Archive for October, 2008

Drop of Eden Valley to drown my sorrows

Friday, October 31st, 2008

When my flat was constructed in 2006, at the peak of the city centre building boom in Manchester, decent workmen were hard to find, or so it seems.  One employee of venerable but notorious subcontractors, Boddgit and Scarper, found a new use for 4 inch nails:  Namely to use them not only to station a roughly fitted cupboard shelf but also to make an elegant, if unnecessary, belly button piercing in the hot water pipe that feeds the kitchen tap.

It is a miracle that this did not result in a visible leak until late summer of 2008.  The nail finally rusted away and now most of the hall floor, skirting and cupboard wall has been temporarily removed, whilst a dehumidifier is valiantly trying to soak up the excess “moisture” like a digital sponge.

I often find that Aussie Shirai (I assume that is the plural of Shiraz) are a bit drying in the mouth, so I don’t drink anywhere near the amount of down under wines that I should.  I am not about to launch a flood of reviews but let’s try to redress the balance one drip at a time eh?  A drop of Eden Valley “The Saviours” 2003 had been sitting in my rack for a while.  I needed something to take my mind off things.

Mmmmm nice legs - that's what 14.5% alcohol does to you...


Gaucho Grill wine rip-off rages on

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

I’ve written before about the rip-off wine mark-ups at the Gaucho Grill (branches in London and Manchester).

Although the wine is outrageously priced, I do pop in occasionally for a top class steak.  And so last week saw me in the Manchester restaurant.  I thought it would be interesting to revisit the wine prices.

In my post of March 2007, I benchmarked a bottle of Susana Balbo Malbec (excellent stuff) at an eye watering mark-up of 250%.  The bottle, available at the time from the Wine Society at £11.95, was marked up to £42.

Time to check out the latest prices.  I checked the Wine Society website and, fair play, it is in stock and still £11.95.  Inflation rate = 0%.

When I checked out the Gaucho Grill wine list, the price has inflated by a Graf Zeppelinistic 22.6% to £51.50.  This now makes the mark-up (against retail price, and one assumes that Gaucho can buy much cheaper) a groin kicking 331%.  By far the highest I have ever seen in any restaurant.

The matured meat may be superb, but I would rather cut my pupils out with a serrated steak knife, than pay these prices.

By all means eat at the Gaucho, but when it comes to wine, just say “NO”.

Game of tag

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

Since people were asking how to navigate around this site, for example to find recommendations for a decent red wine for less than a tenner, I weakly offered a “Wino’s Favourites” page to highlight what I thought was good at the time.

This has not been a raging success so I have deleted it and instead tagged all my posts with relevant monikers to make it easier to search the site.  You can do so by clicking on your preferred phrase in the tag cloud in the right hand column of the home page.

Robin Hood Inn, Baslow

Sunday, October 26th, 2008

On a day when fell runners are being rescued from floods in Cumbria, we decided it was an opportune moment to head south into the Peak District, where the weather was balmy by comparison.  An extra hour in bed for the end of British Summer Time?  No chance – just got up an hour earlier to make sure we finished a 6 mile scramble in time for a pub lunch.

We passed the Robin Hood, half way round the walk up and down various gritstone edges, and, although not quite as notorious as the fellow it is named after, it looked homely.  At the end of the walk we drove round for a pie and a pint.



Palliser Estate Martinborough 2007

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

Pungent nose, zingy flavour but slightly flat aftertaste – like a Szechuan hot and sour soup.  Not as fruity as some NZ Sauvignons but this Martinborough wine is appealing nonetheless.  Slightly different style with a bit of steel and hints of Chablis in that sense.  Palliser Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2007 used to be available from the Wine Society for £9.50 but a quick search of their website reveals rien.  Perhaps it’s out of stock.

Palace are rubbish, and so are Spurs

La Capitana Carmen̬re 2005 РBig Yellow Taxi

Saturday, October 18th, 2008

When I was a kid growing up in Cheadle Hulme, a post war suburb of Manchester, there were shops everywhere.  Within just 10 minutes walk of a fair sized shopping centre in the village, was another conurbation of shops based around the Kenilworth pub.  On one t-junction there was a chemist, a newsagent (RS McColl), a greengrocer, a post office, two bakers, two butchers (Breens’ and Pimlott’s), a toy shop (Playland), a Chinese takeaway, a Shell garage (gas station), a hardware shop, a small grocer and, rather bizarrely, a garden centre (Spreadboroughs – donkey’s years ahead of its time).

