17 Jun 2006

More Police Than Sheep!

A PERPLEXING day began with an effort to catch a glimpse of a small flock of sheep herded from Southwark Cathedral to Kings Cross, an event orchestrated to trace ancient market routes as part of the Architecture Biennale (pictures). However "more police than sheep" was the overall verdict as a handful of protesters brandishing "Middle Ages Sheep Abuse" placards ran amock, frightening the curiously bleat-free beasts and requiring the stabilising presence of the Met's finest. We soon gave up trying to follow the action, lured away by the promise of an impressive 1998 Classic Cuveé Nyetimber, England's flagship sparkler and winner of best bottle fermented sparkling at the 2006 International Wine and Spirit Competition. Save sheep for the countryside! Tasting resolutely classic, multi-layered, orchard appley and with just a nod to Moet NV on the aftertaste, we raised a glass retrospectively to the fluffy ovines. For me this wine always conjours the memory of when I met Stuart Moss, founder and "caretakers" of Nyetimber at the esate on a sunny bank holiday a few years ago. Stuart and Sandy have since moved to California where they tend exotic plants (but no vines).

This was served with balsamic marinated wild strawberries at Bedales, Borough Market [£27]. We followed this with palm-sized oysters from Mersea island then an automatically voluminous glass of the Terres de Truffes 2004 (I'm going through a Ventoux phase) at Roast. I find it amusing that they offer greasy spoon HP sauce as well as a posh version, I think made by 'Wilkinsons'. The wine delivered a palateful of mocha coffee, cocoa and dark chocolate. [£6.00 per glass, Roast; £5.50 per bottle, Vinatis]. I wish I could see the funny side of such outrageous mark-ups, a sentiment which evokes memory of the Bleeding Heart where they were serving thimbles of the 1996 Quinta do Vargellas pseudo-vintage port (excellent, liquer chocolates) for £12.50. You can find whole bottles of it for around £15.00 in the shops. Things are unlikely to change, however, one of the most well-attended events by restaurateurs being the "how to maximise 20p/c more profit from your wine list" at the recent Wine Fair. Embarrasing. In Italy, just think how little they charge for a palatable carafe from the local co-op...