wildeabandon: me sitting by the thames (Default)
I know, I completely fell over on Ginvent, sorry. I drank quite a few without taking notes, although I still have the last three left, so they may get reviews eventually.

Right now though, I have another thing to write about. We're coming up to the end of our current year's tenancy in this house, and [livejournal.com profile] strongtrousers is thinking of getting a place by himself (just because living by oneself is a good thing to do at some point, not because he hates us [or so he says!?!]), and a five bedroom house between three of us is probably a bit excessive (and a bit expensive). So unless we can find a suitable housemate (and we'd be quite picky with people we already knew, and very very picky with people we didn't), we'll be moving soon.

And we're looking quite seriously at the buying-instead-of-renting option, which is, as the entry title indicates, a bit scary. Also a bit exciting. We're still looking into the options as to whether we could finance buying the sort of place we'd want to live in, but it's looking distinctly possible, and we should find out more in the next week or so after talks with mortgage advisers and the various banks of mum and dad have happened.

So, any advice for first time buyers? General or specific to London is good.

Our main requirements are:
  • Good for commuting for Robert and Ramesh, which is ideally the Central or Northern Lines, although Piccadilly would be plausible (I'm likely to be contracting for the forseeable, so my commute will vary, and I'll just have to live with it if it sucks

  • At least three double bedrooms

  • A decent sized kitchen - we like entertaining, and have all the kitchen gadgets, so this is non-negotiable

  • Either two reception rooms, or one which is big enough to have both a dining room and a drawing room space

  • A bathroom with a good shower, and a separate loo

  • Enough space for quite a lot of wine and books

Other things we would like if possible

Any thoughts you have about how achievable our requirements are (our budget is likely to be in the region of £400k, maybe a bit more), where we should be looking, whether or not taking advantage of the help-to-buy scheme would be a good idea, or indeed morally tolerable, anything else we ought to be thinking about would be of interest.
wildeabandon: me sitting by the thames (Default)
Gin 13 is Dodd's Gin, the London Distillery Company. It's quite gentle on the nose, with something reminiscent of royal icing from a packet. Pour over ice it gets a bit more herbal, with basil and maybe a hint of parsley coming through. You pick these up on the palate as well, but it's quite harsh to sip, perhaps unsurprisingly at 49.9 abv. The tonic takes that edge off, but it also loses some of its herbiness. I think I'd like to try this shaken with some muddled basil, white sugar, and lemon juice.
wildeabandon: me sitting by the thames (Default)
Okay, that plan to get caught up and stay caught up didn't quite work. I've had a rotten cold for the last month, which I'm only just getting over now, hence a rather lower than usual appetite for booze.

Gin number eleven is Professor Cornelius Ampleforth's Old Tom Gin, and rather remarkable it is too. It pours almost syrup-like over the ice, with a nose of winter spices, dominated by nutmeg. It is /very/ sweet to sip, even for an Old Tom and very spicy - honestly more like Benedictine than a gin. I use much less tonic with this one, and even then it seems a bit of a waste, as it loses a fair amount of its distinctiveness. Probably one to keep for sipping.

Gin twelve is Spirit of Hven, Organic Gin, and has a very peculiar nose indeed. There's something very green about it, almost dill-like, but to sip it's quite floral - maybe geranium. It's utterly lovely with tonic, very summery - probably one I'd garnish with cucumber rather than lime. This is probably my favourite G&T so far.

I'm about to head out for an evening of board games, so that's it for now, but I may add one or two more when I get in, as I endeavour to get at least nearly caught up again.
wildeabandon: me sitting by the thames (Default)
Yesterday's gin was Langley's No.8 London Dry Gin. On the nose it was pretty heavy with juniper, and after a while I got a note of parsley. To sip it was a bit soapy, and not entirely pleasant, but the tonic filed off the rough edges, and let more of the herbal notes come through. Unlike yesterday, this is definitely not a martini gin. According to the website this is a gin "aimed at the sophisticated male gin drinker". No, I have no idea how gin can be gendered...

Interlude - well, that was fun. Shortly before I started writing this post the shared drive at work had fallen over, which was extremely infuriating, as IT had all gone home for the evening, and I have a really major deadline at noon tomorrow. So once the colleague I was working with had agreed that without the network only one of us could usefully be productive at once, so it would be best if I went home, got a very early night, and started again at six in the morning, by which time we hoped that someone with access to reboot the server would have been contacted and done so. Except actually, it got rebooted just after I got home, got into my pyjamas, and was about to go to bed. And said colleague helpfully 'phoned me, so I could come back in.

