Stuart George

Archive for the ‘Restaurants/wine and food’ Category

Creek mythology

In Restaurants/wine and food on January 21, 2011 at 1:34 pm

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On Tuesday 18 January I was invited to 28°-50° (sic), my friend Xavier Rousset’s recently opened City restaurant, where the new releases of Jacob’s Creek Regional Reserves were presented to me and other wine bloggers.

I have happy memories of drinking Jacob’s Creek Reserve Wines a few years ago when they were selling at £7-8, about £2-3 more than the basic wines. They were noticeably better than the non-Reserve stuff and well worth the extra money.

We were hosted by Bernard Hickin, whom I’ve met once before, at a tasting of older Coonawarra wines in May 2010. Bernard has been at Jacob’s Creek (aka Orlando) since 1976 and has recently been promoted to Chief Winemaker. He doesn’t foresee any significant changes to the wines under his watch but said that they will “evolve to meet the needs of consumers.”

As usual, I was late to arrive but still in time for an aperitif glass of 2005 Steingarten Riesling, perhaps Jacob’s Creek’s most disntiguished wine. It had fresh, lemon fruit and acidity that cut like an arctic wind. I like Aussie Rieslings at this still-lively stage rather than the toastiness that comes with extended ageing. It could probably be kept until 2020 if you like senile flavours in your whites.

Only about 20% of the wine actually comes from the Steingarten vineyard these days, though production remains small at 3-5,000 cases per year. It’s a good wine. The 2005 was great with the fish (I think it was trout) and lentils starter, with the wine’s flavours perfectly matching the lemongrass seasoning of the food.

The 2010 Barossa Riesling Regional Reserve was totally different to the Steingarten – floral rather than mineral and less bellicose in its acidity. It felt much tauter. I wouldn’t mind seeing this again in five years time, when it might have loosened up a bit.

Bernard’s 2010 Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc aspires to a riper style, as the passion fruit smells suggested. It had plump fruit and clean, if not bracing, acidity. But anything would taste slack coming after those blistering Rieslings.

Barrel fermentation has imprinted some subtle oak flavours onto the 2009 Adelaide Hills Chardonnay. It tasted quite fat because of the malolactic – maybe it would have been better to leave it as it was. It’s already a bit nutty, suggesting that it’s not long for this world. I wouldn’t want to be drinking this much past the end of the year.

Not hearing what was said about the wines being poured because of a boisterous diner downstairs – perhaps he was a City Boy spending his hard-earned bonus – I smelled the 2009 Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir and assumed it was the Coonawarra Cabernet. The minty, eucalyptus flavours were appealing but this is not what a Pinot should smell of. A reasonable wine but a poor Pinot. It’s on promotion at my local supermarket at the moment. I’m glad that I haven’t bought a bottle.

I didn’t mistake the 2008 Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon for anything else. It was a good example of what Coonawarra smells and tastes like, with fleshy tannins and eucalyptus flavours. It’s good for at least another five years.

The 2007 Barossa Shiraz was absolutely sui generis, balancing leathery, dark chocolate smells with freshness and pugnacious tannins. This was really good with the posh steak and chips (onglet of beef with chips and sauce choron, actually) that we had for the main course.

We also had some older red wines: a leafy, cedary 2004 St Hugo Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon; the bright and fleshy 2005 Johann Shiraz Cabernet; and the 2001 Johann, which has won nearly 30 gongs in wine competitions. It was darker and more brooding than the 2005 but a second bottle was apparently better and brighter.

But for the Pinot Noir caricature the Regional Reserve wines scarcely put a foot wrong. (I should have thrown it at the noisy City Boy). At £8 they’d be fine. At £9.99 they’re a bit too expensive. But Aussie winemakers deserve some sympathy for being hammered on export markets – and in the UK by increased duty and VAT rates – because of the strength of the A$. As painful as it is, we all need to get used to spending more money on wine – and especially on Australian wine.

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Candid Camera at Point Bulles

In Restaurants/wine and food on December 19, 2010 at 8:37 am

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I was in Paris a couple of weeks’ ago to meet with friends. Of course it was bloody freezing and I was trying to shake off a heavy cold before my 20-hour flight to Adelaide. Really I should have stayed at home rather than get up at 5am and spend most of the day outdoors.

