Archives Month: April 2016

I can’t remember what we were celebrating last weekend but I do remember the big family lunch party on Sunday.

The wine bottles were opened, the beer cans popped and the apple juice was topped up. Everyone was crammed around the table, waiting for ‘mother’ to tickle the taste buds. (I’m not silly, I married a brilliant chef. Imagine Tom Kerridge in drag! Yes, really, that good.

Ok, back to the table. Great bowls of new potatoes arrived, mixed salads, dishes of asparagus and fresh beans and then the main event, a platter of locally caught sea bream and a carving dish of spring lamb cutlets, portions of duck and Toulouse sausages.

I sat back and watched as the family devoured all before them. I felt like the cappo of a gathering in Provence or Tuscany. Lots of chatter, lots of gurgling wine and smiles all round.

The food had mostly been purchased from our friends at Darts Farm but the star of the show, by universal acclaim, were the sausages from Westaway at Newton Abbot. Hours later we were still singing the praises of Charlie Baughan and his perfect sausages.

After the main event was completed we were forced to tuck into large helpings of warmed Cartmel sticky toffee pudding, enriched with Devon clotted cream (also from Darts Farm).

A very contented paternal smile stretched across my face when my last thought before the eyelids fell was to be grateful for all the brilliant South West farmers and food manufacturers.

Family, friends and good food – perfick!

What better way is there to spend an extended lunch hour or long evening, kicking back with friends or a loved one, over a glass or three of Chilean chardonnay or a merlot?

Thanks to modern technology, wine bars are making a serious comeback. After their heydays in the 80s when city traders were splashing the cash, wine bars were partially eclipsed by a series of national cuisines coming into vogue. First we had the Mexican restaurants, followed by Italian pizza and pasta joints and then the Thai trend.

With foreign holidays and cheap flights, the public have become more adventurous with their palates and constantly looking to try new flavours.

With the introduction of new wine dispensers, such as the Enomatic, patrons can now be offered unlimited wine varieties by the glass, all kept in perfect condition for several weeks.

If your preference is for a glass of vino rather than a pint, you can see why folk are again looking to inhabit a wine bar rather than the ‘local’.

Daly’s, opposite the Royal Courts of Justice in London, has withstood the test of time, as have many of London’s wine bars. Their menu is fairly straightforward but has ample choice to complement their wines. With a selection of 20 wines by the glass you can either create your own tasting experience or find one that appeals and order a second glass or ask for a bottle to be uncorked.

Most importantly, a good wine bar needs a relaxed atmosphere but at the same time the staff must be efficient and knowledgeable. Today’s busy wine bars are staffed by smart good looking waiters to appeal to the fairer imbibers while a chap will always be pleased to have his moules- frites delivered by a stunning Australian surfie.

Not all wine bars need to be dark interiors with wood and cracked leather. The 1855 Oxford Wine Bar is a modern example of a bright and airy venue, frequented by a clientele of all ages, trying out a new wine or an old favourite and nibbling on an olive or an Escalivada.

Today’s British restaurant has taken all the stuffiness out of dining out, while the wine bar has taken relaxation and companionship to a new level. Roll on long summer evenings – there are so many new and great wines to share!