As it turned out, I was eventually quite glad he did, as I got a second wind and a lot of work done, but still, I am looking forward to a rest - 15 hours I did today, and nearly 80 over the last eight days.

Anyway, enough whinging, on with the gin. Number nine is Sloane's Dry Gin. It's not terribly exciting on the nose. The alcohol seems to dominate quite harshly, although there's a bit of a petrol note. That comes through on sipping as well, along with a hint of lime. Adding tonic removes the harshness, but also overpowers any interesting flavours - not one I'd try again, I don't think.

And at least the extra hours in the office meant that I get bonus gin, since it was just gone midnight by the time I got home. Gin ten is Colonel Fox's London Dry Gin. It smells a lot more interesting than the last, aniseed dominant, with hits of ginger and molasses. It's surprisingly sweet on the palate, especially considering it's described as dry. I think it'd make a really good Gin Alexander, or any number of dessert cocktails.
wildeabandon: me sitting by the thames (Default)
I know, it's actually day eight, but I ate some dodgy mussels for dinner yesterday, and after TMI I didn't really feel like drink. I did open the window for yesterday, and was quite disappointed to to be able to try the Sacred gin straight away, as I've heard good things about it. It definitely lived up to its reputation. Lavender and something berryish on the nose, and orange peel on the palate. It's still lovely with tonic in, but I think this is probably mostly a gin for martinis, to get the best of the flavour.

I've only just got back from work, and want to be in very early tomorrow, so I'll save day eight for tomorrow. I'm sure at some point I'll get properly caught up and not fall behind again - work should be considerably less hectic after Tuesday, so with luck that'll be my chance.

Ginvent

Dec. 6th, 2013 08:03 pm
wildeabandon: picture of me mixing a cocktail (cocktails)
I was asked to blog my advent calendar, so here goes.

I'm starting a bit late, because no-one told me about ginvent calendars until Wednesday, and it arrived just after I left work yesterday, so I missed an extra day. I'll start with today's gin, and then work backwards until I start to sing the little song about a goblin.

I shall pour each gin over ice, and have a sip neat, (possibly more if it turns out to be a good sipping gin!), then add 2/3 can of Schweppes tonic to the rest. From tomorrow I might also add a wedge of lime if I think the gin will benefit from it, but I don't have any in the flat tonight.

6th December is Origin, Arezzo, Italy. I couldn't smell anything but juniper, although there was quite a lot of aniseed on the palate. That became a lot less dominant once the tonic was added, but it's probably still not a gin I'd recommend to [livejournal.com profile] robert_jones. It was only after tasting it that I realised that it didn't have any botanicals other than juniper, so that would be why it didn't smell of any.

5th of December is Warner Edwards Harrington Dry Gin. It's a lot more interesting on the nose than the Origin, quite spicy. To sip the dominant flavours are orange and cinnamon and clove - this is about a Christmassy a gin as I can imagine. With tonic the orange becomes less noticeable, but the spices are still loud and clear. I think this would make a wonderful Ramos Gin Fizz.

4th of December is Hayman's Old Tom, which is the first so far that I'd heard of, although whilst I've tried a few other Hayman's offerings, this one is new to my lips. The nose is somewhere between the last two in subtlety. Juniper is the only scent I can identify, but I can definitely tell that other are there, if not what they are. To sit it's a bit herbal, and quite sweet, but not enough to be noticeable with tonic. It's not especially exciting, but perfectly pleasant.

3rd of December is, rather appropriately No.3 Gin, by Berry Bros & Rudd. I'm inclined to think they should stick to wine, which they do ever so well. There's nothing wrong with the gin - there's a bit of citrus, and plenty of juniper - but it's not terribly exciting

2nd of December is Darnley's View Gin. It didn't smell particularly interesting, although I did wonder if that's because I'm getting a bit too close to goblin songs, especially as I had a glass of wine between these two, whilst I waited for the 2nd tray of ice to finish freezing. To sip though it's a lot more interesting - vanilla and angelica were the dominant flavours, and they stand up nicely to the tonic.

