The Vesper: it’s a can of worms (not literally)

Back in September I was lucky enough to be taken along to the Designing 007: 50 Years of Bond Style exhibition at the Barbican by my other half where I was served a Vesper. I planned to write a nice short blog post about this containing a picture of said drink and a little explanation. Well, that is exactly what has not happened. I had, as it turned out, opened an almighty can of worms that has seen this cocktail lead me on something of a grail hunt in the lead up to Skyfall’s release this week.

“…but that’s not a Vodka Martini at all… and wait, wooden stemware?!”

Let us start at the beginning. (Any post that contains that sentence is clearly far too long but stick with it and there’s a treat at the end I promise!) The 50 Years of Bond Style exhibition was great fun, containing a fascinating selection of props and costumes as well as some of the original storyboards and design drawings from the films. We saw Oddjob’s hat, Scaramanga’s golden gun, Jaws’ teeth and several well-known swimming costumes (more on those later)!

Life-size recreation of poor old Jill Masterson in the Gold Room

Sean Connery with Anthony Sinclair (who has never been confused with Tony Sinclair)

Ken-Adams’ volcano base set design from You Only Live Twice

(A selection of further pictures can be found here.)

Whilst the exhibition was running the Barbican also featured a 007 Martini Bar where visitors made the most of their opportunity to be Bond for a little while before having to step back out onto Silk Street (and the real world).

The 007 Martini Bar

Martini Bar Menu (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

This of course provided the unique opportunity to order a Vodka Martini “shaken, not stirred” without looking or sounding like a complete twonk. At the last second I came to my senses however and ordered another, far more interesting Bond classic: the Vesper.

“A dry martini… One. In a deep champagne goblet… Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel. Got it?”

– James Bond (from Ian Flemming’s original 1953 novel Casino Royale)

[Lychee ‘Martini’] & the Vesper

Having thoroughly enjoyed the exhibition this was not a decision made lightly; Connery never drank a Vesper, Brosnan never drank a Vesper, Moore, Lazenby and Dalton never drank Vespers. Having only featured in one Ian Fleming novel (the one novel that Eon did not have the rights to until 1999) only Daniel Craig has ordered a Vesper on screen… and on balance I am not a huge fan of Daniel Craig as my favourite suave and sophisticated secret agent…

Here is my theory, based on the aforementioned swimming costumes. Connery and Brosnan (my favourite Bonds) watch their Bond girls, Ursella Andress and Halle Berry respectively, emerge from the sea in their swimming costumes. Of course they do, they’re Bond! Daniel Craig’s Bond girl meanwhile, Caterina Murino, is on the shore as Daniel Craig emerges from the sea in his nut-huggers as if he’s in a Davidoff Cool Water advert. This is a problem.

He still ends up sleeping with the girl of course, but Ian Fleming may have turned in his grave a little also. Just a thought… anyway back to the Vesper…

Connery admiring the view.
“Underneath the mango tree…”

“I never have more than one drink before dinner. But I do like that one to be large and very strong and very cold and very well-made. I hate small portions of anything, particularly when they taste bad. This drink’s my own invention.”

– James Bond (1953)

Like Daniel Craig, the Vesper splits opinion somewhat with ‘Dr. Cocktail’ Ted Haigh describing it as “a work of genius” whilst David Wondrich cites it as proof that “from the admittedly narrow perspective of mixology, James Bond is an idiot”.

For a relatively simple cocktail there is a staggering amount of debate and many points of contention. The single greatest problem in mixing one up today is that one of the ingredients may no longer even exist but first let’s break it down as Bond himself does in order to take a closer look at some of the issues:

“large”: His “deep champagne goblet” was required because martini glasses were smaller in those days (say 3-4 ounces). Most martini glasses today are perfectly adequate for larger (than necessary) cocktails.

Bond may have enjoyed this particular cocktail

very strong”: Great emphasis has been placed when discussing the Vesper on gin and vodka being stronger in the fifties but a few wires seem to have been crossed in places, which has muddied the waters a little.

