Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Pie, Mash & Champagne (unfortunately not all at once)

I’ve used the excuse of Tom Stevenson’s annual Christie’s Masterclass tasting of champagne to come to London for a few days. Wandering around on a sunny and frigid morning reminded me how much I actually like this city, even if it’s cold. I was able to warm myself with a lunch of pie and mash at Manze on Tower Bridge Road—that might sound banal to many of you, but hey, I’m from California and I live in Champagne. Pie and mash is practically ethnic food. And besides, green liquor is awesome. It makes you feel like a kid. Next time I’ll have to do the eels.

On my way back to my friend Neil’s house I stopped in at an intriguing wine store called The Sampler, on Upper Street in Islington. They’ve got an excellent selection of wines from all over the world—I was there to buy sherry, taking advantage of being in the UK, but naturally I had to take a peek at their champagne section. Of course you can buy Krug, Bollinger and Cristal if you want, but you can also get Varnier-Fannière’s Cuvée St-Denis, R.H. Coutier’s Cuvée Henri III or Raymond Boulard’s Petraea, too. And if you feel flush, you can buy Selosse Substance or Roses de Jeanne Le Creux d’Enfer....

If you want to taste wines, they’ve got a massive Cruvinet system with about 80 wines offered on any given day—at the moment they’ve sort of gone crazy and are pouring 1983 Yquem, 1999 Screaming Eagle, 1993 DRC Romanée St-Vivant and 1976 Bosconia by López de Heredia, among a whole bunch of other things. Some of these will set you back a few pounds, of course, but there are plenty of other reasonably priced wines to taste as well. This is definitely a good address to stop into if you’re in the neighborhood. And now I know that they stock the sherries I want, so I’ll be back for sure.

The Sampler, 266 Upper Street, Islington, London