1st of December (haha, I made it, and there has been no singing at all) is Gin Mare. This is the first one that I've actually drunk before, although I didn't have a particularly clear memory of it. It's quite fruity, but more citrus peel than the fruit itself - it doesn't have much sharpness. There's also quite a strong floral note, and something a bit sherbety, which comes out particularly when the tonic is added.

Of today's six I liked the Warner Edwards best, but would also be very happy to drink the Darnley's view and the Mare again.
wildeabandon: me sitting by the thames (Default)
I bought a couple of tickets for this event, but will now be in Oxford. Would anyone like them? I paid £23 for them, but happy to let them go for less/free if you're skint rather than see them go to waste.
wildeabandon: me sitting by the thames (Default)
This'll be a quick one. My latest monthly dinner with [livejournal.com profile] borusa.

We had planned to go to Drunken Monkey last month, but we never managed to make a date work, which I can't entirely complain about, because it meant I wasn't restricted to the veggie options by my Lenten fasting.

I started with the Lavender Lady cocktail - camp? who? me? It was delightful though - gin, triple sec, lavender syrup, lemon juice, egg white - I think I'll be recreating soon. RM had a beer.

We ordered a fairly full platter of food off the bat, with particular highlights being the honey chicken, the drunken ribs, and the crab meat and pork dumplings. Our assessment was - at least half as good again as Ping Pong, at about 3/4 the price*. Certainly it was enough to order another wave of food, and the Pak Choi that turned up then was divine.

Not every dish was perfect, and there's no doubt you could get better dim sum in Chinatown at lunchtime, but for somewhere which serves in the evening it's hard to do better, and the cocktail menu is a big plus.

Enough food to leave two very good eaters feeling replete, plus two drinks each and service came in just under £75

*this was confirmed when I had lunch at Ping Pong today. It was, y'know, fine.
wildeabandon: me sitting by the thames (Default)
Okay, not really a review as such, but notes from the Easter Feast.

I was a little worried that half a bottle of Champagne per person wouldn't be quite enough, and that we should have put some house fizz in the fridge just in case, but as it turned out, just over three bottles was about right for eight of us, leaving most of a bottle for buck's fizz the next morning. Oh, the hardship. Other notes on the pre-dinner nibbles. RJ's revision of his Christmas chicken liver canapes with duck liver were just as nice, perhaps even an improvement. Heston Blumethal's tea smoked salmon may seem a bit extravagent, but whilst being about 20% more expensive than the standard stuff, was at least twice as nice. My red onion marmalade was quite tasty as well, and the quails eggs were tasty, but an awful lot of faff to peel.

The Mackay's French onion soup was superb. I'd never have guessed it was vegetarian without being told. RJ's asparagus was impressive, given the rather half-hearted attempts at Spring we've been seeing, but the Hollandaise was a work of art. Marcus's trout was really good, but the passion fruit and cucumber salsa he served it with was right there into exquisite.

Ramesh's sorbet was ever so clever. Pea and wasabi, rolled up with seaweed into maki, with ginger in the centre. So fun and clever. And delicious. The main course was lamb boulangere, which wasn't quite as good as the last time I did it, but everyone seemed to enjoy it, so I can't complain too much.

Pudding was a lovely cheesecake (again from the Mackays), with the most amazing chocolate sauce. Indulgence in liquid form, oh yes. Then we had some fantastic cheeses (from [livejournal.com profile] cathedral_life and Sue), which would have been the focus of the table, if it weren't for the port.

Fonsecca 1977.

Oh yes.

We did drink some other things, which RJ will probably tell you about in the comments, and ate some fruit for dessert, of which the grapes were particularly lovely.

It was Easter as it should be, as I'm sure our Lord envisaged it. Thanks to all who made it happen. See you again next year.

Fragile

Jan. 22nd, 2013 03:27 pm
wildeabandon: me sitting by the thames (Default)
I'm somewhat fragile at the moment. A combination of some difficult personal/emotional stuff recently, and impending uncertainty about job and house means that I am more than usually anxious, and starting to suffer (very mild) depressive symptoms. The good news is that I've caught it early and should be able to turn it around/stop it getting worse, but it's still a bit meh. If you are so inclined, somethings that might help are:

  • Saying nice things about me. Specific is good, as it's easier for the lizard-brain to believe. Right now is good, but also good would be spontaneously doing so at some point in the next 3-4 months, as it generally gives a short term boost and then goes away again.
  • Letting me know about any jobs I might be interested in - ideally project management in Higher Education, but anything that involves the intersection of technology and people is good, and I'd consider most sectors other than finance.
  • Arrange to see me for things that don't involve much drinking, being around large numbers of people, or spending lots of money. Arranging to cook and eat together, either at my place or yours, would be especially lovely. I may need to be chased slightly more than I usually would, but that's very likely to be due to the state of my head, rather than not wanting to see people.


