Lovely, Bubbly London

Wine London Clos Maggiore

I daresay, a good adventure or two is always in order. Husband and I seem to manage a few each year, and our most recent little jaunt to London was the perfect way to start off 2018. Our first trip away from Baby got off to a fantastic start; I passed my terrible head cold to Little Man, resulting in his first multi-day fever, complete with cough, runny nose and extremely unusual[1] lack of sleep. As we passed him off to Grandma, my heartstrings were strung quite taut. But alas, the show must go on, eh?[2]

The plane ride across the Pond was virtually empty, enabling me to stretch out over an entire row and promptly conk out[3]. The overnight flight to Europe is really the best way to go, and we arrived in London in the morning, somewhat bright eyed and ready to start our day. The sideways rain that greeted us, however, made it impossible to enjoy our 24 hours outside. Lucky for us, we were staying at The Goring, London’s last family-owned boutique hotel, beloved by the Queen, the Middleton’s[4], and now, Wine Esquire. It is nothing but elegance and class. The doormen donning smart bowler hats created a canopy of umbrellas from our Uber to the front door, and the red liveried footmen whisked away our bags lickety split[5].

The Goring, London
The Goring, London

The cozy bar and lounge proved the perfect place to nurse my sniffles with a glass (or three) of the Ayala Brut Majeur, the Goring’s private Cuvée[6], and the extensive Scotch selection kept Husband entertained for a few hours. Filled with overstuffed couches, low leather chairs and a massive fireplace, the Lounge feels like your dear old friend’s living room[7], making it ideal for pre-lunch bubbly, post-dinner Scotch, sweet nightcaps, and of course, a final cuppa tea.

The Goring
Bubbles in the Lounge at the Goring

We did eventually venture out in the rain to eat and drink[8], and our first stop was the famed Gordon’s Wine Bar near Covent Garden. This underground bar has been serving glasses of wine to Londoners for more than 100 years, and is London’s oldest wine bar. Yellowed newspaper clippings about the Queen’s Coronation, her and Phillip’s 25th wedding anniversary, and the official Christening portraits of Prince William and Prince George adorn the cavernous walls[9]. The half bottle of Côtes du Rhône was lovely paired with our gorgeous selection of bread and cheese[10]. Inconveniently, I left my perfectly lovely wide brimmed hat behind, and when I went back to try and retrieve it, I was disappointed to find it had already departed. Ah, woe is me[11].

Wine at Gordon's Wine Bar, London
Half Bottle at Gordon’s

On our way to dinner we made a quick stop to Trafalgar Square[12], one of our favorite locations in London, if not the world. Lord Nelson standing atop his column, overlooking the city, Parliament, Big Ben and the River, with all of England’s treasures in the National Gallery right behind him is a truly awe-inspiring site[13].

We arrived for dinner at Clos Maggiore, which professes to be the world’s most romantic restaurant. It turns out it takes about a year to get a reservation in the Conservatory Room, and though our hotel concierge tried, we were relegated to the small dining area outside the famed flowery chamber[14]

Even without the exquisite ambience of the Conservatory, the restaurant was beautiful. Small, intimate and quite cozy. The menu was tantalizing, with several tasting menu options as well as à la carte dining. We started with the pumpkin soup, topped with toasted pine nuts. Holy Soup! The frothy texture had us licking our lips, and the flavors were out of this world. The chicken leg stuffed with foie gras and truffle was too good for Husband to pass up, and I relished a bit of goat cheese baked in homemade angel hair[15].

wine London
Fine dining with a bottle of Burgundy

The 100+ page wine list featuring more than 2,500 wines was a bit daunting, but Clos Maggiore’s sommelier team is made up of Burgundy lovers, and they conveniently had a list highlighting some of their more affordable options[16]. I chose the 2014 Domaine Lucien Boillot Gevrey Chambertin, and our Sommelier confirmed it would pair well with both of our meals. Light, cherry, lots of leather and beautiful soft tannins. The wine glasses were exquisite in their own right, and it was a truly lovely bottle for my first real red Burgundy.

Wine London Clos Maggiore
Burgundy in London

In an unlikely turn of events, we said no to dessert and headed back out into the London air. The rain continued to hold off and we found ourselves walking along the River Thames[17], admiring the London Eye, and bemoaning the construction that will leave Big Ben hidden under scaffolding for the next few years. We made our way back to The Goring and relaxed in the Lounge for a bit before finally retiring for the night.

London Eye
The London Eye

We breakfasted the next morning in the hotel’s Michelin-starred dining room on a feast of croissants, fruit, yogurt, hard boiled eggs, Lincolnshire ham and of course, English Breakfast Tea. After a quick walk ‘round Buckingham, which is just steps from the hotel, we were off on our way to a weekend at Highclere Castle with our friends Lord and Lady Carnarvon[18]. Fabulous parties ensued.

Highclere Castle Downton Abbey

Until the next glass!