  • Gordon’s in the UK (in its square-faced, green bottle) was always 40% abv (well before the fifties) right up until the nineties when it was reduced to 37.5%. The export strength found in France, where Bond was served his Vesper, was 47.3% abv and it can still be found at this strength throughout continental Europe. (Tanqueray is more readily available at 47.3% in the UK as many others have observed.)  In the US meanwhile, Gordon’s is still 40%.

Gordon’s 1930s – “70° Proof” = 40% abv (UK)

  • Although Bond was served his Vesper with potato vodka he suggests that “if you can get a vodka made with grain instead of potatoes, you will find it still better”. By choice he drinks Russian and Polish vodkas including Stolichnaya. David Wondrich tells us (in reference to the Vesper) that Stoli was 50% abv in the fifties but as far as I can tell their flagship ‘red label’ has always been 40% (Russian vodkas were usually produced at a standard 40% dating right back to Mendeleev in 1894). Smirnoff in the US meanwhile was available at 40% and 50%, as indeed it still is (although their red label is now 37.5% in the UK).

Smirnoff advert 1953 – “80 or 100 Proof” = 40% or 50% abv (US)

“very cold and very well made”: Here, amongst other things, we face the shaken versus stirred debate. Bond is correct in thinking that a vodka cocktail (more on the gin in just a moment) is best as cold as possible and that this is best achieved by shaking. I refer you to the scientific findings of Dave Arnold from his work alongside Eben Klemm and others:

“Cocktail shaking is a violent activity. If you shake for around 12-15 seconds (though shaking longer won’t hurt), and if you aren’t too lethargic, neither the type of ice you use nor your shaking style will appreciably affect the temperature or dilution of your drink. Shaking completely chills, dilutes and aerates a drink in around 15 seconds, after which the drink stops changing radically and reaches relative equilibrium. Shaking is basically insensitive to bartender-induced variables.

Stirring is different. Think of stirring as inefficient shaking. It can take over 2 minutes of constant stirring to do what shaking can accomplish in 15 seconds. No one stirs a drink for 2 minutes, so the drink never reaches an equilibrium point. All the bartender-induced variables – size of ice, speed of stirring, duration of stirring, etc. — make a difference in stirred cocktails, so bartender skill is very important in a stirred cocktail.

Because stirring doesn’t reach equilibrium, stirred drinks are warmer and less diluted than shaken cocktails. Stirred drinks, unlike shaken ones, are not aerated. Stirring does not alter the texture of a drink –it merely chills and dilutes. A properly diluted cocktail stored at -5 degrees Celsius in a freezer is indistinguishable from a properly stirred one.”

– Dave Arnold (

“Shaken drink is in blue, quickly stirred drink is in red, and slowly stirred drink is in green. All drinks started with the same volume of liquor at the same temperature. Equal weights of un-cracked Kold-Draft cubes were used for each. Time is in seconds and T=0 represents beginning of shaking/stirring.”

…but what about cracked ice I hear you say?:

“The greater the surface area, the more water on the surface of the ice. So…. Shaking with small ice makes the drink watery right away… [Unless you can “shake or spin the extra water off your small ice before you make a drink”]… After the initial dilution, small ice and big ice will behave identically (with respect to dilution and temperature).”

– Dave Arnold

The problem most people highlight with shaking a Vesper is that it is actually mostly made up of gin rather than vodka and that shaking will ‘bruise’ the gin, which will have an adverse affect on the overall taste. This, in the words of Robert ‘Drink Boy’ Hess, is “Hogwash”. He indicates that the real reason that you would opt to stir is due to presentation. Cocktails made up of clear ingredients should be as clear as possible and a well-trained bartender should take the time to stir so as to avoid cloudiness caused by aeration.