I am basically coping, so there's no need to worry about me, but feel free to be extra nice to me for the next few months.
wildeabandon: me sitting by the thames (Default)
Dear lazyweb...

I would like to read more short stories. I'm not particularly bothered about genre. I care more about plot and characters than atmosphere, style, and clever wordplay (although I do like those things too). I'd prefer things on the shorter side - around 2-3000 words would be ideal, but up to 6000ish would be okay. Some authors I've enjoyed short stories by before are Roald Dahl, Daniel Handler, Angela Carter, Isaac Asimov, Neil Gaiman, Poppy Z Brite (as was).

What else should I try?
wildeabandon: me sitting by the thames (Default)
As anyone who's let me talk about restaurants for more than a few seconds is likely to know, my absolute favourite is Viajante, a tasting menu only extravaganza, run by the amazing genius of food, Nuno Mendes. You enter and get whisked away on an exquisite culinary journey and stumble out several hours later with a slightly dazed grin. It's wonderful, but not exactly something one can do every day.

The Corner Room is his new venture, located in the same Bethnal Green hotel, and [livejournal.com profile] borusa and I went there last night. It's a lot more informal and low key - a short menu, maybe half a dozen each of starters and mains. Robert went for the crab to begin with, and excellent it was - light, fresh, with a delicately garlicky dressing which managed not to overpower. Excellent it may have been, but it was blown completely out of the water by my mackeral and ponzu. The combination of earthy pungency and spicy citrus sharpness was just ... unhh ...

For a main course we both had the Iberico pork with bread pudding. Somehow, he has come up with a way of cooking pork so richly that it could actually pass for steak, except for that slight hint of salt and fat that remind you that it was once a pig. Puddings were apple and hazelnut pannecotta for Robert, and watermelon for me - the latter done in about a million different ways, and definitely doing the "what? how? how can you make this thing have so many different tastes in one dish?"

At just a shade over £50/head for three courses with wine, this has to be one of the best value meals I've eaten, pretty much ever. It would be well worth it at twice the price, and it's even cheaper at lunchtimes, with a £17/£21 for 2/3 courses offer.

There was only one veggie option for each course, and in general, the shortness of the menu might make it less than ideal if you have dietary restrictions (or at least checking what will be on the menu that day), but otherwise, if you eat out once this year, make it here.
wildeabandon: me sitting by the thames (Default)
Tonight was my monthly dinner date with [livejournal.com profile] borusa. We went to Seagrass, a former pie & mash house in Islington, which now does mostly fish and game.

It's fairly unassuming - rows of smallish tables with high-backed benches. The menu is printed on A4 paper, and the choices are limited, but all sound delicious. Amuse bouche were mackeral with creme fraiche and pepper on brown bread - classic, simple, excellent. For starters we both had venison, which was superb, on the rare side of medium-rare and served on a bed of delicious lemony risotto, which makes it rather filling for a starter. For mains, Robert had duck, and the mouthful I had was very good. I went for the whole crab, which may have been a mistake, as although I very much enjoy the white meat, I'm less a fan of the more accessible brown, as well as the 20 minutes or so of feeling like you're fighting a battle of wits with your dinner and losing.

To finish we both had the cheese plate, which was a little disappointing after the excellent starter and very good mains. A nice mild lancashire with rather good chutney, but the brie and the stilton were a bit middle of the road.

All in all though, a very decent meal, at an extremely reasonable £70 for both of us. This didn't include wine, but they have a BYOB licence, and don't charge corkage, so you can set your own price there.
wildeabandon: me sitting by the thames (Default)
I used to write a lot of restaurant reviews in great depth and detail, and then they started to feel like hard work, and I accumulated piles of menus with scribbled notes, which sat there gathering dust as I pretended that I would eventually find time to write them up. Eventually I accepted that this wouldn't happen, but last night I discovered that this meant I could completely forget having been to a restaurant, until I found that I'd booked it for a second birthday in a row. Fortunately it was one I had liked, but it did inspire a decision to start reviewing again, if only in fairly short form.

