Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Wine for Christmas: an idiot proof guide

And by idiot proof, I mean that I have personally (and selflessly) tasted all of these wines. If luck will have it, I'll be tasting them all again on Christmas day too.

1. First up, and my absolute Christmas favourite, is the Bolney Wine Estate Cuvee Noir 2009.
They say: an exciting and different wine, offering the drinker a break from the norm with its lovely colour and pairs well with pates and cheeses
I say: Buy now! This is Christmas in a bottle. Not only is it unusual (it's a sparkling red wine), the fruit flavours and hint of spice will have you full of festive cheer in no time

2. For the perfect pairing with your turkey, get a nice, creamy oaky chardonnay. Like Shaw + Smith M3 Chardonnay, 2010, Adelaide Hills.
They say: The M3 shows complexity of flavour, with both youthful primary fruit and some savoury notes, and has a long and layered palate.
I say: Vanilla, toast, pear, cream, fudge, butterscotch.. all of the good things in one bottle. But man it's expensive...

3. ... so for a cheaper alternative, try McWilliam's Mount Pleasant Elizabeth Semillon 2005.
They say: Sherbety lemon, lime, passionfruit and hints of straw on the nose
I say: Easy drinking, an ideal introduction to oaked wines at a bargain price

4. For something to sip on while eating your smoked salmon canapes, try Hacienda Zorita Vega de la Reina Verdejo, 2011.
They say: An intense aroma, during the white fruit with a recall of herbs
I say: This wine is difficult to track down, but well worth it for the excellent price. And it was voted best white wine in the world 

5. Finally, the perfect mince pie accompaniment, RM Nicholson 2010 Rustenberg, Stellenbosch.
They say: Blackcurrant aroma complemented by notes of dried herbs and black pepper
I say: Rich and full bodied, exactly how I'll be feeling after Christmas dinner

Christmas shopping, one for me, one for you

Only 14 days till Christmas! Although I might not have sorted out an Advent calendar yet (and my idea of a scratch card a day was so promising too..), I have finished all my shopping. At least I think I have. I officially finished last week but then  a beautiful children's shop in Greenwich market encouraged me to buy a few more bits and bobs for the new babies in the family.

For example, these amazing finger puppets from United Ideas.

I bought a jungle animal set and "Three little pigs and the big bad wolf", which was quite possibly the best present I have ever bought. I nearly bought one for myself. 

I also managed to squeeze in a little present buying for myself, coming home with this beautiful print of the Old Royal Naval College, which also happens to be one of my favourite buildings in Greenwich.

The print was from The Flood Gallery, a fantastic boutique gallery in the heart of Greenwich.  As well as being exceptionally well priced (the above print was £20 which included a frame), they have a fantastically varied range of prints and other bits and bobs. I was tempted to buy a notebook with a dodo screen printed on the front and a mug with a fox on it. Definitely a great shop for gifts, the website doesn't do it justice.

All of this shopping was topped off by some excellent chorizo and chips from the market, and a glass of mulled wine. The perfect winter's day of shopping.

More information about Greenwich Market and the surrounding shops can be found here.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Random rain

Despite mixed reviews, I was curious to check out the latest instalment from Random International, a design group based in Chelsea. And it seems I wasn't the only one - on a Thursday night I queued for 90 minutes to get the chance to experience the Rain Room at the Barbican, an exhibition which allows visitors to 'control' the rain.

The installation itself is actually pretty simple - it's essentially a massive shower. However, through in some light / motion sensors, a dark room and a bright light, and all of a sudden the exhibition gets a little bit cooler. 

Visitors were able to walk through the rain and watch as the rain magically stopped wherever they were. It looked, and felt, as though you were in the middle of a storm and yet miraculously you were dry. Or dry enough (there was a little bit of drippage).

Was it worth queueing for 90 minutes? I wouldn't do it again, but I am glad I saw the exhibition. I just wish there had been fewer people in the room at the same time as me, as it struck me as a great place to contemplate anything on your mind.

On the plus side, it's good fun and completely free. And gives you a great excuse to visit the Barbican, see the architecture, soak up the atmosphere and enjoy a drink or two.

The perfect dress?

Dress with combination sash, £49.99
New Zara dress for Boxing Day, veering away from my original navy blue theme. Skims the body, decent length and a flattering colour. Pretty much perfection in a dress. Buy it here.

NB: If you find you are usually between sizes in Zara (I never know if I am a small or a medium), I would advise buying the smaller size for this particular dress.

I also picked up a pair of jeans for £19.99. Unsure how they will wash over time, but a great price. They are from the TRF diffusion line which I rarely look at, but they have some interesting pieces in at the moment, especially this tiger print dress and my favourite, this Aztec inspired dress with diamantes. Perfect for a Christmas party.

The Magistrate and the Mezzanine restaurant

After booking the tickets seemingly years ago, last night was finally the night to see the Magistrate.

"With his louche air and a developed taste for smoking, gambling, port and women, it’s hard to believe Cis Farringdon is only fourteen. And that’s because he isn’t. Agatha his mother lopped five years from her true age and his when she married the amiable Posket.
Well, when I heard the new dad was a police magistrate, I was scared. Said I to myself, “If I don’t mind my Ps and Qs, the Guv’nor – from force of habit – will fine me all my pocket-money.”
The imminent arrival of Cis’ godfather sends Agatha incognito to the Hôtel des Princes to warn him of her deception. But it’s also where her son has cajoled his otherwise staid stepfather into joining him for a binge. High-spirited carousing leads to a police raid and a night of outrageous mishap as the trapped guests make desperate attempts to conceal themselves from the law and from each other. Indignities escalate at court the next day where Posket, the police magistrate, must preside."
This was a truly outstanding performance from the National Theatre, and I think it may have earned its place as my favourite play ever. 
I was particularly impressed for the following reasons:

1. The characters were all very likeable. Usually, I have one favourite character, but here I was torn between Posket, Cis' and smaller roles too - such as the waiter in the Hotel des Princes. I think it takes a lot of skill for the audience to be so engaged with comparatively minor roles.
2. The singing. The songs were well interspersed between the scenes, and actually added something to the play, rather than detracted as can be the case. The Singing Dandys did a great job and the lyrics were well composed and witty.
3. The scenery and costumes. I'd say the National Theatre always has great sets, but I thought this was truly exceptional. But it wasn't just the look of the set that impressed me - the way the set moved between scenes was really quite something to watch.

After the play, Harry and I went to the Mezzanine Restaurant at the National Theatre for the post-theatre dining deal. For £15, you got a flat-iron steak with frites, bearnaise sauce, a small tomato salad, bread, and a blackberry bellini. An absolute steal. The steak surpassed my expectations, being a good inch or so thick, and nicely pink in the middle. The portion was generous too.
All round, a great evening at the National Theatre. I can't recommend it enough.