s British visitors, the Union Jack is draped alongside the bandiera d'Italia at Luxardo’s distillery near Padua. But both are motionless given the lack of breeze. However, despite this location and the omnipresent Italian flag, the founding family’s roots lie in Dalmatia. Girolamo Luxardo, a Genoese representative of the kingdom of Sardinia, founded the firm in port city, Zara (Zadar) in 1821. However, a combination of Anglo-American bombing raids which saw the distillery blaze for three days, and Tito’s policies, forced the family into permanent exile in 1947....
More images at Visuals >
17 Jul 2014
WINE: Babich Goes Underground
DAVID Babich is general manager of the family-owned Babich Wines, which reaped its first vintage in Auckland’s Henderson Valley in 1916. With Dinah Kinnear, Sales Manager for Europe, Babich introduced trade customers of distributor PLB, as well as press and bloggers to the wines at an event hosted at Old Street’s Underground Cookery School, motto of which is “everything is salvageable!”
7 Jul 2014
DESIGN: Knife, Fork, Spoon...
DESPITE Jesus being content to break bread with his hands, cutlery has helped define civilisation. In addition to aiding the efficiency, aesthetics and general enjoyment of consumption, the gastronomic holy trinity of knife, fork and spoon can affect food’s taste and may even have altered our physiology. With technological advances come new instalments of cutlery and quirky ways of delivering them. But can these near essential implements ever be re-developed to form a genuinely new lexicon of dining paraphernalia?
Read at Aura >
30 Jun 2014
TRAVEL: Sniffing Out The Black Gold
WE watch Jaumard deftly excavate dark soil with a sharp pick. The spectacle evokes archaeology, only in fast-forward. At once, the heady aroma of moist, ripe truffles surfs the icy, dry Mistral wind. “A nest!” Jaumard announces, trying hard to hold the salivating Mirette back with her rope leash...Read at Grand Luxury Travel >
27 Jun 2014
TRAVEL: Revived by Prague
IN the warmly-lit bathroom, a small but handsome analogue clock, crafted by a now defunct firm, built into the steam-free plate mirror reads 7:03am. I look at my temporarily aged hands, and urgently lather them with the aromatic Asprey wash. I look into my eyes, a Stracciatella of fatigue, and watch as a flicker of optimism for the day ahead blurs some of the strain away. I look down at my lumpen feet, being claimed by gravity, yet calmed by the weave of the Turkish rug. I begin, mentally, to look respectable to take the tour of Prague’s first five-star hotel, where I have awoken...
Read at The Arbuturian >More images at Visuals >
24 Jun 2014
WINE: The Fat Duck meets Fera
“THE Fat Duck” surrendered their sixteenth-century dining room of 42 covers (attended to by no fewer than 43 chefs) for an evening hosted by Hugh Johnson OBE of the Royal Tokaji Company, while “Fera” at Claridge’s was the just-beautified, art deco setting for a more intimate lunch for 12 hosted by Dom Pérignon’s chef de cave, Richard Geoffroy. Johnson founded Royal Tokaji in 1990 - the same year Geoffroy begun his authorship of Dom Pérignon...
20 Jun 2014
TRAVEL: Savour Singapore
A TAX-free trading post turned Asian tiger and tourist magnet, Singapore is arguably Southeast Asia’s most misunderstood country. While detractors of the diamond-shaped island and its 60 strong dot-to-dot of islets lazily accuse it of being “boring”, “conformist” and “censored”, etching politeness and civility into law need not be a bad thing. This is a land where you can easily avoid the spectacle of littering, spitting and smoking in public. And state media controls can also have unlikely advantages – sparing viewers of shows like “Sex In The City”, for example, allows them more time to focus on crucial matters such as what to have for dinner....
Read at Good Things >Subscribe here >
19 Jun 2014
SPIRITS: Bringing Veggie Back
BEING a committed carnivore, the prospect of a vegetable-rich, meat-light diet initially struck me as potentially upsetting. After all, my best meal to date saw me shoot grouse in the Scottish highlands in the name of dinner, accompanied by a generous slug of Dalwhinnie single malt. However, having nearly tripped over countless pavement A-boards promising gourmet burgers, luxury hotdogs and gentrified kebabs while en-route to what I know will be meat-laden football match parties,, eating mostly roots and shoots starts to look more appealing...