The restaurant in question was Pied à Terre. I was pleased to find that they would do the omnivorous tasting menu alongside the veggie one - some places won't, and whilst I don't mind eating veggie much of the time, it does feel like very slightly less of a treat. The food was very good throughout, sometimes edging into excellent. One particular highlight was the scallops and sea bream - I really enjoy raw fish, and this was extremely flavoursome, incredibly fresh, and with a subtly sharp dressing which added layers to the taste, whilst still allowing the fish to dominate. Another excellent course was the duck foie gras with strawberries and balsamic. This was the 2nd time I've had fois gras served with a wine almost sweet enough to be served with pudding, and both times it's worked exceedingly well.

The atmosphere is very classic - decor in muted greys, crisp white tablecloths, and the service is very attentive, although at times bordering on the intrusive. Unlike a few favoured places, I don't find myself desperate to return for a third visit, given vast array of new places out there to try, and the rather hefty price tag, but I certainly wouldn't be unhappy to find myself eating there again.

Ten courses, with eight accompanying wines and glass of Champagne to start came in at around £450 for two
wildeabandon: me sitting by the thames (Default)
After a couple of months of procrastinating about it, today I handed in my Give As You Earn form. For the last 18 months or so that I was at Orbis, 10% of my salary was going into a Charities Aid Foundation Account, and now it is again, en route to whatever is the most cost effective poverty relief charity I can find (most likely SCI, but I'll see what Givewell and Giving What We Can are saying when I've accrued a reasonably substantial balance.)

There's a theory that one shouldn't talk about ones charitable giving, that to do so is bragging and self-aggrandising, although [livejournal.com profile] the_alchemist does a pretty good job of taking that viewpoint apart here.

And I'm going to talk about it, because I want to encourage you to do the same. Because those of us who are relatively well off (and if you're reading this, the chances are high that you're extremely well off compared to the people who SCI help, even if you're not compared to me), have the ability to make an enormous difference to people's lives at very little cost to ourselves.

Now, in an ideal world I'd want to convince everyone I know to start giving 10%, or indeed more, but that can feel like quite a hit to one's income, especially if you're feeling pretty hard up to begin with, so here are some things that might make it easier to get started.
  • Begin by just giving 1%, perhaps even just as a trial for a couple of months, and see if it's bearable. If it is, maybe push it by another 1% every now and then. Even 1% of the salary of someone on UK minimum wage will provide another 400 vacinations each year if donated to SCI.
  • Decide now that when you next get a payrise you'll start donating half of it. That way, you don't have to take any hit at all
  • In a similar vein, if you're paying off student loans, or other debts, resolve to switch some of the difference to charitable giving when they're paid off. (This wasn't my idea - I think it's either [livejournal.com profile] shreena or [livejournal.com profile] lavendersparkle who deserves the credit.)
  • If you're already making regular charitable donations, but to charity which works in the UK or another rich nation, consider switching to a more efficient way of giving. Even if you feel closer to the people who are being helped by your current choice, is that really worth overlooking the fact that tens, or hundreds, perhaps even thousands more could be helped with the same amount of money if you direct the funds elsewhere?
wildeabandon: me sitting by the thames (Default)
I realise this is very short notice, and the subset of people who play and won't have seen this on borusa's journal is very small, but would anyone like to play bridge tomorrow afternoon, starting at 12.00 noon, at my house in Finchley?
wildeabandon: me sitting by the thames (Default)
About six months ago I organised a weekend event which consisted of a very small cast readthrough of Marlowe's Tamburlaine* and Aeschylus' The Persians on the Saturday, followed by a small duplicate bridge tournament on the Sunday. It was tremendous fun, and I'd like to do something similar again soon, and was wondering who might be interested.

