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Drink to the Queen!

Uncategorized

Seems pretty fitting that on Her Majesty’s Birthday I raise a glass to the Queen. According to reports (and urban myths), the Queen is a fan of a cheeky  G&T – who could blame her? It’s such a mesmerising spirit and luckily its still riding the wave of a rise in popularity.

Tonight we’ll be toasting the monarch with a glass or two of the Opihr Oriental Spiced London Dry Gin. It was bought as a gift for my boyfriends 30th a few weeks ago but I have a suspicion it was picked up for the beautiful label.

It’s a real belter of a Gin, as soon as we opened the bottle the aromas of cardamom and cumin hit our noses. That’s all twisted with hints of citrus, especially burnt orange peel. Although it’s a real feast for the nose its totally balanced on the palate. It’s a little smoky, full of spice and really smooth. We had a good quality tonic to pair with it and it’s worth it. I wouldn’t even suggest a slice of lemon or lime with it as it’s packing enough flavour. I highly recommended if your looking to show another Gin fan a real taste explosion.

Here’s to the Queen!

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Why I picked up a right Wrong ‘un

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Wine labels create debate. In theory it should be about what is inside the bottle (aww) but packaging does matter when your making snap decisions on what to buy. Especially if your sharing it with someone or putting it on the table for dinner with friends.

First impressions count and so gimmicky wine labels have always annoyed me. Not because I think making a joke out of wine drinking is bad but because because it has sod all to do with the actual wine. What does an Elegant Frog have to do with Viognier? Sod all but some people are drawn to that kind of stuff.

It’s safe to say I was a bit distracted when I picked up a bottle of The Wrong ‘un at Sourced a few weeks ago. I was panic buying thinking we were having people over and I have shared enough of my secret stash so I had to grab something quick. I’m glad I did and they didn’t come over.

Apparently the One Chain has something to do with cricket but being a football fan I haven’t got a blooming clue what any of it means. Safe to say the contents were outstanding.

It’s 80% Shiraz and 20 Cabernet Sauvignon so it’s a pretty bold wine with lots of dark fruit flavours and that classic touch of spice. It’s also oaked so there are plenty of layers but the finish reminds me of the black wine gums. I like a rich heavy red but if you think you’ll need some food with something like this then get yourself some red meats or tomato based pasta dishes.

That teaches me not to judge a book by its cover.

 

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It’s time for some rosé!

Rose

What is that big yellow-orange thing in the sky?! Could it be? I think it might be… it’s sunshine! Ok it’s still freezing cold and not quite pint-of-cider-in-the-pub time but who cares. The sun has popped itself out and that means its time for the first rosé wine of the year.

Rosé wines are not my forte so when I decided to break out of my comfort zone to try new wines I totally threw caution to the wind and picked this up. I think the reason that I don’t drink much of the pink stuff is mainly from bad experiences. Some people might argue with me on this one but I think when it comes to bad wine, rosé is the bracket that is most saturated with utter crap. Overly sweet and pumped with sugar are the worst of the bunch so finding a good one is always a pleasure.

What really drew me to this Cinsault Vielles Vignes (£7) was the colour. It’s not a lurid hot pink but a dusty pale hue with a slight touch of rust. I’m glad I picked it up because if anything can restore my faith in what a good rose can taste like, it’s this.

I admittedly over chilled it, but when it was a little less closer to frozen it was a complex mix of sharp gooseberry notes underpinned by some red fruit. The label suggested blackcurrants but I found it a bit lighter than that. If it lasted longer it would have been a brilliant accomplishment to some barbecued prawns.

A rosé I’ll be returning to in the Summer!  

 

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Finding time to take time

bars, White wine

Some people go to Yoga. Some meditate. Others play computer games or listen to music. I go for a glass of wine and people watch. 

Whatever you do in life it’s important to always take five, ten or however long you need to sit back and claim some time for yourself. As a commuter I’ve been through so many waves of pain waiting for and on trains, feeling frustrated and running between A and C that B doesn’t even get a look in. But B is important and without it you will go stir crazy. Same goes with working at a busy job and after an early, stressful start I just need a bit of time to stop and reset. 

I’m currently sat in Sourced in St Pancras International. It’s easily the best station in London and for the last few months I’ve run in and out, completely missing that this place has had an overhaul. And it’s SO much better. More seating, a better bar area and the new staff are so super friendly it’s almost unnerving. Plus the deli has had a revamp – but still be prepared to pay an absolute fortune. I recommend the black pudding quail scotch egg. It’s small but mighty and well worth the price. I promise. 

For £6 I’ve got a delicious LARGE glass of Picpoul de Pinet that’s super fresh, zesty with really tasty lemon notes and just a cheeky hint sweetness to balance it. That’s all wrapped up in with a hug of green floral aromas around it. De-lic-ious. 
I’m watching everyone do what I’ve stopped to take a break from and it’s making me calm. Plus there are the odd moments of lovely greetings Love Actually style that make me smile. Reset achieved. 

