A Maze in steaks

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

In sleepy Grosvenor Square, just a Molotov cocktail throw from the American embassy, is yet another Gordon Ramsay place.  It’s getting difficult to walk down a London street without seeing his name over some restaurant or other.

I was advised that Molotov was not on the aperitif list, but £12 for a tiny glass of Ayala champagne, even if poured at the table, set me off in an explosive mood.  I think the sommelier noticed my look of disappointment, nay disdain, as he left me with barely enough liquid to create a damp patch if I spilled it on my trousers (I didn’t).  I wanted to dislike this place – I don’t like being ripped off.

Dangerously close to US embassy but nice view all the same


The Criterion Grill rediscovers Gaul

Tuesday, August 5th, 2008

We regularly use the plural when we mean the singular.  Nowhere is this more true than in Latin derived words used in a business context.  For example “can you tell me the single criteria for success?”.  Erm no I can’t, but I might be able to enlighten you with the criterion.

A gruff Yorkshireman with mixed ancestry by the name of Marco Pierre White clearly spotted that the single criterion for a good restaurant was to serve good food.  This is certainly a baseline, but in my view there are other criteria.  For one, there is history.  Criterion pre-dates Piccadilly Circus itself by 4 years putting a big red tick in that particular box.

Blimey it\'s like Piccadilly Circus round here!


Blason de l’Évangile 1999

Saturday, July 26th, 2008

On a weekend when Obama is charming Europe and Gordon Brown is being pummelled on the ropes of a certain Glasgow by-election, my thoughts have turned to politics.

Most people’s political maturity curve starts as a radical teenager, transcends into a left wing twentysomething and then slowly but surely keeps bending to the right.  Money and the confidence of age surely plays a part.  So why do I seem to be moving in the opposite direction?

Blason an IKEA shelf....for some reason


When not to buy wine at Costco

Thursday, July 10th, 2008

I have struggled to evaluate Costco as a source of “fine” wine.  Sure, the prices are good, but I have had quite a few bad experiences.  It seems like Costco are just too price focussed.  So we get offered wines from reasonably good estates but poor vintages.  Or decent wines getting to the end of their life.

I really trust Costco to find me the best price on a wide range of items, especially electronics and white goods where, in exchange for accepting last year’s model, enormous savings can be made.  Also consumables like washing powder, water, beer and bog rolls are generally cheapest at Costco, providing you buy in bulk.

I am just not convinced that the wine department is staffed by real enthusiasts.  I am certainly not going to defame Costco, I am sure their wine buyers are diligent, and that the provenance of all their wines is thoroughly checked.  It is just that, if I was a wine negociant, and someone came knocking with price as the sole criterion for purchase, I would be tempted to find the cases I could sell cheap.  A good name/bad year combination – looks good value?  A wine that less price sensitive buyers rejected – I can afford to let it go cheap!  A batch with a high percentage of corked bottles – who would know?

On my last visit, I was tempted by the fine wine display, so splashed out £19.92 on a bottle of Château Camensac 1995.

Camensac corked....for some reason


Boxwood Café, Knightsbridge

Monday, July 7th, 2008

They call it Boxwood, Boxwood......Boxwood City Limits

Another weekend in London and another opportunity to knock off a “trophy” restaurant – this one from the effing Gordon Ramsay stable.  If you swear by food as much as I do, then you start to appreciate that London is really the place in the UK to do fine dining.  There simply isn’t the demand for it in Manchester, for example.  Not one Michelin star in the city!  Sure, there are plenty of good eateries, but the overall experience is just better in London, and surprisingly, not always that much more expensive.


Château Camensac 1996

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

A trip to Bournemouth last year resulted in me bringing home the best red wine I ever drank, a 1982 Camensac.

Browsing through Majestic the other day, I spotted the 1996 vintage at £19.99.  Only one course of action was available to me, and for once, my bank manager obliged.

Camensac, from my Château

It felt right to open this on the anniversary of the barbecue that saw the 1982’s fifteen minutes of fame (and I was surprised that it lasted 15 minutes, so cherished was it by the St Helens massive).

This 1996 Haut-Médoc, at 12 years old, is surely drinking well by now?  I was surprised at the amount of tannins still attacking my upper gums, but, consumed contemporaneously with simply barbecued lamb chops, it was excellent.  Liquorice, blackcurrant, cedar and parsnip – yum.  15 minutes later, it was gone.  With only one bottle in my basket, we had to wave goodbye to the French nobility and make friends with an impudent teenager from the New World.

I am no expert in these matters but I sense that Château Camensac 1996 will keep a good while longer and I shall probably pop back to Majestic for another couple of bottles to squirrel away in my combine harvester.

Château La Tour Figeac, 2001

Friday, April 11th, 2008

Packaging says a lot about a product.  Marketing people really understand that differentiating (demanding a higher price for) a high quality product requires an associated buying and unwrapping experience.  Nowhere is this more true than the world of wine.  The ceremony afforded to opening a bottle of wine is a marketing man’s dream.  I feel short changed if a wine is not “wrapped” according to its value.

The foil on the cap of this wine was reassuringly thick, I’ve seen lead flashing with less substance.  This is a good quality wine already…

Figeac went great with crispy duck but hold the plum sauce….


Château Batailley 2004 revisited

Tuesday, April 8th, 2008

When I say revisited, I am lying.  I never actually visited Ch. Batailley in the first place and nor did I this time.  I’ve drunk the wine a number of times though, and in my last tasting of 2004, I decided it was too early to drink.  Venerable US critic, Robert Parker, agrees labelling 2004 Pauillac as “still tannic”.  So why open another bottle now then?  Good question.  Erm, I panicked…

Let the battle commence - Ch Batailley and a microwave…for some reason


Linen at Manchester 235

Sunday, March 23rd, 2008

When one reaches one’s forties, birthdays are quickly forgotten.  They are not anticipated with the same excitement of youth, rather the disdain and fear of middle age.  Nonetheless, they are still a cause for celebration and an opportunity to go and splash a few quid on some top nosh and wine.  This year we went to Linen in the lofty (metaphorically and physically) surroundings of Manchester 235 Casino.

Just Linen, or any sort of textile?

My camera was not welcome for obvious reasons.  The discretion of the clients (and I will indiscreetly mention that most of the Man United team were in that evening) is clearly important.  I am also sick of getting papped by photographers from the Daily Mail who have clearly mistaken me for a footballer or some TV star (yeah right…).


Château Roc de Boisseaux 2003

Saturday, March 8th, 2008

I’m having mood swings.  Pinot Noir vs Merlot.  I love Pinots from Chile, New Zealand and even Burgundy (when I can afford them).  I am equally starting to appreciate the right bank of la Gironde, the home of Merlot?  In any case, both grapes are a welcome change from Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Sangiovese for example.

Roc on!  Boisseaux on the oche….for some reason