Thinking back, it’s amazing that we allowed Tesco and the other major supermarkets to put virtually all these businesses out of business.


Negresco, Manchester – live and let die

Thursday, October 16th, 2008

So, for all Tony Blair’s efforts to be remembered as a world leader of stature, the only true legacy he leaves behind is his controversial 45 minute claim, and a slightly more insipid and politically correct (in every sense) BBC.  Meanwhile battered PM, Gordon Brown, has just turned the world on its head with a well received financial rescue package that most countries are following.  Gordon has gone from zero to hero in one single policy announcement that took about 45 minutes to deliver, and press rumours have him auditioning for the new James Bond movie, The 600 Billion Dollar Man.

Time will tell whether the economic tankers of the world will be steered clear of the rocks of doom by midshipman Brown.  But oh how Tone must be wishing he was here to be seen to solve the defining crisis of our times, rather than his current brief to search in vain for an answer to yesterday’s problems.  I wonder if he rues the day he handed over to hapless Gordon, whose Falklands moment could only have been a financial holocaust.  And what of David Cameron?  Nero to Oh Dearo.

Memories eh?

I took this photo a while ago, but the place shut down before I got around to reviewing it.  Shame really.  It did have a sort of sense of James Bond’s New Orleans, but it has always been a bit of a graveyard site.

Negresco, Napoli or New Orleans?

Born again Binary Bar – bigger, badder, better bogs

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008

In February of this year, I slagged off Binary as a stealth bar and it looks like I wasn’t the only one left unimpressed as customers stayed away in droves.

In the summer, during peak drinking season, the owners had the balls to shut it down for serious refurbishment and it re-launched recently.  I wanted to go back for another look, so I popped in to watch England refurbish the Kazakhstan football team, eventually wallpapering them by five goals to one.


Brasserie Blanc, Manchester (closed Feb 09)

Saturday, October 11th, 2008

Raymond Blanc, founder of high profile restaurant with rooms, Le Manoir aux quat’saisons, and currently starring in the latest culinary reality TV show from the BBC, The Restaurant, has another business interest, a chain of eateries.

I showed up at Brasserie Blanc in Manchester only to discover that Monsieur Blanc has not visited the place in two years.  The brasserie looked unloved and was almost completely empty.  Would this be a culinary delight, or should Raymond come and close his own restaurant?


Auntsfield Long Cow Sauvignon Blanc 2007

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

Good evening credit crunchers, how are your bank shares doing?  Yes I know, mine too.  With the sole exception of HSBC.  With a much higher than average capital ratio, HSBC shares have risen 4% this year, whilst other banks (e.g RBS, HBOS) have tanked to one fifth of their recent value, and my old mate, Mr Bradford is owned by the British Government whilst erstwhile Mr Bingley has emigrated to Santander in Spain.  Luckily I sold B & B at about £2 while the credit crunch was a mere cream cracker.  They traded at 20 pence on the day they were nationalised.  I would have sold all my shares, but which bank could you trust your cash with?

It is not just banks, all capital expenditure has been frozen at a corporate and personal level.  How many people do you know buying a new car at the moment?  A new phone?  A new TV?  Heating oil?  Food?  Chateau Latour?  Nope.  The world is frozen with fear and we are riding an apocalyptic stallion of self fulfilling prophecy into a deep depression.

And if you want to dig yourself out of a depression, you will need cheap alcohol as your spade.  You could do worse than trying to cheer yourself up with this New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, at £8.95 from the Wine Society, a mere fraction of the price of the Cloudy Bay you used to drink in better times.

Long Cow - is that the best name you could dream up???

Auntsfield Long Cow 2007 is pale, grassy and full of cats’ piss.  (For the keen grammatinarianisticians amongst you, the pungency is such that I think there was more than one cat).  The acidity, though, is good and there is plenty of white fruit.

For the few remaining bulls amongst you, if your bank shares are still heading south, (and you can no longer sell them short), why not take a long position on this cow?