We met at Point Bulles, owned by Chantal Bregeon-Gonet of Champagne Philippe Gonet, which I profiled in a recent issue of Gilbert & Gaillard magazine.

A promotional film was being made at Point Bulles that evening. This was my second appearance on film – I appeared on Tiswas in January 1981, aged 6 ½.

I’m seen several times in the Point Bulles film with my great pal Su Hua Newton of Newton Vineyards in Napa. Also in attendance were Britt and Per Karlsson, David Cobbold, Amanda ReganOlivier Borneuf and Katrina Dick.

Katrina is an Aussie friend in London who was in Paris for the France vs. Australia rugby match. The French were cut to shreds, which made braving the cold weather worth while.

Amanda Regan and David Cobbold discuss the state of French rugby

Weingut K+K Kirnbauer at Galvin La Chapelle

In Restaurants/wine and food, Tastings on November 30, 2010 at 12:44 pm

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Having been the sole UK representative at the Austrian Wine Challenge in Vienna for the last two years, I’ve become increasingly familiar with and interested in Austrian wines. On 24 November I was invited to taste the wines of Weingut K+K Kirnbauer from Burgenland in east Austria. Markus Kirnbauer presented 11 of his family estate’s wines at Galvin La Chapelle restaurant in Spital Square, near Liverpool Street station.

This was my first visit to Galvin La Chapelle. The restaurant is in a marvellous high-ceilinged Victorian hall (chapel?) with a good 100 covers. Apparently the kitchen has a two-ton Bonnet oven that cost £100,000. It’s big and busy.

We started with a lasagne of Dorset crab and velouté of chanterelle mushrooms. It was a crab mousse with slices of pasta, I suppose, and technically brilliant. It tasted divine – especially the sauce – but I wasn’t keen on the rubbery texture.  It made the 2008 Chardonnay Barrique Zwickl, which was quite fat and opulent when sampled beforehand, taste bitter.

The main course was one of the most gorgeous-looking dishes I’ve seen in a long time, as full of vegetables and colour as an Arcimboldo portrait. The Assiette of Cornish lamb “Provençale” (sic) with roast lamb juices was really good. It came with liver, sweetbreads, peppers, spinach, courgette and intensely sweet tomatoes.

We found space for some dessert. The tarte tatin had nice pastry and was very sweet but no problem for the 2008 Welschriesling Eiswein, which was harvested just after Christmas 2008. It was pressed gently (for 15 hours) so as not to compress the ice. The result was a wine with 140-150 g/ltr sugar, which is relatively low for this style of wine.

We also tasted the unoaked and plump 2008 Blaufränkisch Mittelburgenland, which for me was about as good an example of this type of wine as I’ve had.

The 2007 Blaufränkisch Vitikult spent 18 months in used barrels. This has given it a more polished texture than the previous wine. Indeed, as one moves through the range Kirnbauer’s reds become evermore, dare I say it, Super Tuscan in style – polished to a glassy smoothness.

Das Phantom is an adventurous blend of Blaufränkisch, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. The 2008 was bottled in May 2010 and I thought at first that it might be reduced. It opened up with aeration and smelled not dissimilar to Vitikult, though it had much firmer tannins.

The ’06 Das Phantom was rather austere and bitter for me. The 2000, though, was à point. Maybe the 2006 needs longer.

The oaked red wines continued with the 2003 Blaufränkisch Goldberg Reserve. Perhaps seeing the vintage made me smell what I wanted to smell but this did seem a little bit raisiny. By contrast, the 2002, from a much cooler and more typical year, was lighter-hued and had better, more bracing acidity.

Forever is a Cabernet/Merlot made in 2000 to commemorate Markus’s graduation from university. It was left in barrels for as long as he was a student, which in the end was 38 months, though the wine’s name commemorates what it might have been. Age has made it leathery. I found this less appealing than some of the other wines.

Markus told me that he has submitted his wines to the AWC in previous years. I do hope he does so in 2011.

A Soho Bacchanal

In Restaurants/wine and food on November 23, 2010 at 4:42 pm

On 21 November I was invited to Blacks club in Soho for one of its infrequent Sunday “Bacchanalia” lunches.

Blacks is owned by Giuseppe Mascoli, who also has an interest in Franco Manca pizzerias and Aubert & Mascoli wine merchants. The club is in a splendid 18th century townhouse in Dean Street, nearly opposite the ghastly Groucho Club. It does not advertise; it does not even have a website. I met several people who were all “honorary” members; none of them knew anybody who had actually applied to be a member.