Poll #7582 Teeny-tiny bridge readthrough
Open to: All, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 6


Gauging interest:

View Answers

I would be up for reading a play on a Saturday
6 (100.0%)

I would be up for playing duplicate bridge on a Sunday
4 (66.7%)

I ticked boxes one and two, and live close enough to do both without needing crash space
1 (16.7%)

I ticked boxes one and two, but would need crash space to do both the same weekend
1 (16.7%)

I ticked box one or two but would need crash space to make a day in London viable
0 (0.0%)

I think the following play would be excellent for a readthrough with a small cast:

I can definitely make the following weekends (based on my current plans)

View Answers

30/31 July
1 (25.0%)

6/7 Aug
3 (75.0%)

13/14 Aug
1 (25.0%)

20/21 Aug
3 (75.0%)

27/28 Aug
3 (75.0%)

3/4 Sep
1 (25.0%)

10/11 Sep
4 (100.0%)

17/18 Sep
4 (100.0%)

24/25 Sep
4 (100.0%)

1/2 Oct
2 (50.0%)

I can possibly make the following weekends:

View Answers

30/31 July
0 (0.0%)

6/7 Aug
1 (33.3%)

13/14 Aug
0 (0.0%)

20/21 Aug
0 (0.0%)

27/28 Aug
1 (33.3%)

3/4 Sep
1 (33.3%)

10/11 Sep
0 (0.0%)

17/18 Sep
0 (0.0%)

24/25 Sep
0 (0.0%)

1/2 Oct
2 (66.7%)



The bridge bit needs a multiple of four people to work, of course, but we don't have to have precisely the same people on both days. This is a public post, so feel free to send links to anyone you know who plays bridge and likes readthroughs :) Anyone who doesn't have a Dreamwidth account and wants to answer, just do so in the comments (and let me know if you'd like an invite code)

*okay, so with 8 actors there may have been a leetle bit of running backwards and forwards between warlords to be their officers, but I think there was only one scene that had people talking to themselves, which I feel is quite an achievement!
wildeabandon: me sitting by the thames (Default)
Gosh, I'm about to get offically old(which is to say, I'll be 30) on Sunday.

And what with my surgery having been all of last week, I've entirely failed to organise anything.

So in a last minute fit of "I'm too fragile to host a party but would like to see you all", I would like to suggest meeting at the Tally Ho in North Finchley*

I'll be there from 14.00 until lateish - certainly 22.30 or so, and probably there'll be cocktails at ours afterwards, but let me know if you're likely to be turning up post-pub sort of late.

*yeah, it's a wetherspoons, but it does nice beer, and is just round the corner from the house, and I'm all post-op and fragile, so you'll just have to cope.
wildeabandon: a plate of rare steak (steak)
"That's the most amazing tomato ketchup I've ever tasted"

...

Not really words I've ever expected to hear, particularly not from someone as food-savvy as [personal profile] borusa, but in a way it exemplifies the meal we've just eaten - the way that even the tiny things brought something more.

In fairness, it wasn't absolutely one hundred percent perfect - the parsnips were softer than I like them, and the cocktails, whilst enjoyable, didn't blow us away. Everything else, however, did.

I believe that last time I wrote about our attempts to find the best steak in London we had three contenders out of the places we'd tried, which we were planning to revisit when we'd made a first pass at everywhere on our list. After tonight's trip to the Hawksmoor, we don't need to bother.

Let's start at the beginning. After the Royal Fizz and Autumn Mule, which as aforementioned, were decent enough ways to pass the time waiting for a starter, I had the Scallops with Celeriac Puree and Black Truffles, and Robert went for the Tamworth Belly Ribs.

The plates arrived, and as mirror images we leant down towards our plates, sniffed deeply, and looked up at each other, grinning broadly. I sometimes forget quite how distictive a scent good celeriac has, and mingling with the truffles, it left just a hint of the buttery scallop behind it. We drew the moment out a little longer, passing each others plates before we tasted. Robert's ribs were gorgeously aromatic: cinnamon, pepper, ginger, anise - the platonic ideal to which most chinese style ribs are mere earthly copies. I think the most amazing thing about my starter was the way it took on a completely different character when you varied the ratio of puree to scallop, whilst still carrying all three distinct flavours of vegetable, fish, and truffle, no matter what the proportions. The most amazing thing about the pork was the way it felt quite dry when you put it into your mouth, but then as you bit into it managed to overflow with juices that took the heady spices and turned them into something quite new. I'm afraid that this time the celeriac puree was that good that I didn't manage to save myself the indignity of licking the plate. Maybe no-one noticed.

Once the starters had gone we paid a little more attention to the wine, the Luigi Bosca Gala 1 2006, which they describe as a "Sophisticated Malbec blend with Petit Verdot and Tannat. Strong yet elegant with intense red berry fruit and delicate spice. Caresses the palette and has a long finish." It had an unbelievable nose with lots of tobacco and leather, and they weren't kidding about the long finish - it just went on and on and on. We restrained ourselves from more than a few mouthfuls before the steak arrived though.