Lawyer Footnotes
[1] Knock on wood, Little Man has been such a great sleeper from day one. Of course, the day we leave, he ends his months long sleep-through-the-night streak, just in time to properly wear Grandma out!
[2] Seriously though Grandma, we owe you one!
[3] Who needs first class when you’ve got coach to yourself? Mmmmm, I do. British Airways take note: I’m ready for my upgrade on the next leg of the journey!!
[4] They booked the entire hotel for three days before The Wedding, and it’s where Kate spent her last night as a Commoner.
[5] According to David Morgan-Hewitt, the Goring’s legendary managing director, “Everyone has butlers – but people with real style have footmen.” #truth
[6] Served out of a magnum from a large, well-stocked, silver champagne bucket which permanently sits atop the bar.
[7] You know that friend of yours with the lovely London town house with antique furnishings passed down from their great Grandmama? Don’t have one of those? Oh, right, sorry.
[8] Obviously, because #priorities.
[9] Cleary, this is my kind of wine bar. #royal
[10] St. Nectaire, Manchego and Stilton, served on a wooden board with mayonnaise, jelly and pickled onions. Of course. #WineAndCheeseIsLife
[11] I think what this really means is that I need to buy a new hat.
[12] The rain had thankfully stopped, though perhaps this is why I didn’t notice I’d left my hat at Gordon’s. ☹
[13] #InsertPictureHere. But did I take one? No. #amateur
[14] In fact, I chose not to go in to take a look so as not to ruin the beautiful memory we had. We’ll just have to book it out in advance for next time, for we certainly will be back.
[15] The goat cheese was my attempt at eating light given my continued head cold. #fitfam
[16] Alas, we regretfully decided to forego the £23,100 bottle of Romanée-Conti. Maybe next time.
[17] Pronounced “Temz”, not “Thames” like the river at home in Connecticut.
[18] Have you red her blog yet? It’s a lovely insight into daily life at the Castle and such a fun read!

Wine, Bubbly and Wee Bit o’ Whisky Across the Pond

WARNING: This is a long one, so pour yourself a glass of vino and cuddle up for WineEsquire’s European adventure!

Husband had some business Across the Pond earlier this month, and I’d be damned if I wasn’t going to tag along. It was one of the better ideas I’ve had thus far.

File Nov 22, 8 17 30 PMWe started our trip at Bobby Van’s airport bar at JFK[1]. Husband had a martini. I had a glass of bubbly. This was the start of a very consistent theme throughout our trip. We were in the running for an upgrade from American Airlines, but alas, they didn’t come through. We survived our journey in Coach with the help of some jumbo bottle red wine and Disney’s Aladdin.

Our hotel stay at the Bel & the Dragon was brilliant. We journeyed from Heathrow to Kingsclere in our white Ford Focus[2]. All was well except the steering wheel was on the wrong side right side of the car and we had to drive on the wrong side right side of the road. We survived. Cue the wine.

File Nov 22, 8 20 47 PMThe first evening we were tired[3] so we decided to stay and eat at the Bel & The Dragon where we enjoyed a tasting of their private label wines produced by Olivier Leflaive, a longtime wine producer out of Burgundy, France. To start we paired the Bourgogne Blanc with some pink peppercorn squid[4] and a poached duck egg with Serrano ham[5] and avocado. The wine was light with a mineral finish. Not sweet or fruity, just like I like my whites. We followed this with a glass of the Bel and Dragon red burgundy which was also fairly light and a bit earthy.

File Nov 22, 8 24 34 PMFor dinner I had Scottish scallops paired with a glass of bubbly Laurent-Perrier Brut. Bubbles and seafood are always a good combination. Husband had roast suckling pig. To pair with this I chose the Berry Brothers Good Ordinary Claret because, one, I really liked the name, two, because you can’t really go wrong with Claret, and three because our waiter Mark told us he only had one half bottle left and that it was extremely good. We were both very happy with this[6]. It paired superb with the suckling pig and was a great drinker on its own as well.

All in all, this was probably the best “English” meal we’ve ever had in File Nov 22, 8 18 40 PMEngland[7]. Great food, excellent wine and superb ambiance[8]. The Bel and the Dragon is a 15th century inn that has been lovingly and beautifully restored. The quaint rooms came complete with a heavenly rainfall showerhead, a working heated towel rack[9], and complimentary whisky in the drawing room[10]. To top it off, it was on a quaint little street in the center of the village of Kingsclere. The whole thing seemed to have come straight off a movie set. Serenely simple and absurdly charming.

