A very happy new year to everyone. It really IS a very happy new year here at Last Night I Drank. I am now a contributor to GQ Magazine (starting with a piece on a new English Vermouth on the front page of their food and drink section in the February issue – out now, with a big picture of Michael Fassbender on the front) and am working with them on a book project for later in the year, certainly more details to follow on that. I’m still having a brilliant time working at Vinoteca Soho, am working on some musical bits and bobs, have a few other irons warming nicely, and overall am really quite vehemently delighted with life.
All of the above has meant the blog has taken a bit of a back seat which a) I’m hoping to remedy in 2014 and b) means that I’m going to post much of the last month’s drinking in one go below. I’m hoping that pictures really ARE worth a thousand words, because I’m going to give you far more of the former than the latter.
So, in a roughly sensible order:
This was ‘a cocktail’ at a very cool new bar in Camberwell called Communion, arranged by my very finger-on-the-pulse friend Lindsey. It’s a great place, totally unexpected and suitably dark and crypt-like. It’s ‘a cocktail’ because I can’t unfortunately remember what it was – the evening confirmed to me yet again (though, as evidenced, not for want of trying) I’m yet to find a new cocktail to make it in to my limited repertoire of favourites. After this one, I switched back to a Manhattan.
Incredible food at Silk Road in Camberwell, after Communion. Plenteous, warming and almost illegally cheap.
Some warm sake at Bone Daddies. This was a much-needed break in a day of solo Christmas shopping. I can confirm that a bowl of tonkotsu and a beaker of sake is EXACTLY right to warm the freezing stomach and ease the aching wallet.
A mid-double-shift ice cream from Gelupo. I don’t do many double shifts as I’m only a part-timer. The cons of a very long working day are almost entirely offset by having the perfect excuse to have a mid-afternoon lunch in Soho. This was about a week before Christmas so I rounded my lunch off with some Nutmeggnog (yes, actually) gelato, the coldest Christmassy thing in existence.
I can’t remember exactly when I opened this but it must have been just a few days before Christmas as that’s the only time I made mince pies, and there they are, next to a bottle of the stunning Vajra Barbera. It’s bottles like this that remind me I don’t always want a heavy, spicy wine in winter – sometimes I want to be uplifted out of the cold gloom with a glass of berry purity. This was perfect – juicy, precise, balanced and mouth-watering.
Champagne in the Bassoon Bar at the Corinthia Hotel on Christmas Eve. We had a London Christmas on our own for the first time, and this bit was particularly good. I think I may have genuinely found my favourite London bar. Old school, relaxed, calm, proper. Looking at that list, sort of everything that I am not. Which is probably why I love it.
I love it so much that here is another picture of it.
Then we went onto Berners Tavern, a place that is so gilded and warm and festive, I imagine it feels like Christmas even when it’s not. The food was good (starters superb, mains disappointing), the wine was alright (hard to find much of interest/value under £40/50) but I would definitely go back just for the room alone. I mean JUST LOOK AT IT.
This was the drinking of the week or so around Christmas, including the day itself. The highlight was undoubtedly and slightly surprisingly the Crystallum 2009 Clay Shales Chardonnay. God, it was good. The clarity and sunshine of Chardonnay at its most joyful, but at the same time restrained and elegant. Seriously, this blew me away. All the Crystallum wines are excellent, I would really recommend looking out for them – a great representation of the new face of premium South African wine.
What I was drinking in early January. There are many deceptively tasty green smoothies. This was not one of them. I desperately need a more nutrient-heavy diet but there is no chance it will be coming through the medium of this.
Beers and a small sipping tequila for a family lunch at Wahaca on the southbank. There are few places where three generations of my family, including a two nephews under seven, one with a serious dairy allergy, could all be fed, watered and kept happy, and this entirely did the trick. Tasty, fresh food, good drinks, and really friendly service. A winner.
A red vermouth I tasted at Toast in East Dulwich when I was researching a piece. Yep, this drinks writing lark really is as fun as it sounds.
A 500ml bottle of takeaway wine from Toast. They have their own house white and red in tank that you can buy in re-usable bottles at ridiculously good value prices and in very handy sizes. The red was excellent (a Southern French blend I believe) and I’ll be going back for more.
A grapefruit spritz at Boopshi’s, a new Schnitzel and Spritz restaurant just off Charlotte Street. They have a great-looking bar downstairs which I want to go back and visit for a few more of these. After which I will attempt to say ‘Schnitzel and Spritz’.
Another Toast triumph (what with buying my dad’s Christmas present there too, it did very well for me over the last few weeks) – two moderately priced Northern Italian wines to continue the theme of pure, fruit-driven reds to counteract the grey, miserable weather. One and a half of them have been drunk so far, can report only good things.
And finally, not sure why this has uploaded at the end. This was just one of the wines I tried at a tasting evening at the Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels, a new wine bar in Neal’s Yard. Covent garden. Although I’m not sure it’s entirely my kind of place, I think it’s absolutely beautiful (owned by the same people as the Experimental Cocktail Clubs and just as stunningly furnished) and quite thrilling to have a stylish destination bar in which to drink such brilliant, interesting wines. It’s not cheap but that’s more to do with their choice to make the list premium, the wines they’ve selected are actually quite sensibly priced. If £13 for a cocktail in a plush bar is just part of a swanky night out, then I think £10 for a glass of well-chosen wine in perfect condition should be just another option. More places to drink more wines with more choice of atmosphere and surroundings is never a bad thing and I’m sure they’ll do very well.