Had a good dinner in Cocum in Cambridge with visiting developers from RAVE. The South Indian food was lovely. After dinner we wandered around a few colleges in town—all were closed to visitors because of exams (or because it was 9.30pm!)
Had a lovely day in London yesterday for Michael’s birthday. We spent the afternoon in the Porchester Spa, steaming, perspiring and lounging in the 1930’s splendor of the place. Even though we were there for four hours, it still didn’t feel long enough! I still couldn’t work out how the schmeissing works: there seems to be an establish system of queuing but and it was unfathomable.
We met Christopher and Matthew for dinner in the Skylon Restaurant in the evening, this time 1950’s glamour at the Royal Festival Hall. We had a lovely table by the window in the restaurant: a great place to sip cocktails before dinner. The service was faultless: friendly, informal, professional and attentive, we felt very well looked after. The food was excellent, and we had a good choice from an interesting menu: John Dory with whelks for me (yum yum!). The baked alaska for two was flamed at the table, after hot brandy was poured on top: the smell of burning sugar was lovely and it was a very impressive sight!
We got the National Express bus home from Embankment: probably a lot faster than the train (which had bus replacements on the service from both King’s Cross and Liverpool Street), and we were at our house about 90 mins after catching the bus in London.
This is the opening week of Tang Chinese Restaurant near the Grafton Centre (what used to be the Ancient Druids and had various other incarnations). The make over for the chinese restaurant is really smart. Tonight was ‘buy one get one free’, so we saved the £13 buffet fee for one of us.
The place was jammed and had a good atmosphere: the food was really good: salt and pepper squid and the sweet and sour pork were good. Ate far too much, too quickly! (Good practice for my trip to China in a week) I didn’t try the peking duck (I had no room) but I did see some generous helpings go past. How do they make money on these buffets?
Craig, Michael and I went down to London for Wine Plus at Olympia. For today my job title was ‘Wine Buyer’ for the Free Press, and Michael was the Bar Manager. We had some excellent wines. I was most excited about the Portuguese Taste Zone and a large exhibition of Greek Wines.
We started the day at about 11 with a tasting of French Wines from the Loire at the French Discovery Lounge. This was fun, but I enjoyed browsing the wines more, there were in excess of 100 from all parts of France available and the choice was fantastic. The staff were from a Wine Making Degree in the south of the UK, and it was interesting chatting with them.
We spent a good 20 mins with a very helpful man from Indigo Wine, Ben Henshaw. We tried some nice wine from his selection. Sadly I lost my notes.
Highlight of the new taste experiences today were four wines from Alvear in the south of Spain in the Pedro Ximénez range. There were also lovely sherries and we started with an impressive Fino en Rama de Añada: “En Rama” means that it is unblended and has not been filtered to enhance its individuality. It is the first “single vintage” Fino in modern history (apparently). We also tried the Pedro Ximénez Añada, Solera, Cosecha ad Reserva which wines that get darker and darker through the range made from dried raisins. By the time we were tasting Reserva it was like syrup of figs, but gorgeous. Must try and get some of these, they are very luxurious and unusual.
For the Greek Wines, I tried some from Domaine Sigalas and from Ino Wines. I was more attracted to Ino wines are they produced more of the varietals: Savatiano, Moschofilero, Assyrtiko, Agiorgitiko and Mavrodaphne. The Mavrodaphne was very nice (as usual) and the man behind the stand, Nick, was the same person who did the wine tasting in Cambridge about a year ago. He might be contacting Craig to do a tasting at the Free Press, which would be fun. He’s a Greek Wine evangelist (he’s also Greek).
Has some lunch in a pub close by Olympia and a bit of a rest (with beer amazingly for one of us), then headed back for more tasting!
Craig introduced us to Australian Margaret River wine, from Arlewood. The Semillon was lovely and smokey and the Deviation Road Pinot Noir was very good too.
At 5.15 we went to one of the highlights of the day: Be A Free Spirit with Cheese, Patricia Michelson from La Fromagerie in London was matching fantastic cheeses with spirits in unusual combinations. This finished me off for alcohol as there were nine lovely and generous spirits to match the nine cheeses:
- Perry, paired with, Pont L’eveque cheese from Normandy
- Lustau Oloroso Sherry, paired with Parmigiano Reggiano 3 Year Reggio Emilia
- Madeira, paired with Tomme de Corse Corscian cheese
- Jamaican Vintage Rum, paired with Explorateur, Ile de France (gorgeous full fat extra creamy cheese)
- Valvados, paired with Livarot from Normandy
- Glenfiddich 15 Year Whisky, paired with Doddington Wooler from Northumberland (a great cheese, 2 years old) and a bit like dutch mature cheese
- 15 Year old Armagnac, paired with Dry Charolais from Burgundy
- Marc de Bourgogne, paired with St Marcellin aux Marx de Raison Isere/Dauphine
- Grappa Nosiola, paired with Gorgonzola Naturale, Picenza from Lombary (a lovely cheese)
The spirits were arranged by Will Smith, Sommelier at Arbutus and were all very nice. This was a really impressive tasting, all the glasses out in the style of a high-class restaurant with lovely long platters for the cheese. I was very impressed
We tried some lovely wine from Denbies Wine Estate in the UK; The women behind the counter were especially lovely as we were a bit rambly by then having drunk more than we ‘spat’. The Redland Pinot Noir/Dornfelder was good, as was the Greenfields Cuvée. They are the biggest wine producers in the UK, based in Dorking and I feel a visit coming on when we are down that way in the late summer next year.
We headed towards the rum stands on the way out. Craig had been looking forward to this all day. I preferred to veer across the passage to the stand of Jean-Paul Metté where we ‘smelt’ some really wonderful Eau de Vie D’Alsace: cinnamon, fruits and garlic! (for cooking). The Marc de Gewurztraminer was especially lovely.
So we staggered out about 6.45 and bravely walked to Earls Court after missing the silly train from Olympia to there. All the trains from King’s Cross were cancelled because of signal failures and we ended up standing all the way home on a slow train from Liverpool Street, swaying for several reasons!