From Kingsclere we moved on to Scotland. The whole point of this trip was for Husband and his foreign counterpart to taste various Scottish whisky offerings[11]. One minor problem. File Nov 22, 8 19 12 PMApparently the Scots have had a wee bit of a drinking and driving problem in the last few years, and now there’s a zero tolerance policy. Since I’m no whisky aficionado, I was volunteered to be their personal driver. I hate to admit it, but WineEsquire’s wrong-side driving skills leave something to be desired.[12]. Husband would drive us to the distilleries before drinking had commenced. On both days, the trips to the distilleries were lovely, sunny and took place on easy to drive on highways. Without fail, as soon as WineEsquire got behind the wheel, the skies darkened, the heavens opened and the highways disappeared. Thankfully, whisky was drunk, bonds were formed, and we all survived.[13]

After two days of tasting in Scotland and we found ourselves back on a flight to London where we were able to spend the next day and a half. With the File Nov 22, 8 27 08 PMrental car safely deposited back at the airport, I could once again relax and enjoy the trip. And drink some wine. It must be something about vacation, but I kept going back to bubbly. Our digs at St. Ermin’s were divine and on our first night we ended up at the hotel bar where I ordered a glass of Nyetimber[14]. I thought it had something to do with New Year’s Eve. I was wrong. It was one of the best glasses of bubbly I’ve ever had. Tart, crisp with just a hint of apples. Effervescent bubbles that put a smile on my face. Regrettably, they don’t sell any on this side of the Atlantic yet. The only solution is to go back in the near future to drink some more!

Day two found us walking around London in the pouring rain, making our pilgrimage to Portobello Road. We eventually gave up on our quest to walk the city and Uber’d over to the famous Gordon’s Wine Bar[15]. Unfortunately, so did approximately 1 million other people. Though tears were near, we ended up inFile Nov 22, 8 45 30 PM a perfect little place where we enjoyed a French feast with a lovely bottle of Bordeaux. Having time to spare before our candlelight concert at St. Martin in the Fields, we wandered over to Neal’s Yard[16] and had a glass or two at Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels, a wine bar that serves only wine. Literally. No coffee. No whisky. Just wine. Impeccable! My glass of Eric Rodez Blanc de Noirs was File Nov 22, 8 19 44 PMperfect. A champagne made only from Pinot Noir grapes, it was another effervescent bubbly event that tickled my taste buds and confirmed my appreciation for all things French and bubbly[17].

By this time, our quick trip had come to an end. We had just a few hours before our flight home so we packed up our gear and headed to Kensington Palace to have High Tea at The Orangery. Not only is this little gem literally in Kate’s backyard[18], but it’s affordable, classy and simply gorgeous. Turns out we have Anna Maria Stanhope, the Duchess of Bedford, to thank for the tradition of high tea. It was the mid-1840s and the aristocracy had just transitioned from File Nov 22, 8 20 03 PMtaking their main meal at noon to a bit later in the evening[19]. Anna’s servants began sneaking her pots of tea with sandwiches and cakes to stave off that “sinking feeling” she’d get in the early afternoon. She began inviting her friends to join her, and it soon became a daily event for the upper class. Though Kate rang to say she was busy and couldn’t join us, the tea and cakes were delightful. So was the bubbly.

It’s never easy getting on the plane home. The thought of returning to a land where there is no Good Ordinary Claret, Nyetimber or Eric Rodez Blanc de Noirs is too depressing to even acknowledge. But it was certainly an adventure, and one I’ll not soon forget. Thanks for reading. Until the next bottle!

Cheers!

Lawyer Footnotes
[1] Obviously.
[2] How’d we end up with an American car over there?File Nov 22, 8 17 50 PM
[3] Not only from the flight, but we’d just spent the day traipsing around the countryside wandering around old Roman Ruins and mediaeval castles in our highly appropriate footwear. #sarcasm
[4] Turns out “pink peppercorn squid” is also known as fried calamari.
[5] a/k/a prosciutto.
[6] I obviously had some after I finished up my scallops and bubbly.
[7] Not taking into consideration, of course, classic fish n’ chips wrapped in newspaper.
[8] We were nestled in a quiet corner next to the open fireplace.
[9] There’s nothing worse than thinking the towel rack will actually warm your towels when in fact it’s ice cold. Why do most of them never function???File Nov 22, 8 29 42 PM
[10] You read that right. Complimentary whisky. In the Drawing Room. And it was good stuff too. Craggenmore and Jura. They may have had to refill the bottles after our first night…
[11] Some serious R&D.
[12] My apologies to all those who had to pass me on the wrong side right side. My average speed was around 25mph. Better slow than dead, right? #scaredycat
[13] A few F-bombs and trips around the roundabout later.
[14] Husband had a martini.
[15] Haven’t signed up for Uber yet? Click here and get your first ride (up to $15) free.
[16] A lovely little courtyard bubbling with activity. How is it that we don’t have anything like this where I live?
[17] This is also unavailable on this side of the world. I’m beginning to think we’re missing out on a lot of good bubbly. #getmeouttahere
[18] You know, my friend Kate, aka the Duchess of Cambridge.
[19] Hello, dinner!

File Nov 22, 8 42 39 PMOur day at Highclere Castle was epic. File Nov 22, 8 44 33 PM
File Nov 22, 8 32 57 PM

Quick trip to Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland. #DaVinciCode

 

 

File Nov 22, 8 40 29 PM

 

 

The same architect who designed Highclere was working on Big Ben and Parliament at the same time. And I thought I was busy. File Nov 22, 8 45 06 PM

 

Because every hotel lobby needs a photo of the Royal Wedding. Bravo, St.Ermins, Bravo.

 

 

DSC_0136

 

 

Quick walk around Buckingham Palace.