Oh yes, the steak was rather the point, wasn't it? Wasn't it? OH GOD YES! At this point it's important to remember that I am a man who has eaten a lot of good steaks, many of which have been very expensive and very, very good. But not this good. I'm never quite sure if the fact that an extraordinary meal can bring me to the edge of tears in the same way as a moving aria or a startlingly beautiful painting is a sign that my aesthetic senses are freakishly distorted or merely tuned slightly unusually, but in any case, I was blinking a fair bit more than usual as I ate that steak. I am normally very keen on a bit of good bearnaise sauce, and the pot that they brought us was very very good, but after one mouthful of steak bearnaise it got relegated to a sauce for dipping chips in, because nothing, nothing, could be allowed to adulterate that meat.

We had the porterhouse steak, nine hundred grammes to share, (which was exactly the right amount, leaving us just enough space for one more course). I'm a recent convert to this cut, but do wish I'd encountered it earlier - the usual dilemma of choice between the punchy, almost aggressive intensity of the tougher and gorgeously fatty sirloin, or the more delicate, sweeter, melt in the mouth fillet steak being replaced by the cry that will surely be my epitaph: "Embrace the power of 'And'." And this was 'And' embraced to perfection. There was a layer of fat around the outside of the sirloin bit, so you would work your way up the slice, with the flavour getting stronger and stronger, until the last mouthful exploded in the caramelised juices. The fillet was so soft, almost like marshmallow, if marshmallow had just slightly more resistance and an ever increasing variety of flavour.

And that's another thing worth mentioning - despite the fact that every mouthful was perfect, every mouthful was also different. I kept being surprised by nuances to the flavour - here, half way through, was a smokiness that I hadn't tasted before. There, in a slice that looked just like the last, was a moment of salt, not too much, just enough to spark interest and then disappear. The contrast between the two kinds of steak was marked and glorious, and the contrast within each slice, changed the meal from a theme and variations to an entire symphony.

Having spent three paragraphs talking about the meat, I should give brief mention to the chips before moving on. Thrice cooked, as all the fashionable restaurants seem to be doing nowadays (thanks Heston!), they were very good, and as the beginning quotation indicates, had an unexpected new dimension in the ketchup. A simple condiment, and not one you expect greatness from, this certainly surprised us. I think that what they did was mix in a bit of five spice, and I'll be having a go at replicating this.

And for the final course, I went, predictably, for the cheese and port, whilst Robert opted for the apple and blackberry trifle, with the "Shipwreck" apple brandy. I had a mouthful of the trifle, and whilst it's not a dish I'm terribly keen on myself, it seemed like a jolly good execution, and Robert certainly seemed happy. The apple brandy was quite superb, and a better match for the first of the cheeses than my port. As for the cheeses, there were three - a goat's cheese, which at first taste was a bit unremarkable, but then developed on the palate, and had the mix of crumbly and creamy just right. The second was a strongly flavoured hard cheese - possibly an exceptionally good cheddar, but I'm not sure, because I "don't like strong hard cheeses". Ahem - possibly a revision of tastes might be in order. Finally there was a soft blue. Despite generally prefering both soft and blue cheeses, I thought this was the weakest of the three, whilst still being something I'd happily serve after dinner. The port was right at the top end of good, without tipping over into great, but then at nine pounds for a fairly large glass, one can hardly complain.

The whole meal for two came in at a shade under £200 including service, for three courses, cocktails, aperitifs, and a bottle of wine which wasn't by any means the cheapest on the list. Frankly, if it had been half as much again I'd consider it great value, since it was up there amongst the best meals I've ever eaten in my life.
wildeabandon: me sitting by the thames (Default)
Say you have three people, and sometimes they all eat together, and sometimes they eat together in each of the pairs. Say you want to keep track of whose turn it is to cook in each of these three configurations. Say you'd quite like some kind of physical method of doing this so it can be incremented in the kitchen. I'm thinking it must be possible with jars and beads, or some kind of abacus like thing, but I can't entirely pinpoint how best to do it. If it's something that it's easy to make a second copy of for keeping track of whose turn it is to buy dinner in the same groupings that would be awesome.

Any ideas?
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