The Bacchanalia lunches are cooked by a well-known food journalist cum chef. Today it was the turn of Rose Prince, with a little help from Blacks’s in-house chef Robin Freeman.

For the aperitif and then with the starter we drank Brut & The Beast 2005, a sparkling blend of Cortese and Favorita from the Cooperativa Valli Unite in Piemonte. It was gently fizzy, distinctly oxidative and about off-dry. This is the sort of wine that I like the idea of rather than the actual drink. Giuseppe doesn’t like the use, or what he considers to be excessive use, of sulphur. Esoteric wines with low sulphur or whatever always seem a good idea (like long-term contracts) but too often I find them less than a pleasure to drink. Brut & The Beast was distinctly cidery in flavour, which is not really what I want from a sparkling wine. But it went really well with the starter of Potted Cornish Crab. It was delicious. The crab and rice were held together by some clarified butter on top.

The other starter of rabbit, walnut and fig terrine was rich and earthy, a real autumnal dish. This was paired with Domaine de l’Ocre Rouge Chardonnay 2009 from the Gorges du Gardon to the north of Nîmes. It was also oxidative and esoteric. But for the forceful acidity of the Gavi grape in Brut & The Beast, it would be hard to tell the first two wines apart. But I drank them because they went well with the food.

The main course of pheasant (confit leg and roast breast) was totally yummy. I wasn’t so keen on the pearl barley or baked cabbage, the latter a speciality of Rose’s mother apparently, but the aromatic breadcrumbs (using lemon zest and spices) were terrific.

The Chianti “Terre dè Pari Riserva” 2001 from Podere Volpaio was nearly à point, though it retained some rustic tannins on the finish. There was no Cabernet or Merlot in this, happily – only the “proper” Chianti grapes Sangiovese and Canaiolo.

Rose’s dessert was a retro Constance Spry recipe for toffee bread and milk pudding. The bread was particularly good, light and fluffy, with the milk cutting through the richness of the toffee sauce so that it conveyed a combination of lightness and tooth-rotting sweetness.

Domaine des Chesnaies’s Coteaux du Layon Saint-Lambert “Clos des Bonnes-Blanches” 2005 was drunk out of tumblers, which was fine by me. Doubtless some of my more earnest wine writing colleagues would have been appalled.

Rose did a great job. And I was even more impressed when she she said that she liked my MCC sweater.

 

 

 

 

Indigo dine

In Restaurants/wine and food on November 16, 2010 at 12:53 pm

On Wednesday 10 November I was invited to dinner at The Square Mile Kitchen and Lounge, the restaurant of the Hotel Indigo near Tower Hill.

The hotel’s name is curious because my first impression was of red rather than voilet. Anyway, it’s all very bright and trendy and hard to distinguish from the other swanky places that I visit on my wanderings around London.

I started with mixed grilled vegetables, which was fine apart from the too-crunchy asparagus. (Apologies for the dark photos – I use my phone camera for these things and modern London hotels persist with low lighting).

I love Osso Bucco. The best I’ve ever had comes from Le Querce in, of all places, Brockley (SE23). Feeling a bit peckish, I ordered Square Miles’s take on this classic Milanese dish. It had lots of tomato in the sauce, which I like but I am under doctor’s orders to stay of tomatoes to calm my bouts of sciatica. I found the meat a bit tough and fatty – but I ate it all.

We drank a bottle – several bottles, actually – of 2005 Terre del Barolo (the basic cuvée I guess). I can think of few things more pleasurable than eating Osso Bucco and drinking Barolo. But I found this wine very dry and woody – indeed, I suspect that it was tainted by TCA. It wasn’t right.

Desert was Tiramisu “destruction”, with all the components laid out separately rather than as a cake. It was original and very yummy.

Square Mile is clearly aimed at business visitors and travellers – it’s not likely to be a destination place for Londoners. But it’s worth a visit just for that Tiramisu.

 

The view from above

In Restaurants/wine and food, Tastings on November 3, 2010 at 11:05 pm

Pictured below is my current workplace.

The terrace at the Hotel Gervasoni in Valparaiso is the setting for the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles Chile 2010 tasting. Not a bad place in which to work.

