Showers, Scooters, Sliders & Suede Shoes

As the rain falls this Sunday afternoon it seems an apt time to finish this post about a day when it really came down…

April to August 2012 was the third wettest on record in the South East with the largest daily rainfall hitting us on Saturday 25th August. Bank holiday weekend. Oblivious of the impending aqueous onslaught, three intrepid explorers set off for a day out and about.

It started innocuously enough with a rain-free trip over to Lower Marsh. Here we popped into the Scooter Caffè, a place adorned with all manner of different items and decorations not least a wall covered in old Decca Records posters for releases and concerts dating back to the 1920s as well as the vintage scooters and associated memorabilia that lend the place its name. Despite a decent selection of spirits and liqueurs I resisted the temptation for an early sharpener and settled for an espresso as we planned our day.

Scooter Caffè, Lower Marsh

It was at this point that the heavens opened for the first time. We were sat a few feet inside the door of the cafe, which also has a canopy outside and were still starting to get soaked by rain deflecting up off of the road! After shutting the door we ordered more drinks. We were there for the long haul it seemed.

The pictures really don’t do it justice – It were fair chookin’ it down!

As our second drinks disappeared however, so did the rain. Onwards and upwards! By the time we got to Soho it would nearly be lunchtime!

Graphic Bar

Graphic Bar would be our lunchtime destination. Cool, clean and modern with street artist Ben Eine’s signature lettering adorning the many shutters along one side, Graphic also has regular installations from guest artists. Incredibly, almost as we crossed the threshold the rain returned. Torrential, unrelenting rain…

Even the guy in the hood had absolutely no intention of going out there…

The timing was ridiculous (the next few people through the door were not quite as lucky as us!), we were in the favour of the rain gods it seemed!

Since our visit a new installation of 3D art by Jim Sharp has come to Graphic along with a new drinks menu which can be viewed here, whilst you can read more about the new 4D build-your-own Punch here. The trademark Paint Tin Punches are still available of course with the Gold one still being accompanied by the corresponding Spandau Ballet hit on the ghetto blaster (or performed by Tony Hadley himself for the princely sum of £15k!).

The drinks menu we met that day however can be found below – it should of course be mentioned that Graphic is also one of the premier spots for gin with over 130 different brands available (and counting).

Drinks Menu [CLICK TO ENLARGE]

Paint Tin Punch Menu [CLICK TO ENLARGE]

To accompany my slider I chose a Mitch-ell Martini, a play on Giovanni Burdi’s Mitch Martini from the Match Bar that replaces the Żubrówka with Woodford Reserve, the peach liqueur with lemon juice, and adds a fresh mint garnish (originally lemon). Presumably this was a creation of, or at least named after, former bar manager Sarah Mitchell (now with The London Cocktail Club).

Mitch-ell Martini with a Portobello, strong Gouda & rocket Slider

Mitch-ell Martini

Woodford Reserve bourbon, fresh mint, fresh lemon juice, pressed apple juice & passion fruit syrup.

Needless to say, it works wonderfully with the bourbon more than happy to play well with apple juice just as Żubrówka does.

By this point we must have expected the rain to stop just as we wanted to leave, and it dutifully did leaving us to jump over the puddles and standing water as we continued, still dry, about our business. So successfully had we avoided the rain, as well as any tube stations forced to close due to flooding, that  I later chose this day of all days to buy a pair of decidedly un-rainproof suede shoes! Blue suede shoes at that, just don’t step on them yeah?

The first single from Elvis Presley’s eponymous debut studio album, 1956
(The original was by Carl Perkins whilst the b-side Tutti-Frutti was a cover of Little Richard’s hugely influential rock and roll stormer)

So a day that begun admiring old Decca Records posters ended with some rock and roll footwear. At least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it – I definitely didn’t accidentally buy the same shoes Prince Harry had made infamous in Jamaica. Nope, not me!

Not Prince Harry wearing my shoes…

Ah well, if your going to accidentally buy the same piece of clothing as a royal (not something I would usually go out of my way to do) then doing it the same week that they were in the news for “a naked romp with several beauties” in Las Vegas is probably the very best time to do it!

Viva Las Vegas!

The Legend

Dunelm

A few weeks back I made the trip up to Durham, my old university town (although technically it’s a city), to visit one of my old partners in crime – a fellow Keeper of the Cane no less – who is now working for the uni.

Inevitably a number a drinking holes were frequented on this trip down memory lane, not least a Samuel Smith’s pub called The Swan & Three Cygnets – once home to £1.45 ales thus undercutting the student union and all sixteen college bars as there were then (Cuths has two whilst the Stockton colleges used to share just one!) by a whole five pence to offer the cheapest pint in Durham…

“Pint of O.B. please”
(although Sovereign was the cheapest)

I still makes me laugh whenever I come across one of the many Samuel Smith’s pubs in London – they’re a real guilty pleasure of mine as its just like stepping back into The Swan or indeed The Colpitts (another Samuel Smith’s pub in Durham tucked away by the viaduct, a popular area for those living out of college).

Having not seen my friend for the best part of the year though I wasn’t content to simply quaff endless beers (how times have changed!) or even White Russians (sadly abandoned in Fabios!), I also wished to pass on something of my enthusiasm for whisky.