 

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Making the effort to find new wines

Red Wine, Uncategorized

January wasn’t a great month for me. For a few different reasons I lost my ‘wine mojo’ and it has really been getting to me. I went from being painfully specifc about what I wanted to just not caring and settling with bottles or styles I knew would be consistant. It’s far too easy to fall in to that trap and become dependent on the brand or bottles you know will taste as you expect.

It’s far to easy to pop to your local and pick up the same wine without even thinking about it. When I worked in the trade I couldn’t understand how people drank the same stuff all the time but I seemed to slip it to it myself. Why? I don’t really know. But I know I don’t like it.

So I am trying my best to get out of the wine funk I’m in and the first part is making the effort to find wines that I haven’t tried before. I popped in to Dickens House on Sunday and avoided all the bottles I was familar with in favour for something I wasn’t. It’s hard not to go for things you know you already enjoy but that’s the risk with wine and I’ve got to get back in to being happy to take that risk.

I picked up three different bottles and the first I’ve tried is the Terras Pegoes Vinho Tinto 2014 (£6.50). What a bargain! Portugal offers such brilliant value for money and this is certainly no exception. It’s made from the Castelão grape which I’m told is widely grown across Portugal but usually found in the south of the country. It’s rich, intense but beautifully fruity and has a really delicate floral hint to it. I’ve been opting for tannin heavy wines recently but this is the complete opposite. It has such a smooth palate that its dangerously easy to swig. The label says raspberry flavours but I am pretty sure I am getting just a little bit of red cherry.

So here’s to getting back on the wagon, sensibly of course😉

 

 

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Losing the local

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I’d been walking past my local for a few nights wondering why the curtains were closed. I assumed that maybe they were closing midweek to save a few quid and put their effort in to the weekend trade. I was wrong. The curtains had closed and so had the bar.

I was pretty devastated.

Most people have an opinion on why pubs are closing faster than ever. Be that cheaper drinks in the off trade, lack of food or even just lack of trade. It’s a subject that turns us all in to wannabe pub land/lords or ladies to start shouting Peggy Mitchel style: “I COULD RUN A PUB!”. We could all do it right? We could run a pub?

Before it closed down in early September, the Crown and Thistle wasn’t a pub I would have called particularly special. It was only little so as soon as you stepped in it was like walking in to a living room with a bar. The beers focused on local craft lager, ales and ciders and you could pay the cost of a pint to get 3 tasting samples instead. This was a pub with charm. The garden was an utter sun trap but was crowded with too many chairs so half the time the seats sunbathed more than any people. There were no televisions so no football or rugby apart from the furious updates someone would shout as they checked their phone.

All of the above pretty much sums up why The Crown and Thistle didn’t stand a chance against its rivals like The Three Daws and The Rum Puncheon. It’s not off the beaten track by any means but it is a pub on a side road outside of the hub of town which didn’t serve food. It (and by it I mean management) lived in a heady day dream where the locals would flock to the pub just because it was so magical.

It wasn’t magical. In fact in the light of day it was a bit of a dump and could have done with a bloody good clean. The owners let the jack-of-a-few-trades-master-of-pretty-much-nothing son look after it and eventually run it in to the ground. It wasn’t looked after and this is what I find the hardest part. It just wasn’t loved enough even by the people who had the most control to change things.

No word of yet as to what will happen to it but I have seen it being stripped of all its beer mats and miniatures. So sadly I bid my local a fond farewell and hope that if it stays a pub the new owners show it some well-deserved love.

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New favourite cocktail: The Spiced Sailor Mojito

Cocktails

Cocktails are usually a bit of a minefield for me. For a few reasons, best bulleted:

  • I don’t like cream
  • That means I don’t like Bailey’s
  • And I don’t have the sweetest tooth
  • Which means that I don’t like Piña coladas
  • Or getting caught in the rain for that matter

My new cocktail of choice is the Spiced Sailor Mojito. It’s a warming yet refreshing blend of Sailor Jerry’s Spiced Rum, muddled with plenty of fresh mint, lime juice, poured over a load of crushed ice and topped with apple juice.

Hipster jam jar style glass is optional.

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So what if there is a Prosecco shortage?

Sparkling

Rumours of a shortage in the Prosecco market didn’t come as much of a huge surprise to me. I knew that Veneto, the region in north-east Italy where the Glera ‘Prosecco’ grapes are grown, had a particularly bad harvest and as a result there would be a lower yield. I also knew that all the stories flying around about Prosecco ‘out-selling’ Champagne meant that a story aimed to worry the British Prosecco drinkers would soon to follow.