We tasted 49 wines this morning, with my group allocated 14 Sauvignon Blancs, 2 rosados, 14 Cabernet Sauvignons, 9 Merlots and 10 “assemblage” (blends). On the whole, the 2009 wines were better than the 2010s, which might be due more to earthquakes than the weather. For me, the Merlots were the most successful wines – the best ones showed good varietal character but also some New World generosity and sweetness.

The most egregious examples were unripe or reduced – or both.

This afternoon we were in Casablanca, the first of Chile’s “cool climate” wine regions. To prove how cool it is, we were given lunch al fresco at Casas del Bosque. It was so bracing that blankets were provided. It’s not as warm here as I was expecting. Further inland, over the other side of the Coastal Range, it can be very hot indeed – as it was when I arrived in Santiago yesterday. But towards the coast it is noticeably cooler.

Anyway, the lunch was very good. The starter was Ceviche de Pulpo, which is octopus, onions, peppers, lime juice and oil. Just the job with some Casablanca Sauvignon or Chardonnay.

For the main course we were given Codornices Asadas, quails with a basil-flavoured risotto, and Chuletas de Cordero, lamb with butternut squash. The Pinot Noirs that we tasted with this were too extracted for my taste.

To finish, there was a Parfait de Dulce de Leche, milk caramel with berries. This was served with an as yet unbottled Late Harvest Riesling by Casas del Bosque. Casablanca gets a lot of fog, which is ideal for cultivating botrytis for the production of sweet wines. I would never have known it unless I had been here.

 

Port Authorities: Noval LBV 1994-2004

In Restaurants/wine and food, Tastings on October 29, 2010 at 6:01 pm

I have long been suspicious of Late Bottled Vintage Ports. When I first started in the wine trade 14 years ago (I’m older than I look) I tucked into a bottle of LBV with my colleagues after some tasting or other. It took me two days to recover from that hangover. Of course I blamed the Port and not the vast amount of Burgundy that came before it.

Even with a more cautious approach, I always found LBVs too heavy and sullen. Perhaps I was drinking the wrong wines. At any rate, I rarely touched them and certainly never considered ageing them.

But on 6 October I was a guest of AXA Millésimes for the second time in three days. This time it was to try the newly released 2004 Quinta do Noval LBV as well as some older LBV wines back to 1994. Lunch was at Prism Brasserie in the City.

Even Noval itself had rarely considered LBVs worthy of ageing. Christian Seeley explained that he had to buy some bottles of the 1994 from his mother, who liked it so much that she had bought 25 cases. There was no stock left at the Quinta itself.

The pre-2004 LBVs were labelled as “Noval” because many of the grapes were bought-in. The 2004 is made only from Noval’s own vineyards, hence “Quinta do Noval”. All the wines were unfiltered, which is highly unusual for a LBV Port. The whole point of LBV is that it has had longer in wood and doesn’t need decanting, non?

As at the Tokaji tasting, there were several wines to taste before lunch.

The 1994 was OK. It had a “burn” on the finish and was a bit spirity on the whole. It had plenty of life though – no problem to keep this for another ten years.

Although it was a bit woody in the middle, the 1996 was superior to the first wine, with a sweet and fleshy finish.

For me the 2000 was the best of the LBVs here. It was very generous and charming – what good LBV (good Port!) is all about. Its length was far superior to the ’96 and ’94.

The rude tannins of the 2001 were a stark contrast to the previous wine. It wasn’t a declared vintage and it showed.

The 2003 was much better, not dissimilar to the sweet fruit and chocolate flavours of the 2000, albeit with much more burly tannins.

The new 2004 was of course still a juvenile, very sweet and fruity. Its thick, rich fruit was appealing and uber-modern for Port.

A glass of 2009 Quinta da Romaneira rosé was very welcome after those six Ports. It was dry and simple but quite full for a pink ’un – “slightly too alcoholic”, thought Christian.

The Carpaccio of beef with truffle emulsion and shaved Parmesan was delicious – the meat melted in the mouth like a snowflake. It was very good with the Cedro do Noval 2007, the junior table wine of Noval. The nose was very cedary, to my mind recalling Right Bank claret. But there is not a drop of Cabernet or Merlot here – it is 30% Touriga Nacional, 30% Touriga Franca, 10% Tinta Roriz and 30% Syrah, the latter “to round out the wine.” A good wine and now à point.

