Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Picpoul de Pinet and Pomeranians - The return of the Bloody Good Chap

I know, I know I have been lax of late. Of course the usual excuses abound such as:
  1. Having too much fun
  2. Having too much work
  3. Having too little time
Read back, none of them seem great excuses and, it was a colleague who roused me back into action, bringing me back from a blog lethargy that has recently come over me. I fear he showered me with far too generous praise, comparing me to the very accomplished Simon Majumdar! A flattering comparison but one I think that appealed more to my imagination and ego than to the reality of the copy you see before you! 

No matter, I have been sloppy of late... and as such seek penance from my readers in the form of this new post, the first of a more regular stream of such writing. What better way to start this new chapter in ‘How to be a bloody good chap’ than with an excellent cigar, a fantastic dinner and a very agreeable venue for drinks? So lets begin...

It was a Friday and, as are most Fridays for me, it was a fun day. Following a busy week at work I was quite ready for the weekend and, having quickly gone home and refreshed myself with a shower and an ice cold lager, I raided my humidor and made my way from Elephant and Castle (where I now live) to The Theodore Bullfrog in Embankment - a very average but veteran pub, close to my heart as a result of many a visit in times gone by. 

The pint of Amstel that was purchased for me when I arrived was but a poor companion to the very agreeable, if rather strong, Henrik Kelner Jr ‘Smoking Jacket Cigar’. Plumes of gentle smoke ascended into the balmy night air as chums waxed lyrical on the terrors of the British political landscape from the agonisingly poor quality of the EU debate to the recent scandals rocking UK parliament. All this was washed down with more of the dubious ‘nectar’ that is cheap lager quaffed so freely when the weekend is in site. Surrounded by the incessant banter and chatter of workers throwing off the shackles of a week in the office, I was soon summoned for dinner. 

A short journey on the Underground brought me to a Sloane Square legend, no not my father (for he was brought up in the area, and incidentally was my host for the evening), but a local institution, Carrafini. This traditional London-Italian restaurant serves great plates of food cooked to time honoured traditions. Simple dishes and fine wines make this a restaurant well worth seeking out for anyone looking for plates of sophisticated comfort food. Complemented by a decor that owes as much to Conran as it does to the varied eateries of Northern Italy, I felt in my element as the first, deliciously chilled glass of Gavi was being poured. 

The prawns were sweet and succulent, perfectly matched against the tangy tomato sauce and fiery chili that all come together for the classic Gamberetti al Arrabiatta. Paired with the crisp, dry Gavi it was a triumph and it was all I could do to remain dignified as I resisted the temptation to wolf down the dainty little morsels. 

I followed the prawns with my favourite dish, in fact to my mind the best dish that Carrafini has to offer, scaloppine al limone, delicate fillets of tender veal with a very subtle lemon sauce which brings out the best in the citrus fruit without overpowering the flavour of the meat. With a side of spinach and courgette fritters, a king could not have asked for a better dish. As my knife glided through the meat as if through butter I registered the expression of delight across the face of my dining companion as he enjoyed his old-favourite, liver and bacon with pureed potatoes. 

Having had a sizeable main course with a very agreeable and pleasingly light Sardinian red, pudding should have been the last thing on my mind, however, having seen the menu I could not resist the temptation of caramelised oranges marinated in brandy, calling to me as they did across the pages of the menu. I went for a large portion, no point in half-measure. Refreshing, tart but with a pleasing edge of burnt sugar they sent a shiver down the spine as a well timed grappa warmed the cockles of me heart, and a strong black coffee brought some verve back into my flagging constitution. 

Full of the joys of the weekend I proclaimed more drinks and my father decided that he could just about humour a smidgen more of my conversation and a couple more glasses to round off the night. Not to outstay our welcome at the excellent Carrafini, we headed to the uber-trendy Colbert for a nightcap. 

The bar area was jam-packed but we managed to grab a table amongst the throng of city brokers, high-class trollops, mischievous merry-makers and happy-go-lucky chancers. Grabbing a couple of coffees and a some glasses of the restaurant/bar’s very good Picpoul de Pinet (a bone-dry white wine from the Languedoc,whose name literally means ‘lip stinger’!). It was while we were quaffing the expensive but generous glasses of the booze that I was suddenly shocked to find that a hideous pomeranian dog had leaped onto my lap. 

I know that I have attracted a few dogs in my time (geddit?) but this really took the biscuit. This hideous little fur-ball with its beady, teddy bear eyes and yappy little jaw shook and squirmed as it remained undecided at whether it had made the right decision. I was unamused and shot my father a bemused and helpless look as i help this rat-ish creature up in the vain attempt that he would have some sage words of advise. ‘Put it back where it came from’ was the helpful answer. 

The owner was nowhere in sight but funnily enough this ridiculous and, as I was finding, yappy little urchin had come from an equally ridiculous  Louise Vitton holdall where it seemed to hold court from the designer bag. Weirdly enough, it is much harder to get the dog to go back into the bag than it was for it to get out but, after I had a few more slugs of the Picpoul it seemed a far easier task and soon a confused dog was back in its pampered pouch. 

I looked round in the next instance and our hirsute friend had gone, probably back to its owner and not the local kebab shop. Time for one more picpoul and a black coffee before I returned home following a drunken conversation with the cab driven, a fumble with my house keys and a stumble up the stairs before crashing into bed... a very enjoyable evening! 

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