The month we went to the opening of a new restaurant in the South London badlands, tried some Chinese wine in Soho and went to a party at new restaurant Occo. But first:
Restaurants reviewed this month
Casa Tequila Brockley Rise. We weren't too keen on Mexican food until we were invited here. Stylish and different and just the thing to spice up South London.
The Tenth Knightsbridge. The view alone would have us back even if they served bad meals. But they don't. Good food and smart service, if a little bit dated décor-wise.
Le Club at Hush Mayfair . Another name change and refreshed décor, but it's not just cosmetic. New chef delivers fine dining to the Gucci supporters' club to the sound of drum n bass.
Savarona Old Street. Our girls get stuck into a Turkish delight and return pretty impressed. Modern twists on trad Turk.
May we as usual take this opportunity to remind you that if a restaurant really gives you a bad time, please talk to them and allow them a chance to explain/make amends before you trash them on the website!
Casa Tequila - arriba, arriba!
Invited to the opening party of Casa Tequila, (although it turns out it has in fact been open a few weeks already) we're greeted with a mighty shot of tequila from the twenty four brands behind the bar. It's a nice heart starter. I don't know who any of the guests are, but then they have no idea who I am either. I'm reassured that Alan Whicker is not here for once, despite his world travelling experience he probably has no idea where South London is. Also not present is the dangerous looking and big-nosed aristo kid, who seems to always be at these things. Perhaps he ran out of hair gel. More likely he wouldn't be seen dead more than a mile from Knightsbridge. The charming owner seems unfazed by the fact that the official photographer seems to have no idea which end of a camera to look through and appears to be taking no pictures. We get a free meal which I can say without hypocrisy was actually very good indeed.
Occo. Oh dear
Another opening and look, there's that aristo kid again. He's only looking slightly deranged this evening but I still have to fight an urge to make a gratuitous comment about his general appearance. As the free champagne flows, this urge becomes stronger. My temper is not improved by the absence of canapés at this 'contemporary Moroccan'. I had no lunch, I've been here an hour, it's gone 8pm and my blood sugar is very, very low. Similar mutinous mutterings can be heard from other freeloaders by this point and I soon find myself embroiled in a vicious struggle for some olives. The nibbles do eventually appear but are in short supply. Also 'contemporary' seems to translate as 'ordinary'. Perhaps the food is better when served in bigger portions. I went home and grabbed a kebab when I got off the bus, 'contemporary Turkish' the owner said, cheerfully waving his enormous knife at me.
Chinese Wine - take it away
Chinese wine is of course the stuff you fling in the wok just before you fling it in the bin. But Holy Shaolin Shiraz, Batman! Hold the front page because this is wine made in China but is not Chinese Wine. In the western part of North China, there is a place called Shanxi. An area of deep sandy soil, lots of sunshine and just the right temperatures to grow more than 20 varieties of grape ideal for making top quality wine. China has been making wine for the past 1800 years and it's only now that we're starting to hear good things about it. Judy Leissner, CEO of family-owned, Grace Vineyard boutique winery, in Shanxi insists that for her company, wine is an art-form. Grace wine is produced in a French-style chateau under the supervision of seasoned Bordeaux born wine-maker Gerard Colin. Production is small (only 32,000 cases per year) and Grace growers are among the highest paid in China. This adds up to a rather good wine we're told and having sampled a glass or three at the UK press launch in the Soho Hotel last week, I'd have to say I agree. I even took a few bottles home as something to whip out and confuse my wine snob friends. A blind tasting should sort out the experts from the frauds.