Thursday evening I found myself toddling up to the lift at Cloud 23 in Manchester's Hilton Hotel on Deansgate in my sky high stilettos. A rare occurrence for me. For those not so familiar with Manchester, Cloud 23 is housed in that gravity defying skyscraper nestling its bosom into those grey clouds that oft cover the Mancunian skyline. It looks like a skinny tall man with a slight pot belly overhanging at 20 stories. Albeit an elegant one that.
I was whizzed up the 23 flights at what felt like rocket speed to Cloud 23. My ears popped, that’s how high it was. Having had a severe dislike of lifts ever since Dad took me on the Tower of Terror at 7 at Disneyland, I do avoid them at all costs (I will happily walk 10 flights to avoid them). I was hoping this momentary fright in a confined whizzing box would be worth it.
The other week I pottered on down to the London Canal Museum near Kings Cross for the evening. No, I haven’t developed a newfound passion for traditional British waterway transport, I was off to the launch party for Talisker whisky’s new release: Talisker Skye.
Talisker is one of Scotland’s most famous whisky brands, producing circa 3 and a half million litres of whisky a year! Their distillery is on the Isle of Skye, off of the North West coast of Scotland, and has been producing since 1831.
For those of you following my journey into whisky, you’ll know it’s been an interesting ride. I began by drinking it here in London, guided by some of the industry’s experts. Some I loved, others I loved less but an interest and appreciation was sparked. Next I travelled to Ireland to discover their whiskey tradition, which is sometimes credited as the first (although this provokes so much controversy that I won’t get into it!) but was certainly the largest in the 19th century. Where could my path lead to next but the drink’s modern day spiritual home of Scotland.
Scottish whisky needs no introduction. It is the most consumed in the world and its over 109 distilleries account for a quarter of the UK’s food and drink exports. Yet my tickets arrived and I was not going to the Highlands, nor to Islay and no, not even to Speyside. I was travelling to Fife, to a tiny fishing village on the coast called St Andrews. Golf was not on the itinerary, the Kingsbarns Distillery was.
Supper clubs are a movement I support whole heartedly. I love the idea that chefs or amateurs alike have a newly trendy medium by which to express themselves, freed of the shackles of a permanent restaurant site and the bounds perhaps set by investors. They allow some truly niche concepts to gain a popularity that wouldn’t be possible otherwise. I’ve come across Game of Thrones themed supper clubs, for example, and crazy medical themed ones. From the sublime to the ridiculous, I’ve seen it all and much of what I have seen I have loved.
Recently I went down to a supper club sponsored by Woodford Reserve Bourbon up near Islington called Smoke and Salt. This club is run by two professional chefs Aaron Webster from Heston Blumenthal’s Dinner, and Remi Williams from Deauxave in Boston. With a combined restaurant experience of 10 years, they decided to step out from behind the Michelin passes and try their hand at their own ideas and so Smoke and Salt was born.
Day two arose in Cork with sore heads and sleepy eyes for all of the 50 odd fellow journalists on the Jameson Irish Whisky trip. Sunday’s full day of imbibing whiskey at the Old Midleton Distillery and cocktails over the course of what became a very late night was catching up with us all and Monday’s breakfast was a sedate affair.
The Castlemartyr Resort sorted us out in true 5 star style with a full Irish breakfast and a take away bag for our 3 hour coach transfer to Dublin bursting with bacon butties, water and strong, strong coffee. Exactly what the doctor ordered. It was sad to say goodbye to this place and I wished I could have taken even a fraction of its tranquillity back to London with me. There was little time for melancholy though – we were on our way to Dublin for a full day and evening of St Patrick’s Day celebrations!
In case you hadn’t noticed yet, I’m pretty greedy. I like to eat. A lot. Consequently my favourite style of dining is grazing. The act of dipping from plate to plate, nibbling this and that and with no end in sight – could there be a more satisfying way to dine?
So when I was told that there was a new style of grazing dining being bandied about, you can imagine my excitement. With piggy little eyes lit up, I gleefully accepted the invitation by speciality cheese brand Castello to come and try ‘smorging’- the new Scandinavian trend of grazing, based on the smorgasbord.
The ethos behind smorging, we were told by acclaimed Scandi TV chef and food writer, Trine Hahnemann, is all about family, friends and relaxation. Fridges and store cupboards are raided, cheeses and cold cuts pulled out and all laid in a generous spread for people to dive into over the course of an evening. Whilst the chat sounded lovely of course, let’s face it - I was there to gorge on delicious cheese.
I must say out of all cuisines, Mexican had to be my least favourite until recently. Too often had I gone out with the hope of a spicy exotic treat, only to presented with greasy slop, insipid guacamole and soggy tortilla chips. Even at Uni all that I had really experimented with was getting jiggy with a sachet of o del paso fajita mix. Alright after 5 cans of Stellas but really, for me Mexican was not the one.
That was until I stepped foot into Pinche Pinche in Chapel Allerton. A small little cabin of a restaurant, possibly only about 40 covers, dimly lit and with cute little touches all around. My frown had already turned upside down.
The welcoming waitress sat us down at our table. We smashed through 2 caipirinas in no time. About as revitalising as an alcohol based cocktail can get, however the perfect accompaniment to the dishes that were to come.
FoodGoblin reviews The Refinery, a newly launched bistro and bar near Warren Street and London Euston, London.
Amazing cocktails, decent food and a beautiful, Scandinavian inspired space.
5 Brock Street, Regent’s Place NW1 3FG
0845 468 0106
Video & editing by Callum Male (@Callum_M)
Ireland. For those of us in the UK it’s that green isle but a short hop from us on any low budget airline, heralded for craggy coastlines and, let’s face it, folk fond of a drink or two. For those further afield, a destination hopelessly romantic, perfectly quaint. But how to discover it? Recently I donned my woollens against the chilly Gaelic winds and hopped on the Aer Lingus flight to Cork to do just that on a trip sponsored by Jameson Irish Whiskey.
This weekend I embarked on a most exciting adventure and one that marks a solid leap in the journey of whisky discovery I began this year with FoodGoblin.
One might think that all roads in this journey lead to Scotland. Not so. Historically it was Irish whiskey that was the most popular in the world, with Jameson Irish Whiskey producing 1 million gallons annually in the 19th century, 5 times as much as Scottish Glenlivet. Debate still exists as to who invented whisky, however it is known that the first legal distillery in the UK was licensed in Northern Ireland in 1608. With this in mind and a growing appreciation for this unique spirit, it makes perfect sense that my path would eventually lead back to these spiritual roots in Ireland.
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