Read at Alexander & James >
9 Jun 2014
SPIRITS: Raising Spirits
WILLIAM Borrell steers ‘Disco Volante’ towards Islington at three knots. “I feel affinity with Slow Food,” he tells passengers from the tiller. These include front of house from on-trend burger eatery, Patty & Bun who offer Borrell’s Vestal with a mixer for £4.50. “I don’t want to keep playing small harp but have to,” he says of what his PR terms a “Vestal Voyage”, although he prefers calling the first floating pop-up bar “a temporary erection.” The cruise is Borrell’s way of “saying thank you” to purchase and bar managers and the public who support his product.Read at Drinks Business >
8 May 2014
TRAVEL: Hungary is Dry
A GENTLE breeze sifts scrub as an old orange Russian-made truck wobbles by, threatening to spill its cargo of freshly-hewn boulders. Far away on the periphery of the crater that is this open mine stands a supervisor, surveying István Szepsy Jr. and our troupe of transplanted sommeliers.
5 May 2014
SPIRITS: Southern Food, Southern Drink
BOURBON. What does the name evoke for you? The chocolate-rich Brit-biscuit dipped to almost breaking point in strong Arabica coffee? Heady scents of split vanilla steeped in cream? Or a crisp rendition of the first beer brewed in Europe’s far-flung, rugged isle, Réunion? While all may lay claim to the name, a spirit connoisseur’s first thought will be of the barrel-aged corn-based American whiskey, bourbon, a spirit with such vociferous fans that its flavour spectrum is etched into law.
29 Apr 2014
TRAVEL: Kabuki Raw at Finca Cortesin
A MEAL, as a life, needs a structure. Like fleeting youth, lingering middle age and then the inevitable gradual decline into fluffy grey forgetfulness, a meal in three courses (or acts) must appetise, sate, and then comfortably conclude, diner high on ferment, with sweet reward...
14 Apr 2014
DESIGN: Sir David Chipperfield
AT 60 years old, Sir David Chipperfield continues to design and reinvigorate buildings likely to outlive him by centuries. He was knighted for services to architecture in the UK and Germany and has received a tally of more than 100 awards including RIBA’s Stirling Prize and the RIBA Royal Gold Medal...Read at Kensington & Chelsea magazine >
DRINKS: Sherry Mon Amour
WITH 11 distinct styles, arguably unparalleled food friendliness, and a perceived sense of offering value, sherry provides retailers, restaurateurs and bars a unique tool. At 30% of sales, the UK market remains sherry’s secondary market to Spain by a fraction, followed by Holland and Germany, and then the USA and Japan, where sales are rising. I spoke to leading operators about how they are handling the sherry cause in 2014...
11 Apr 2014
CHEEK by jowl to a very active Domino’s and well fitted out Nando’s, Greg Wallace’s brunch-focused Putney bistro, Wallace & Co, motto of which was “great right now” has given way to an Italian from people of pedigree. BIBO, defined as “simply the Latin, Bibo (I drink) - Bibo ergo Sum if you will,” by consultant-sommelier, Zeren Wilson, is brought to you by restaurateur Rebecca Mascarenhas, mind behind local stars, Sam’s Brasserie and Kitchen W8, and chef Chris Beverley, “one of Theo Randall's top boys.”Read more »
10 Apr 2014
SPIRITS: The Ever Drier Martini
ONCE described as “the only American invention as perfect as the sonnet” by “Sage of Baltimore”, Henry Louis Mencken, the martini originally combined gin and the aromatic, fortified wine, vermouth in equal measures. This created by all standards, a sweet cocktail. However, 150 years on from those early serves, today’s mixologists are more likely to craft the martini blotter-dry, with vermouth barely present at just one part per 100 of gin...Read at Alexander & James >
4 Apr 2014
MARGAUX is the first operation from business partners and partners in life, Sylvia Kontek (from Piedmont) and German-Hungarian, Vittorio Monge. Kontek précised their story: “we both grew-up around wine and wanted to create a place where great wines would match simple, but authentic, fresh dishes. So far, so good...”
