Sunday, 7 April 2013
Sketches from a Cigar Smoker’s Album: Uppity uptown
Picture a young, dashing fellow by the name of Henry Rubinstein, wrestling with the harsh snow and ice of London last Saturday, frozen to the bone and looking forward to the prospect of fried chicken – which I had been promised by one half of business whizz kids @MyOwnEconomics – at Mother Cluckers. Sadly it was not meant to be.
After a filthy pint at ‘The John Snow’ which tasted as if the pipes had yet to be cleaned since the pub opened, we traipsed over to this fabled chicken shack only to find a dingy pub filled with the smell of stale oil and cheap lager, not the delicious smells of deep-fried poultry I had been expecting. It was already 14:30 and I was hungry.
‘Sorry mate, we don’t serve on Saturdays’ said the bored looking bartender (it wasn’t the most lively looking place when the chicken was off the menu). We took our leave, determined to find another location to get some grub, but everywhere seemed to the full, people crammed into any warm space they could find.
By now it was 15:00 and like a petulant child, all red-cheeked and indignant, I was starting to loose patience – a virtue my friends have often said I have little time for.
‘Bloody hell,’ I cried as I saw people queuing outside Byron, ‘Don’t these people have better things to do, I am hungry, they are wasting my time.’ My good friend rolled his eyes and in a flash of inspiration found a Cote Brasserie to which we quickly dashed into and had a perfectly adequate steak frites. I felt a bit better, but still unreasonably frustrated that the city seemed to be so crowded on such a miserable day.
I needed something to quell the wrath that was simmering beneath the surface of my chill-bitten visage. Then I espied salvage, a cigar shop, but not just any cigar shop, this one let you smoke inside.
Attached to an associated bar, the rules are simple and stringent at Casa Del Habano (100 Wardour Street, Soho London, W1F 0TN), there can be no alcohol consumed in the cigar room – that is not to say that you cannot drink in the neighbouring bar – and all the cigars consumed must be purchased on the premises. It is in this way they are able to duck, dodge, dive and weave their way around the current laws on smoking inside.
That is not to say we couldn’t have a coffee or two, in fact it was very good coffee, and opt for one of their fine Cuban products. I chose a personal favourite, the Bolivar Belicoso, a torpedoed behemoth with a rich, chocolaty flavour. The one I had that day had been perfectly kept in the humidor and was relatively ‘green’ compared to a number of cigars that I had smoked recently, testament to this was its dark – rather than light – brown colour, this meant a heavy, slow and more laboured smoke, to my mind at least!
But it was delicious and good to shoot the breeze with an old friend who himself had picked an ever agreeable Romeo y Julieta Corona (the Englishman’s favourite!) to complete the agreeable nature of the surroundings.
These were washed down with some excellent cups of coffee, a welcome change to the usual pond-scum or viscous mud served by so many establishments that claim to be experts in coffee based on the mere fact that they own a hulking Gaggia monstrosity! A cigar, all in all, well worth having an a great salve for an afternoon spent in the chill air of the capital!