Shaken vs Stirred Martini (

Whilst perfectly valid this is primarily aimed at people who are prone to say “shaken, not stirred” after ordering almost any cocktail, especially a regular martini, simply because James Bond said it when he ordered something-or-other. This of course is not the logic of Bond himself. Earlier I mentioned that martini glasses in the 1950s were smaller (much smaller in some cases) than many found today, this is because a smaller cocktail retains its chill whilst you drink it. Bond would have been well aware of this despite ordering his large drink (in order to bend but not break his self-imposed pre-dinner etiquette) and it was therefore essential that it started off as cold as possible!

The result was a “pale golden drink, slightly aerated” but as cold as it could be (-7°C is about the best you can hope for).

Demandons la quinine!

Still with me? Well the single greatest problem is as follows: Kina Lillet may no longer exist. It is generally understood that in 1985/86 the product was reformulated, becoming less syrupy, less sweet and (perhaps most importantly) less bitter, giving birth to Lillet Blanc the product we find today.

Lillet is a quinquina, an aperitif containing quinine. It is this quinine, from cinchona bark, that was the source of the more prominent bitterness in the original formulation (hence the ‘Kina’ (quina) being dropped), as it is in tonic water.

Here then, are the suggested courses of action for replacing the Kina Lillet:

  • Lillet Blanc – most people writing today are shooting in the dark with regards to how much really changed in the eighties, but those with longer memories, such as ‘Dr Cocktail’ Ted Haigh, recall the event with “utter chagrin”. Don’t believe those who say Lillet Blanc is the same as Kina Lillet – the question is whether there is a better alternative…

  • Jean de Lillet Reserve (Blanc) – originally created alongside Lillet Blanc in the eighties and suggested to be closer to the original formula but still lacking in discernible bitterness according to Erik Ellestad of the Savoy Stomp (2004 vintage).

  • Cocchi Americano – an Italian aperitif that has become the most popular ‘go to’ in place of Lillet Blanc in recipes calling for Kina Lillet, it is more bitter and also more spiced than Lillet Blanc.

  • Kina L’Avion D’or – a new quinquina from Tempus Fugit Spirits (although supposedly based on a century-old Swiss recipe) that is looking to challenge Lillet and Cocchi Americano and is said to be richer than the latter with the requisite bitterness (sounds promising!).

  • China Martini & Lillet Blanc mix – as suggested by David Smith, one half of Summer Fruit Cup, China (Kina/quina) Martini is “made by Martini Rossi (and) heavily flavoured with Cinchona Bark”. A 50-50 mix of this and Lillet Blanc imparts quinine bitterness with the added bonus of making the whole drink the desired pale gold colour, something not sufficiently achieved by any of the suggestions above.

  • Cinchona bark – writing in 2006 and in lieu of greater availability of some options above, David Wondrich sourced some cinchona bark powder from a website selling sustainable rainforest products ( and suggested that a small amount could be added directly into the drink alongside Lillet Blanc. Another option is to steep the bark in alcohol to create your own cinchona tincture/bitters that can then be added. Others, such as Reese Lloyd of Cocktail Hacker, have tried infusing their Lillet Blanc with cinchona with mixed results.

  • Sugar syrup – in order to make up for the lost sweetness and balance any added bitterness (especially if going down the cinchona bark route).
  • Regular Bitters – (if all else fails).

So what, if anything, have we actually settled here? Well, in terms of mixing a Vesper today there are still a few key questions:

Was the Vesper invented by Bond specifically during his time in Northern France, or earlier back in Britain, or elsewhere? Are we in fact trying to recreate the only Vesper Bond was ever served (even though Daniel Craig got around to ordering six more in Quantum of Solace) or one that he has designed in his head?

The first of those questions probably cannot be answered by anyone living today and as we are dealing with fiction perhaps Fleming himself did not even know!

All things considered, I propose two recipes:


The Vesper #1 (The Royale-Les-Eaux)

3 ounces (not parts) (9cl) Gordon’s export (europe) (47.3%) – or Tanqeray Export Strength (47.3%)

1 ounce (3cl) potato vodka – for example Luksusowa or Chopin although Chase make an English one too (alternatively, try and make your own!)