17 Mar 2014
WINE: Fells First Forum
COMBINE one part history lesson with another part insight into the running of five family businesses, with a final part of tutored wine tastings, and the first Fells wine forum would result...Read at Harper's >
24 Feb 2014
WINE: "Macedonia, Douze Points"
Craig Duggan, business development manager for Signature Wines talks to Douglas Blyde about reviving an ancient wine tradition...How long has Macedonia made wine?
For at least 700 years before France (2,500 years). And emerging evidence from the city of Stobi suggests earlier still...
Read at Harper's >
20 Feb 2014
TRAVEL: Northern Cool, Helsinki Jaunt Reveals...
THE final vignette of Jim Jarmusch’s 1991 film, ‘Night On Earth’ features a bumpy taxi coursing through Helsinki’s icy avenues. Its’ human cargo is as dismal and emotional as it is liquor-sodden. Faced with divorce, pregnant daughter and very recent loss of his job, one passenger slumps, cataleptic, while his colleagues reason then curse his predicament. Matters gradually unravel until dawn’s ablution...Read at Grand Luxury Travel magazine (pp. 22-23) >
More images at Visuals >
12 Feb 2014
BARS: The Whip by Chase
“The Whip” cocktail lounge above Mayfair’s oldest pub, The Running Horse (1738) launched last week, three months after the minds behind, James Chase of the eponymous distillery and Dominic Jacobs, former bars director of Sketch, reinvigorated the wood and tiles-lined ground floor saloon. The effect is at once smart, cosy and even decadent. Walls are painted with Jockey prints (silks also cushion landing walls) while Turkish rugs rest on the floors. Of one of the latter, I observed a group of late night revellers kindly rolled it up to spare it their dancing machinations. Although James Chase wanted to incorporate hunt paintings – “usually, I’m screw it let’s do” he told me - his team was wary of a backlash from more reserved clients, hence the presence of oils of stately, sedentary thoroughbred horses. Of the etymology of the bar’s name, Chase mentions it can allude to a car, hunting dog, or “an entirely different purpose...”Read at Harper's >
10 Feb 2014
SPIRITS: Distilling at Dinner
AN outdoor sculpture depicts what looks like tortured Ribena currants at Domaines Francis Abécassis. Apparently the mass of goggling eyes on stalks and bared teeth does not perturb the neighbours (not that there are a great many to perturb). Perhaps because what goes in the bottle is so governed by doctrine in the world of drinks, the ‘art’ outside it becomes ever more overstated...Read at Harper's »
More images at Visuals »
3 Feb 2014
COOKING: Dale-icious: Swinton Park’s Cookery School
ALTHOUGH Bulmer’s perpetual hectoring of his good-natured and frankly, amazingly tolerant young sidekick (or should that be assistant?) Mike grates - I think Larkin's verse, 'Man hands on misery to man...' could sum-up the emotional scars inflicted in many a 'professional' kitchen - I leave armed with confidence and considerably more knowledge than when I entered the bright kitchen, bleary-eyed, pining for coffee. I even ably un-assistedly replicate Iman Bayeldi in the week that follows.
Read at Foodepedia »
28 Jan 2014
TV: Who Are The Grumbleweeds?
A SHORT from filmmaking days on comedy duo, The Grumbleweeds - their aim to return to fame.
26 Jan 2014
PREDICTIONS: What does 2014 hold in store for diners?
7 Jan 2014
TRAVEL: Mission Médoc
A BOTTLE bigger than a very big man towers over revolving baggage at Bordeaux airport. Around it, sommeliers gather. Bacchanalian worship. They are set to explore the Médoc. Between the Atlantic and river Gironde, 12,000 acres of tropical sea then marsh drained by merchant Dutch in the seventeenth century support tenacious vines. The châteaux with the best hand of land gained lasting recognition from the 1855 classification ordered for Napoleon III’s Universal Exposition. It emerged all reds bar one (Haut-Brion, Graves) were reaped from the Médoc. However, in addition to those hallowed bottles (the Grand Cru Classé accounts for 20% of production) this is a land of diversity...
Read at Harper's »More images at Visuals »
29 Dec 2013
ANOTHER year which included fun. But I also felt, too often, like protagonist number one in Mary Mapes Dodge’s tale of The Little Dutch Boy (who plugs the dam with his finger). I raise something with strength to toast to 2014.
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