Draper’s Arms, Islington

Sunday, April 24th, 2011

In a very twee part of London, where, in more controversial political times Tone used to live, lies a pub.  I wonder if this was a New Labour den at some point.

Keeping my lefty tendencies to one side, (I dress to the left), I booked through Opentable and consumed a pre-match meal.  The glorious Man City made their first Wembley visit since 1999. I made my first visit to Islington since Morgan M‘s in 2008.

The Drapers Arms has a decent array of beers, a pretty and well priced wine list, and a menu that people of my age can read without glasses, which is all too rare. A bottle of 2009 Brouilly was excellent value at £31, and once given 10 minutes in an ice bucket was very drinkable. After only 10 minutes it was turned from flabby Bazooka Joe bubblegum to tight candy foam teeth and who wouldn’t prefer the teeth?  But, why serve Beaujolais at 25 degrees in the first place?

Beaujolais at The Drapers Arms


Sharrow Bay, Ullswater, Cumbria

Friday, March 25th, 2011

If you have just scaled England’s third highest mountain via Striding Edge, slipped and nearly died, wished that you owned a pair of crampons, nearly shat yourself, and in the process built up a hunger hole the size of one of Sherpa Tenzing’s footprints, you could do worse than get your scram at one of the poshest hotels in the lake district, the self proclaimed inventor of sticky toffee pudding.  Make sure you take your Amex Black Card, though.  And check you are still in possession of your arms and legs on the way out.


Goodman, City, London

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

Do you prefer penguins or skateboarders?  Personally I am a penguin man, although this caused a bit of controversy when I reviewed Hawksmoor.  I did, though, fall in love with the beef.  But, having revelled in Hawksmoor’s meat, I felt obliged to sample what most London foodies consider to be the competition in the steak stakes, Goodman.


Lucy’s, Bowness on Windermere

Sunday, November 14th, 2010

The business card for Lucy’s carries the tagline “share in the experience”.  Oh dear, looks like I’m washing up again…


Hawksmoor revisited

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

Last time I wrote about the London food bloggers’ beefy hero of Shoreditch, I was accused of snobbery.  I was unkind to the waiting staff who I described as ‘skateboarders’ lacking coordination and worse, more dishevelled in appearance than most customers.

However, my steak was so mouth-wateringly, drool dribblingly, bib wettingly luscious, that Truly Scrumptious couldn’t have tempted me away from it, even if she had offered to blow my Toot Sweet in the back of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.  I had to come back for another try.


Château Rauzan-Ségla, 1996

Saturday, July 24th, 2010

Where better to try a Bordeaux Grand Cru than in its home town?  Problem is pecuniary.  Although restaurants around Bordeaux ask reasonable mark-ups, this still involves voluntary surgery.  To keep my arms and legs intact, my cunning plan was to buy the wine from a local shop and take it to the restaurant which, for convenience, was Le Savoie, bang in the centre of Margaux.


Királyudvar, Tokaji Sec 2006

Friday, June 11th, 2010

There is definitely a place in my heart for wines that are a bit bonkers.  A tale of the unexpected.  Something with its own personality.

I recently visited Vivat Bacchus in Farringdon with a colleague.  We sampled two sweet wines – one white, one red – both bonkers.  Sadly the white tasted of wallpaper paste and the red of cherry lips soaked in meths.  And Vivat Bacchus tried to double tip me.  I hate it when service is already added to the bill and then the credit card machine offers me the “opportunity” to add another tip, presumably going straight into the long pockets of short-handed management.  A chilled Valpolicella on the same visit was dreamy, but this is not enough to entice me to visit either branch of Vivat Bacchus again.

I have tried many superb Tokaji dessert wines, almost all of which were not particularly Dizzee Rascal, but nonetheless tasted sweeter than an Armand van Helden megamix.

This Királyudvar was dry and, in a sense, that made it madder than a Tory/Liberal conspiracy.  But mad can be loveable.  It can be intelligent.  It can command respect.  This is the Vivienne Westwood of wines.

I can’t claim that I know whether she tastes of honey and meringue, but, like this wine, I could think of 10,000 worse dinner partners.

I got mine from the Wine Society for £18, so not cheap, but if you want quality like Westwood, then you have to be prepared to pay.  I enjoyed mine with a pork chop with mustard, garlic and thyme.

Berry Brothers? There’s an app for that!

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

It is reassuring, in a Savile Row tailor sense, to see that after 311 years of tradition, Berry Bros & Rudd is innovating.  There has been a technology EXPLOSION recently with a well constructed and very readable blog, a whizzy website and now an iPhone app.

As an iPhone addict, who gets frustrated at not even being able to delete an email whilst on the tube, it is refreshing to see that the app is available offline.

It’s a must-have for wine geeks.  For example, if you want to check the retail price of an overpriced bottle in Gaucho Grill, you can do so discreetly, under the table, and then argue righteously and indignantly with the waiter about how you object to being fleeced by a two bit South American theme park (that happens to serve great steaks).

Then again, BBR has a disappointing range of Argentineans – a mere nine wines (compared to 190 champagnes and 391 clarets).  And if you actually want to order a wine you have to go to the BBR website – but this is a small complaint that I feel sure they will resolve in good time.  Hopefully not another 311 years.

Hawksmoor fails to wow…

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

I realise I am risking treading on revered toes.  Almost every food blogger within Patriot Missile range of London thinks that Hawsksmoor is legend.  Esteemed mainstream critics from Jay Rayner to Giles Coren have extolled its fleshy virtues.  I was recommended, no, TOLD to go there by cheese lover, Ramsay denier and beefy beefcake Chris Pople.

In short I expected great things.  But whenever you set high expectations, it is inevitable that not everything lives up to the dream.  And a few things fell short for me.


Super sale at Sunday Times – but hurry

Monday, November 30th, 2009

I am so excited I could eat a bowl of soup.  And if you want to be as excited as me you have until 11am tomorrow (1 December).  Oh, and you need to be a member of the Sunday Times Wine Club.  Oh, and you need to have a wine budget of at least £100.  I can’t see the same offer on the Laithwaites main site so maybe they will repeat this down the way.

The deal is that if you spend £100 you get 10% off.  Not that special, but if you can find £150 the discount ups to 15%, and if you are in the fortunate position of having £200 or more leaking from your trousers, 20% is your reward!

I’ve just placed an order for 6 bottles of Cheval des Andes 2005, an Argentinean stunner made in a Bordeaux style but with “robust” spinal chord of Malbec.  A well regarded wine, which is more than can be said for the abysmal website.

With a 20% discount, even including delivery charges I have just paid £37 per bottle.  Compare this to the normal STWC/Laithwaites prices of £45, the Majestic price of £50, and the rip-off Gaucho Wine Boutique price of £64.65, I think that is a bargain.

By the way, if you dine at Gaucho Grills, expect to see this wine on the list at £147.95 per bottle – oucho!