Selfridges Wonder Bar

Sunday, March 14th, 2010

A recent Sunday lunch in London lead to a worrying discovery.  My favourite haunt for a wine aperitif, 1707 Wine Bar in Fortnum and Mason basement, no longer opens on Sunday.

Forced into trying somewhere new, the Ritz doormen, just along Piccadilly took exception to my smart jeans (yet they tolerate Michael Winner).  The Wolseley had welcomed us the day before (and warned me not to darken their door again in a rush).  And picking on someone nearer my own age, Madonna’s ex-local didn’t appeal.  I wanted wine.

In a frustrated fit of anxiety (that I would have to go to lunch without a wine warm-up) I remembered Selfridges, a mere 10 minute stroll up Park Lane.


Wensleydale Heifer, West Witton, North Yorkshire

Monday, June 8th, 2009

Marketing null points! The sign makes it look like a Hungry Hippo All-U-Can-Eat Sunday lunch with foam balls and cheap beer. But step inside and nothing could be further from the truth. Fine seafood, fine wine list, fine (but relaxed) service and with just enough quirkiness and kitsch to make you smile.

Cows gone fishing....for some reason


Messrs Maguire, Dublin

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

I’ve spent a number of happy occasions rinsing my bladder in perfectly poured Guinness in this imposing public house overlooking O’Connell Bridge.  The architecture both inside and out is stunning and the location and views of bustling Dublin are unparalleled, yet I have always thought it quite an ordinary pub grub place as far as food is concerned.

When I saw that Michael Winner had raved about Messrs Maguire in a Sunday Times review I thought I would revisit and try the food again.  It was still ordinary.  But for me, eating is not the point of this place.

Don't mess with the Maguires...unless you want to eat and drink, of course.


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.



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.


Pendle Inn – witches, yetis, snow and pies

Wednesday, April 9th, 2008

It used to snow more often in the north of England.  One childhood memory of Cheadle Hulme in the 1970s, had us creating a roadblock from several snowballs as big as a medium sized Yeti monster, only to get caught by one of the parents.  It took so much more effort to deconstruct the abominable frozen white barrier without the adrenalin filled laughter that drove and inspired us through the construction phase.

On Easter Sunday 2008, we looked out of the window at 7am – whiteout – awesome….let’s off to the hills for a walk!  I have one life rule on walking – I’ll do anything as long as there is a pub at the end.  And so we found ourselves at Barley, Lancashire, and the Pendle Inn.

Pendle Inn - don’t see no witches yet…


Shibden Mill Inn, Halifax

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

Amongst the dark satanic mills of Halifax, West Yorkshire, there are indeed some green and pleasant pastures, and nestling in the hills we found Shibden Mill Inn.  We once stopped for a quick Sunday lunch on a walking expedition and vowed to go back.  On 1 March, Fred had just picked up a brand new Mini Cooper, so a drive out to somewhere remote seemed appropriate.

Omaka…somewhere in middle America (or New Zealand to be precise)


Binary Bar, Manchester

Tuesday, February 26th, 2008

Yes or No?  True or False?  Right or Wrong?  One or Zero?  There are 10 types of people in the world.  Those that understand binary and those who don’t.

A new concept has been launched in Manchester close to my flat.  It’s a Stealth Bar.  Stealth in the sense that nobody knew it was coming and nobody noticed when it arrived.  Do the owners know more about base 2 numbers than marketing?

Can you see Binary?  YES or NO???


Fortnum & Mason wins “least rip off” prize

Monday, December 3rd, 2007

My last (and first) visit to Fortnum & Mason 1707 Wine Bar was such a success, the very next time I was in London I revisited.

This time my flight comprised three Pinot Noirs and I also added a plate of charcuterie to nibble on.  At £13 an American would starve on this dish, but the quality soared.  The meat was, interestingly, not Italian, the most notable of a good bunch being Gloucester Old Spot Prosciutto which stood up to any Italian prosciutto I have ever tasted.

The Pinot Noirs were all worthy of drinking, for the record:

Fortnum & Mason Bourgogne Rouge Drouhin 2004 – soft and supple, the most subtle of the three with redcurrants and a creamy finish.

Merricks Creek Pinot Noir Victoria 2004 – a powerful strawberry flavour wine, jammy and louder than Ian Paisley in full rhetorical flow.

Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir Waipara 2004 – the most interesting of the bunch.  Cherries and some mineral.  A bit like the French one but with a bit of kiwi intensity and sharpness.

I couldn’t resist trying one more wine and was pleased to see the Fortnum & Mason Pomerol Clos Rene 2003 served in a Riedel Bordeaux glass from the Vinum range. Black fruits prevailed in contrast to the red fruited Pinots.  A bit of cooked cabbage, quite tannic with a long finish.  Quite a serious wine as you might expect

I tolerated some rude treatment from the staff because of the excellent pricing policy, £10 corkage being added to the shop price no matter the value of the wine.  Clearly the place to go if you fancy a 1961 Latour.

So I award F & M my top prize for least rip-off wine drinking prices in London wine bars or restaurants.

I also enjoy trying the flights of three wines linked by grape and comparing the different treatments.  But next time I think up an award, I really must construct a snappier name.

Finally, you don’t have to drink wine, coffee and tea is available.  It is also very quiet, so I use it for meetings when I am in Piccadilly/Mayfair.  I used to frequent The Wolseley for this purpose but it is nowadays too busy.  Oh well, my secret is out.  I’ll have to find somewhere new, now.  Ciao.

Blue Bell Inn, Kettlewell

Monday, November 26th, 2007

A welcome in the hillsides - La Cloche Bleu, Kettlewell

The trouble with some pubs in the Yorkshire Dales is that they can’t quite work out who their customers are.  I am not surprised since the Dales attracts everyone from Hell’s Angels, to coaches filled with old dears who can only eat liquidised food through a straw.