1/2 ounce (1.5cl) of Lillet Blanc/China Martini mix – or Lillet Blanc & chincona tincture/bitters with a dash of sugar syrup if necessary

Shake with ice for 15 seconds (or about 20 shakes) and strain the pale golden drink into a champagne goblet. Add a large thin slice of lemon peel.


The Vesper #2 (The SW3)

3 ounces (not parts) (9cl)  Gordon’s export (US) (40%) – or another London dry gin of a similar but not lower abv, for example Brokers, SW4 (if you like a bit of word play) or even Boodles (as it is named after the gentleman’s club Ian Fleming was a member of)

1 ounce (3cl) Stolichnaya (40%)or other Russian or Polish vodka (40-50%)

1/2 ounce (1.5 cl) Kina L’Avion D’oror Cocchi Americano, or indeed any Kina Lillet substitute of your choice

Shake with ice for 15 seconds (or about 20 shakes) and strain the colourless (or slightly golden) drink into a large martini glass. Add a large thin slice of lemon peel.


The Vesper must be the cocktail with the greatest number of factors for debate and thanks to the enduring popularity of Bond through 50 years of movies plenty of people willing to debate them! It may surprise some to learn then that Fleming, inventor of the Vesper, did not actually sample his creation until several months after – only to discover that it was “unpalatable”.

Luckily, these things are subjective and whilst the Vesper will have its detractors it will also continue to win new fans just as I honestly hope Daniel Craig can win me over as Bond in Skyfall this week (although he unfortunately won’t be doing it with his new drink of choice!).

and finally, as promised, a treat…

A.Skillz & Kraft Kuts – 50 years of Bond Minimix:

(If for some reason it is not working, you can also find it here)

Little did I know…


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).


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!

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.

Whistling in the Dark

“Book a table for nine people for some drinks on Friday…” was the request that came from my girlfriend.

“…Somewhere good” being the only given requirement.

After some consideration I decided to book a table in a dimly-lit basement on a side street in Shoreditch that combines “the charm of Victorian squalor with the elegance of grand Gin Palaces”. Yep, we were off to the Worship Street Whistling Shop


Opening back in April 2011 the Whistling Shop was the second venture by the chaps behind the prohibition-style Purl in Marylebone as well as the more recent 17th Century-inspired Punch House VOC in King’s Cross and the NYC-influenced Dach & Sons in Hampstead.

Negotiating the stairs that lead from street-level down into the Whistling Shop is a bit like going into the fitting room at Mr. Benn’s local fancy dress shop; you leave the world behind you and enter an entirely new one. There is however nothing ‘fancy dress’ about this place as everything is designed with an attention to detail that grants it authenticity.

“the charm of Victorian squalor with the elegance of grand Gin Palaces”

Despite the impressive surroundings though, it is the drinks that are rightly the stars of the show here.

“Our drinks are inspired by the trends and drinking cultures of days gone by. Using these themes as starting points, we then develop our cocktail list within our in-house lab. Here, we use rotary evaporators, sous vide, vacuum technology and a large array of enzymes, acids, proteins and hydrocolloids to create drinks that are truly unique.”

– the Whistling Shop chaps

As there were nine of us each ordering something different we were able to order the large majority of the excellent cocktail menu (which changes regularly) right off the bat! (They’re about £9 each plus a service charge.)


I kicked off with a refreshing Gattering Cup, which is made with Hennessy Fin de Cognac, Camden Ink Stout, Buck-wheat Honey, Ginger Beer and Cardamom Bitters served over ice in a copper cup garnished with a sprig of mint leaves and a glass stirrer that reminded us of an old thermometer.

a Gattering Cup and I

Some review-site types seem to have had problems with service here but I can’t understand that personally – there are few things that annoy me more than having somebody constantly hovering over me, especially when I am enjoying something as special as these cocktails and we had no problem ordering more when we were ready. Having said that one of our drinks was dropped onto the table sending broken glass, Lillet and Martini in all directions!!! I have my suspicions that this may not have happened had one of our party not tried to eagerly grab theirs as soon as it was within arm’s reach however. I mean, would you let this girl anywhere near a full tray of cocktails?