Quinta do Noval 2007 represents “a serious attempt to make great red wine in the Douro”, said Christian. This is a wine that has a Henrician structure – big and rich, ideal for a roasted rump of lamb. Two bottles were sampled. Christian felt that the first was not fresh enough, though nobody else complained. His conscientiousness spurred me to look more closely. Perhaps there was a bit of reduction.

The 2004 was tasted again at the end. It was particularly good with the blue cheeses, showing that some things can’t be improved.

Lost in the Maze

In Restaurants/wine and food on October 11, 2010 at 8:10 am

To commemorate the launch of the 2005 Disznókő Kapi, Christian Seeley, MD of AXA Millésimes, hosted a dinner at Maze on 4 October.

I adore Tokaji – it is, or can be, one of the world’s greatest wines. I have happy memories of my one and only visit to Tokaj in (I think) April 2002. There was a wine fair in the town’s main square and the local police were sampling more than anybody. A huge rainstorm emptied the streets. Much to the amusement of the locals, I sheltered inside a phone box.

AXA purchased the Disznókő estate in 1992. “The transformation in Tokaj since (then) is quite extraordinary”, said Christian.

Made from a small plot in the Disznókő vineyard, Kapi has been bottled as such only once before, in 1999, when it was sold mainly in Hungary and the USA. For the 2005, however, it was decided to spread the spoils more generously. There are only 6,000 bottles available.

A few other wines were tasted before dinner. The 2008 Tokaji Late Harvest was honeyed and raisiny, verging on unctuous.

As clean as mountain air, the 2000 Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos was mellower and finer. The Aszú 5 Puttonyos of the 2001 vintage was day to the 2000’s night, with a much lighter feel to it and less of the honey and raisin flavours. I smelled a little bit of chlorine and wondered if there was some TCA here. But it could be part of Tokaji’s character that I’m not familiar with – I don’t taste it very often, alas.

No such queries with the 2002 Aszú 5 Puttonyos. It was excellent – richer, albeit more cumbersome, than the 2000.

The 2009 Tokaji Dry Furmint was – well – dry, with pear flavours and some flesh (tannin, indeed) on the finish. An interesting wine that some people would perhaps find too esoteric.

The food and wine pairings this evening were extremely daring. The Dry Furmint was drunk with some very decadent dips – saffron, salmon, cream and truffle, and spicy aubergine. Then it was tried with Salcombe crab, brown crab and toast sorbet, sea herbs, pickled black radish and apple vinaigrette. No complaints here.

Turning nutty on the palate, the 1993 Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos was mature and as smooth as glass. This was the first Tokaji vintage of the “new era”; happily, it was a great vintage too.

The ’93 was drunk with, would you believe, tea-smoked trout, apple, cauliflower, various radishes and apple vinaigrette. It worked because of the wine’s superb, terpsichorean acidity. The nuttiness also matched the smoked fish. To paraphrase my fellow Midlander Samuel Johnson, drinking Tokaji with smoked fish is done well, though you are surprised to find it done at all. (I ate mine before remembering to take a picture, so here is Tom Cannavan’s plate in the distance).

Finally to the Kapi, or 2005 Kapi Vineyard Tokaji Aszú 6 Puttonyos in full. (I find Magyar impenetrable – I cannot remember a single word of it from my backpacking days in Hungary). It was superb.

Made only from Furmint – the other Aszú wines here also had spicy and full Hárslevelű in the blend – it smelled grapey rather than rich and sticky.  For a 6-putt wine its 160g/ltr sugar is relatively low – they can go up to 180g/ltr.

Perhaps my judgement was swayed by the magnificent wines, the relentless plates of outstanding food and (of course) the congenial company but the Kapi did seem to work with the Suffolk pork cheek and belly, mostarda of pear and swede, quince purée and choucroute. Only the choucroute was objectionable – I don’t like it but I can force it down.

We (not the royal we) often eat pork with sweet sauces. So why not put it with a sweet wine? Maybe it’s not so outrageous to drink meat with Tokaji after all. This evening I was happy to be a guinea rather than Suffolk pig but, on the whole, I don’t think I’d try this at home.

The pièce de resistance, or whatever it’s called in Magyar, of tonight’s dinner was a decent-sized glass of Disznókő’s 2005 Tokaji Eszencia, also made from the Kapi vineyard. This extraordinary wine is so rare that I ought to explain what it is.