Whether or not there is a Prosecco shortage or not (spoiler, there won’t be), I see this as a good thing. There are too many wine drinkers stuck in their ways who buy the same bottle of adult pop each week. Never leaving their comfort zones to try something a bit different.

Escape Prosecco and try these:

Clos Monistrol Vintage Cava: I love a glass of Cava but not that crappy budget £4 a bottle stuff. The Spanish make some truly amazing Cava’s and there are hidden gems out there that are a must try. This is made using a selection of the best Chardonnay, Macabeo, Xarel-lo and Parellada grapes and aged for 36 months. It’s cheap, usually around £7 in Sainsbury’s but there is more depth and flavour to it than you’ll get out of some more budget versions. It’s a good ‘oh I drink good Cava, darrrrling’ dinner party fizz. (Sainsbury’s, £7.50)

Cave de Lugny Crémant de Bourgogne Blanc de Blancs NV: Thanks to the lovely Susie Atkins for recommending this in her column a few years ago because it’s now a firm favourite on my wine shelf. It’s 100% Chardonnay, light in style with crisp apple flavours and has a really beautiful label. I like it with a cheese board or a simple crab linguini. (Waitrose, £13.99)

Luis Pato Maria Gomes Metodo Antigo NV: I picked this up on a whim in an Oddbins  somewhere in central London ages ago and I still remember it for it’s golden colour and tropical, almost pineapple flavours. This is also good for a cheese board but also works as barbecue fizz. (Oddbins, £14.50)

By the glass

General

Now, maybe it’s me but I’ve done some speculating over the last few months and I’ve noticed that my favourite pastime is slowly starting to die out. If I am having a drink after work like the other thousands of other people who like to, I only want to stay for one. Maybe two at a push. If I want one pint, or one vodka or one j2o (that’s rare) I can order just one.

Wine by the glass however, just seems to be a major let down. Last week, I got a glass of merlot that had clearly been open longer than a week, a Pinot Gris that was tepid and clearly cost less than they were charing for a glass and then told (probably the most upsetting for me), ‘we only do wine by the bottle’.

Now I know I’ll be told were still in a poxy recession but you can always turn to the R word for an excuse, wanting A glass of half decent wine is one of lifes little pleasures that I feel is slipping away. Not only that, I don’t need the encouragement to drink a whole bottle on a Thursday night. Really, I don’t.

So my plea is not only for bars to please support us one glass drinkers but for you lovely people to suggest good bars in London where I can get a decent glass of wine for under £10!

Lastly, note the image. I broke the corkscrew when I needed it most…

When only a red will do

Red Wine

The Whale Caller – Shiraz Cabernet 2009

I cursed my tastebud’s last weekend but I blammed the suspiciously warming sunshine for luring them into the false hope that spring was finally on its way. Having had more than enough of the cold weather (very much including the snow), I basked in a little bit of above freezing temperatures long enough to begin the yernings for something white and zesty.

No, said the Met Office. Think again. And back we were at the begining of the week with yet more cold. So I quietly gave in and knew only the warmth of a red would do after yet another 45minute wait on a sleety platform.

The recommendations you can get from some people at supermarkets are the types of recommendations I tend to ignore. A good friend worked at a place which for his sake, will go unnmaed. He openly admitted to commiting a major crime by suggesting the wine that was clogging up his stock cupboard, regardless of its suitability. He declined to tell me if anyone had come back in to comment of his food matching skills.

Other than the wise words of resident wine expert who goes by the name of Georgio are some that I will gladly accept. He resides at this post in Waitrose Food Hall, nestled in the basement of John Lewis at Bluewater. And without fault, this man always manages to point me in the right direction.

I have to start with its price. £3.89 which is a price I am normally dubious about. Is that judging a bottle by its label? Surely not, I have learnt my lesson certainly not to have this type of attitude.

However its not me with the attitude, its this wine. Just opening the bottle releases the heat of spice from the shiraz mixed with jammy deep fruit. I love it when you get a nose of a wine like this, it really shouts at you to get involved and that was the sort of encouragement I needed.

The balance of grape mixed with the heat from its South Africa upbringing gives this wine a real punch, matching it brilliantly with meaty and spice filled dishes. I on the other hand, managed to enjoy it pretty well with cheese and crackers. Sometimes a girl really has no time to cook.

The palete is a pretty punchy mix of the deep fruits all balanced with that lingering spice and slight slice of pepper. I imagine The Whale Caller to puff up its chest amongst the other players on the shelf and offer itself up as a busty challenge.

This isn’t a casual drinking wine mind, it deserves a little extra attention if not that meaty meal as already suggested. I like a red to chew on every now and again but unsuspecting guests might not always be up for its raw measures.

This wine gets a sure fire recommend. I know I will be back off to buy a few more bottles. 3/5