Friday 14th December 2018 – ‘twas the week before Christmas (nearly). Luncheon for six, London

Davy’s excellent wine bars with their jokey, wine related names, (often) fake Victorian spit and sawdust demeanor, reliable food and good wines – Davy’s are wine merchants too – are often overlooked or underestimated. Your man used them regularly when he worked in the wine trade in the City in the 1980s. A particular favourite was one (long gone) virtually under London Bridge next to Wren’s St. Magnus the Martyr church. Anyway, when organising a lunch for some old college chums, he decided on the Crusting Pipe, in the basement of the former Covent Garden Market. This, and many of their other premises, have available for reservation at no extra cost small but comfortable private dining rooms and we made ourselves at home in one of these. Present were: my art gallery visiting friend the Barocci of Bow; the Wonderful Councillor; the Treasury Mandarin (and colleague of Gladstone the cat); the Professor; and the Retired Pedagogue.

We began with Gosset’s Brut Excellence (91 points), a correct Champagne in the best sense - certainly dry but with some richness, and brioche and a touch of vanilla on the nose. Hard to think of a better aperitif really. Gosset is a small house producing about 50,000 bottles a year. It dates from 1584 which makes it the oldest Champagne house still trading. If you see some and want a reliable champagne at a good price (around £30) snap it up.

We had pre-ordered from the appetising three course Christmas Menu, which had four choices for each stage. M.A.E. began lightly with Crayfish, smoked salmon and prawn cocktail with a Bloody Mary dressing served on a plate, not on a bowl. A nicely piquant starter. Others were pleased with Goat’s cheese salad, chicory and a shallot and thyme dressing, and Duck liver pate with balsamic onion and apricot chutney. He went on to well prepared and presented roast turkey, but Sea bass with fennel also got the thumbs-up. Among the desserts Chocolate cherry and amaretto trifle was perhaps a little bland - perhaps it wasn’t really clear if the amaretto referred to the biscuit or the liqueur. More of the latter please. Others enjoyed Clementine and Prosecco jelly and Sticky toffee pudding. We drank a sound Zapallares Chardonnay Riserva 2017 (86 points) from Chile and a medium-bodied Cape Leopard Reserve Merlot 2016 (87 points) from South Africa, both kindly provided by the Wonderful Councillor.

As an enjoyable lunch progressed and the volume rose we, and no doubt the other customers, were glad we had booked a private room. Thanks to Jana and all of the staff at the Crusting Pipe. Everything went very smoothly.

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