Million Dollar #Cat

Having all (eventually) had the opportunity to see (and sample) each other’s first cocktails, most steered towards a favourite for their second. In my case this was the Million Dollar #2…

Million Dollar #2

Million Dollar #2: Woodford Reserve, Pineapple Juice, WS2 Grenadine, Martini Rosso, Chip Pan Bitters – $100 Note

Nose: So smokey! Lapsang souchong and smoked cheese fill your nostrils without even placing them too near the drink! The Chip Pan Bitters made in-house dominate proceedings.

Palate: Usually the palate confirms what the nose has told you even if slightly different elements are detected. Not here. Is this the same drink? Any trepidation about putting chip pan liquid in your mouth is made a mockery of instantly as tropical fruits catch your senses totally off guard. Herbal notes from the red vermouth are present as well as creaminess from the Woodford Reserve whilst Grenadine tartness keeps the fruit in check.

Finish: Smoooth. Pineapple and just a little smoke briefly linger. That wasn’t a drink that was a journey. Or was it? I’m not even sure what has just happened.

Overall: If cocktails are about the senses then that was the best one that I have ever had.

“If you could just step this way…”

Then, as if by Magic, the shopkeeper appeared… Or at least our reservation (you get a two hour slot as standard) was beginning to run down and our wallets and purses were all getting a little light.

In true Mr. Benn fashion, as I returned home later I realised that I had a miniature $100 bill in my pocket. “I thought I’d thrown that away! Now I can keep it to help me remember”.

Southbank Saturday

Sometimes a day just works out brilliantly. When your day begins with six whole hours having been wasted waiting for Mark ‘The Manx Express’ Cavendish to get nowhere near the front of the Olympic road race however, you are well within your rights to suspect that that particular day is a write-off.

Despite this it’s usually a good idea to shake off such suspicions and venture outside, putting aside your concerns that you won’t be able to move for the millions of people that are apparently descending on London or that a cursory glance at the sky tells you that it isn’t exactly ‘a nice day’.

In the immortal words of Derek Edward Trotter “He who dares, wins” and so out we went for an optimistic stroll along Southbank. What quickly became apparent was that not only had the city not been overrun overnight but it was actually less busy than normal with many people evidently having been scared off. More surprising still, the sun was even threatening to come out!

“Where’s Bane?”

Enthusiasm well and truly rekindled, we headed to the roof garden café and bar on top of the Queen Elizabeth Hall to stretch out on the grass, take in the view and grab a refreshing beverage.

Views of London with grass between your toes…

As the clouds slowly parted even an ill-timed bout of Olympics-induced Britishness that caused me to order a glass of ludicrously diluted Pimm’s for the princely sum of £6.95 would not be enough to ruin things. The afternoon was all about great weather, great views and great company (although a Meantime pale ale would be a smarter choice at the bar).

The roof garden was designed by the Eden Project

With evening approaching thoughts soon turned to food and after some fruitless deliberation it dawned on us that there was a painfully obvious solution. During our stroll we had passed a pop-up Wahaca restaurant offering their usual winning combination of Mexican market eating plus a Tequila bar just outside the Queen Elizabeth Hall.

The only way this could have been better is if there was a zip-line

Constructed from shipping containers and decorated with Mexican inspired street-art, we were all suitably impressed by Wahaca’s “Southbank Experiment”. Once inside we inadvertently ‘made friends’ with some nacho-sharing chaps who had been to see the Beach Volleyball before finally escaping to enjoy some Chilli Quesadillas (a Southbank Experiment special),  Taquitos and Frijoles. Fast food win.

Even better than Pop-up Pirate

…not forgetting the Margaritas of course!!!

Wahaca Classic Margarita with freshly squeezed lime and a hint of agave (£5.95)