Perhaps the rarest and most overwhelming of all sweet wines, Tokaji Eszencia is a lightly alcoholic syrup made from the small quantity of juice that drips from the Aszú grapes before they are mashed to a paste. One litre of Eszencia juice can be made from 100kg of Aszú grapes. This juice is so high in sugar that it ferments extremely slowly, taking decades to achieve even as little as 5-6% alcohol. It is usually intended for blending with other wines, but occasionally, in the very best years, producers will bottle some Eszencia by itself.

Like Sir Donald Bradman’s batting average, the figures for Disznókő’s Eszencia astonish: 650g/ltr sugar, so 65% of this liquid is pure sugar; 20g/ltr or so of total acidity (I forget the exact figure) – much above 8g/ltr in a dry wine is unbearable; and just 1% alcohol, so strictly speaking this is not a wine at all.

A “few hundred” 500cl bottles were made of this wine – or rather grape juice – of simply astonishing sweetness, concentration and length, and one that supports the legend of Tokaji as an elixir capable of raising the ill from their bed. At any rate, I was glowing all the way from Mayfair to Stockwell.

 

Ridge Vineyards dinner in aid of the Pebbles Project

In Restaurants/wine and food, Tastings on October 7, 2010 at 11:53 am

Brighton resident and fine wine consultant David Wainwright has established a series of producer-focused fine wine dinners with all proceeds going to the Pebbles Project (www.pebblesproject.co.za) in South Africa.

On 23 November, David will be hosting a dinner at The Square with Paul Draper of Ridge Vineyards. David describes it as ” THE event of the year and is a once in a life-time event that Paul Draper, Ridge’s winemaker since 1969, is flying over to London to host.”

There will be, astonishingly, over 120 wines to taste that evening. “The wines have never been released in the UK and most are winery only releases, some only made in a single year,” says David. ” These are not only very rare but are sublime examples of Paul Draper’s masterful talent as one of the world’s leading winemakers.”

The Pebble Project’s purpose is to enrich the lives of disadvantaged children who have special educational needs, especially those whose lives are affected by alcohol, by providing support and training to local wine farm and township créches and establishing after-school provision for older children living in the Winelands.

Tickets cost £295. For all enquiries and bookings, please contact David Wainwright at dw@vincapital.co.uk.

 

Curry Hamburgers

In Restaurants/wine and food on September 23, 2010 at 10:28 am

On Wednesday 22 September I went to my local curry house Hot Stuff with my mates Paul Raymonde, Angela Raymonde Cutler and Andrea Talkenberg. I suppose I should be flattered that these West London residents are prepared to come Sarf of the River for dinner. They bring their passports, just to be sure.

Before dinner we had a bottle of 1985 Veuve Clicquot – not just any bottle, mind. This was a souvenir from a tasting in June 2009 of late-disgorged Champagnes in which all the wines had been disgorged on the same day (I forget when exactly – March or April 2009, I think). So this 1985 VC was completely one of (or rather two of) a kind. It was disgorged to order and is commercially unavailable.

I am not a great fan of Champagne – too acidic, too leesy and too expensive. But I can force it down. I was not as keen on the Clicquot as I was the Henriot 1985 (from the same tasting) that I shared with Paul and Angela earlier this year. That was really good – soft and mature. The Clicquot smelled of caramel and retained its exulcerating acidity. The colour was nice, though – amber, like the setting sun.

Hot Stuff is unlicensed and does not charge corkage so I can take my own wine. Indeed, I am notorious for taking a lot of bottles with me – I was asked by Raj, the charming owner and host, if 12 glasses would be enough for us this evening.

We drank 2008 St Hallett Gamekeeper’s Reserve, which is a a favourite of mine – my house red, I suppose. I like to chill it to emphasise the fun fruit and juicy acidity. It works really well with the food at Hot Stuff, which tonight was protein-free because Paul is in a persistent vegetative state.

The white wine was 2009 Sainbury’s Taste the Difference Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, made by Errázuriz from Casablanca fruit. It disappeared very quickly, hence Paul’s slightly vexed look. I look smug because I have visited St Hallett and Errázuriz – been there, drunk the wine and not bought the T-shirt.

As the drink and food went down, Angela and Andrea began to gossip in German (Andrea is from Hamburg and Angela is half-German – the bottom half, I think). Sie sind sehr ungezogen, meine lieblinge!