What I’m Doing (mid-Feb edition)

A huge selection of spirits lined up and beautifully lit in Hide Below bar in London

You ache, don’t you, for further insights into my almost inconceivably rich and varied lifestyle?

Well let that ache be soothed! Here’s a new series in which I rifle through the receipts crumpled in my wallet and the memories crumpled in my brain. To be published at a frequency of whenever-I-can-be-arsed. Here’s what I’ve been doing so far in February.

Drinking Out at Hide Below

Hide (verb, I presume, not noun) is rather trendy. Pretty much anything anyone writes about it will start by talking about the staircase. How tedious; how predictable. Oh fuck it.

Staircase at Hide Restaurant in London

We descended those shapely stairs for cocktails. Which are expensive, obviously. You don’t get the cash to build stairs like those in Mayfair with a business plan that involves BOGOFs and happy hours. The bar staff are utterly charming and the drinks are good. Everything I tried was a bit sweet for my taste, but the flavours were excellent. I appreciated the complexities and subtlety. And the turding great ice block they put in my second drink.

Eating Out at Bentley’s Oyster Bar

I see why Bentley’s is an institution. It’s the kind of restaurant where the curtains are heavier than your maiden aunt, and probably first saw the light of day at around the same time. The oysters are bloody lovely. Perhaps one day I’ll have enough of a clue to be able to choose between six different types. As it was, the seafood platter was the perfect, delicious opt-out of making such a choice. And some magical grilled turbot afterwards.

Drinking In with Chateau Mont-Pérat

I whipped this charming fellow from the rack the other day to drink with garlic and rosemary roast beef with caramelised onion gravy. A lovely substantial mouthful of dark fruit with some proper tannin to grab onto. Almond and pepper and spice too. Serious but totally approachable.

Chateau Mont-Perat Grand Vin de Bordeaux 2009 was £16 from The Wine Society but is now, alas, sold out. You can search for stockists via Wine-Searcher. Good luck…

Reading Jeffrey Morgenthaler

I tore my way (not literally; it’s a hardback) through Morgenthaler’s Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique (£21.99, but reduced to £15.43 at Blackwell’s at time of writing). I bloody love this kind of thing. It speaks to the monstrous geek lurking within me who wants to know exactly the most efficient method for everything, and also likes to know why.

Morgenthaler dissects the many elements of cocktail making. Elements may be processes, equipment, ingredients and so on. Simple but fucking crucial things (like ice) which most cocktail recipes consign to a sentence are here the basis of whole chapters. Hell, the man does a controlled experiment to demonstrate that neither rolling citrus before squeezing it nor keeping it at room temperature measurably increase juice yield, thereby making the life of everyone who reads this that little bit better for ever afterwards.

Saint the man, I say.

Mongenthaler's 'Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique' atop a wooden table

Unlike lots of booze books that I tend to dip into and out of, I read this one all the way through.

Listening

I’ve been listening to quite a lot of organ music — one of many areas about which I’m reprehensibly ignorant.

Bach’s C Major Prelude & Fugue for Organ (BWV 553) speaks for itself and needs no besmirchment of ugly human words from me. I’ve been accompanying it with Nikka From The Barrel Japanese Whisky (£36.99 from Masters of Malt) which which has a combination of power, pellucid clarity and focus that feels entirely appropriate.

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