ウイスキー

This was done initially with a bottle of Nikka Whisky From the Barrel, which amusingly also went down very well with his Scottish house mate despite the initial protests! (“Japanese whisky??? Don’t come anywhere near me with that muck… Oh, alright, I better try some…”)

As the weekend drew to a close we were heading over to meet a bunch of chaps I didn’t know and I found myself in the supermarket, en route, picking up some last minute supplies. As well as the mandatory lagers I hoped to pick up a little something from Islay or something with a nice coastal character that could be shared with friends new and old whilst also not scaring off any ‘non-whisky drinkers’! Despite the extremely limited selection I was rather pleased to pick up an entry level Bowmore with a name that promised much…

Single malt (40%)

Bowmore Legend

Nose: Sea breeze nearly hides a little honey and a faint wisp of smoke.

Palate: Salty with a brown sugar cube and barley sweetness that becomes more apparent the more you drink. It is far from complex however.

Finish: Sweet and salty with a little peat smoke briefly taking hold before slightly abruptly disappearing again.

Overall: Perfectly agreeable young, sweet, maritime dram.

 

It was an ideal choice if a little sweeter than expected and whilst it didn’t knock anybody’s socks off it was enjoyed by all who tried it. That said, it doesn’t exactly live up to such a grand name! On this occasion the legend was amongst the company instead of in the glass.

Rik Coldwell, you Sir are in fact a legend.

Compadres

South by Southeast

After ‘B’ for BenRiach comes ‘C’ for… Cary Grant of course!

The BFI Southbank has been something of a revelation for me recently. Here you can enjoy films from yesteryears that you never imagined you would be able to see on the big screen all in a civilised, comfortable and popcorn-free environment. You can even bring a drink in from the bar! (Although squidgy cups are involved… may have to smuggle a Glencairn glass in next time…)

It is currently The Genius of Hitchcock season and I simply could not turn down the opportunity to go and see one of my all-time favourite films: North by Northwest.

“I’ve got a job, a secretary, a mother, two ex-wives and several bartenders depended [sic] upon me, and I don’t intend to disappoint them all by getting myself ‘slightly’ killed.”

– Roger ‘O’ Thornhill (Cary Grant)

This film is simply brilliant. A gripping espionage thriller with terrific dialogue, humour and even some sauciness that undoubtedly influenced the Bond movies (Hitchcock was even asked to direct an original version of Thunderball shortly after North by Northwest was released in 1959) revolving around the ultimate case of mistaken identity.

It is, amongst other things, also a film about booze. Thornhill’s fondness for a drink or two (like his attitude towards the truth, being an advertising man) is spectacularly turned against him within the first quarter of an hour of the film but at the start we find him on his way to have a few Martinis in the Oak Bar at the Plaza, New York.

“We’ve gotten a head start here”
“That won’t last long.”
“I was saying that you may be slow in starting, but there’s nobody faster coming down the homestretch!”

What follows must be the most anybody has been forced to drink in a film ever (let alone one that was made in the 1950s and is rated ‘PG’) made all the more serious by the fact that it is intended to set poor old Thornhill up for an overly elaborate  (although escapable) death. (Wow, this film really did influence Bond!)

– “Scotch? Rye? Bourbon? Vodka?…”
“Nothing. I’ll take a quick ride back to town.”

“That has been arranged but first, a libation… Bourbon!”

If anybody can tell me which bourbon this is I would greatly appreciate it!
(Click to enlarge)

…answers on a Postcard please!

“Assault with a gun and a bourbon and a sports car!”

– Roger Thornhill (or is that George Kaplan?)

Following another overly elaborate attempt on Thornhill’s life later in the film it is not immediately apparent which scotch Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint) pours for them – possibly Haig Gold Label with the old diamond-shaped back label? Product placement, refreshingly, was not such a major consideration in the 1950s!

– “I could use a drink.”
– “I have some scotch.”
– “With water. No ice.”
(Eve has ice in hers)

The best thing about these dramatic attempts to kill him, which is made more difficult to appreciate having grown up with twenty odd Bond films and countless other more recent movies, is that they were far from clichéd when North by Northwest was being made. This, along with Thornhill’s status as a regular guy (albeit a well-tailored one) who has been thrown into this extraordinary situation, make lines like “I could use a drink” all the more believable.

– “Go ahead, it can’t be for me.”

Cary Grant’s (or is that Archibald Leach’s?) greatest drinking moment in North by Northwest however, comes when he manages to order a pre-dinner Gibson in the dining carriage of a train with few places to hide despite the fact that he has been identified in every newspaper as a murderous fugitive whilst simultaneously breaking the ice with his new and rather attractive female acquaintance.

– “The moment I meet an attractive woman, I have to start pretending I have no desire to make love to her.”

Similar to a Martini but garnished with an onion as opposed to an olive, the Gibson is an underrated variation that has been somewhat eclipsed by “the meteoric rise in classic Martini’s” and “the trends for olives and lemon zests” (69 Colebrooke Row blog).

More recently the Gibson has, perhaps unsurprisingly, been seen in Mad Men – after all, Roger O. Thornhill is the original Don Draper. Other nods to North by Northwest in the series include the stylised skyscraper opening (along with it’s Vertigo-style Hitchcockian falling man), Don Draper’s use of an alias and the fact that his father’s name is Archibald (Cary Grant’s real name). In Mad Men it is Roger Sterling who is the Gibson drinker however.

Mad Man

As the credits roll in a cinema where you could hear a pin drop during the more tense moments of the film and where everybody laughed together during the many humorous and witty moments, applause spontaneously broke out for a thoroughly appreciated motion picture.

If however we had all raised a glass instead then that would have surely been equally if not more appropriate.