More drunk shopping! This time it was Peter’s @SVQconcierge turn, buying his first ever sunglasses after a few too many manzanillas. Very “men in beige”. And just in time for today’s last-minute Córdoba getaway. Gotta catch a train now…
I met Tim @Biltawulf last year when he and his friend Ed came on a tapas tour with me. Then earlier this year Tim got in touch again – he was planning another trip to Sevilla, this time to celebrate his 40th birthday with four friends from London. I was looking for something different for him, and in the end took them out on Saturday afternoon for a Tasting Triana Tour. But as Tim arrived a day earlier than his friends, we met up on Friday afternoon too and he helped me with some Tapas Research. This turned into an impromptu tapeo, starting with cold beers in the sun before heading to Sahumo (which had a new tapas menu I was keen to try out), with a short detour to La Cata Ciega across the street, as we got there before Sahumo was open.
The next day was the tapas tour and then, after Tim’s friends left early Sunday afternoon, we met up again for yet another impromptu tapeo, this time taking in Casa Morales, Abacería Antigua de San Lorenzo and Eslava, finishing with a birthday cake and cava. Then it was time for Tim to catch his flight home. Looking forward to getting together again, either here or in London. Good ol’ Twitter does it again.
As you can see, the tapas tour was a serious affair. Birthday treats at Eslava.
As everyone knows, Tío Pepe is the flagship brand of Bodegas González Byass, probably the biggest of the Jerez sherry houses. The annual Tío Pepe Challenge is a competition for bartenders to mix and present sherry based cocktails, and this year’s Grand Final, featuring eight bartenders from the Americas and Europe, was held on May 17th at GB’s bodega in Jerez.
The setting, in one of the cathedral-like bodegas that has been converted for events and functions, was suitably magnificent, and many of the great and the good from the world of sherry were in attendance as the eight competitors (who all seemed remarkably young) were put through their paces in front of the esteemed panel of judges. The competition started with a blind tasting test of 4 sherries, followed by a test/demonstration of their skills with the venencia, before the main event – the mixing of the sherry cocktails.
Each contestant in turn had seven minutes to mix two cocktails – an Adonis (a mix of fino, vermouth and orange bitters invented in the 1880s in honour of the first Broadway musical to pass 500 performances), and a signature cocktail of their own, during which they demonstrated that cocktail mixing is, among other things, a form of theatre. This meant lots of tasting for the judges (with some samples of various other cocktails for the audience too), but they finally arrived at their verdict.
And the winner… Joao Vicente of the Alto Bar in Berlin for his Jerez Sin Fronteras (black tea infused Tío Pepe, Nectar PX, Nomad Whisky).
The plan had been to pop over to Jerez for the day, take in the feria during the afternoon, and then return to Sevilla in the evening. Then my friend Tomoko @TomokoTours told me about the Tío Pepe Challenge finals happening that evening and I scored an invitation for me and Peter. In theory we could have still come home on the last train while buying the tickets online I thought I’d just check to see if there were any hotels available at a reasonable rate – and there was!
An hour later, with a hastily packed bag and after last-minute “leaving cats overnight prep”, we were in a taxi to the train station. First stop (after checking into our hotel) was meeting up with Tomoko for a pre-feria lunch. Experience has taught me that it’s best not to try and eat at any ferias, so we had a bite at Tabanco Las Bandarillas before catching a bus up to the fair grounds. I was all ready to spend a happy hour or so taking photos of all the beautiful horses but… there weren’t any. I mean, there were the commercial horse carriages that you can hire for a ride around the grounds, but I didn’t see any individual riders other than a small group of them as we were leaving. I first noticed this dearth of horses a couple of years ago, and was told it was due to the heat wave that was going on at the time, and that the horse owners didn’t want to risk the health of their magnificent beasts. But this time, and also last year, were practically horseless, without the excuse of a heat wave. Has anyone else noticed this?
The last time I saw Kate was when we bumped into each other last year at Vinoble in Jerez, and prior to that was the time she came for a visit in October 2013, which was the first time we’d seen each other in over 20 years, since our days working together in Bristol. So when I heard Kate would be passing through Sevilla one a 3-day press visit to Sanlúcar de Barrameda we checked her (jam-packed) itinerary for a possible moment when we could meet up. Which almost didn’t happen as they got to Sevilla an hour or so later than planned and still had to visit the feria and, after my night out with Barbara, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be up for meeting up late in the evening.
So after a bit of frantic texting it looked like it wasn’t going to work out as Kate didn’t think she’d be back at her hotel until after 10 pm, and so I got into PJs and settled in for an evening of netflixing with the cats. Then another message came through – “I’m in a taxi heading for the centre!” – and so we arranged for the driver to drop her in my ‘hood, I threw on some clothes, raced over to the Plaza Alfalfa, and suddenly there were big hugs all round. We popped into a couple bars, more for some wine and chat since neither of us was very hungry. Good thing too because the food wasn’t really up to scratch where we ended up. But it didn’t matter because the wine was good and the company even better. Once again we discussed the idea for a Málaga Getaway including other friends from Bristol and London, possibly in September. I think that would be fabulous.
So this was it! The day I’d been looking forward to and dreading in equal measure. Also it was the main reason for being in London for this particular London Getaway, to be one of the judges at the first World Sherry Awards. I say “dreading” because I had never judged anything at this level before, and wasn’t sure what would be expected. Happily my friend Owen @sherrymonster44 (another sherry educator and co-owner of four fabulous tapas bars in southern Wales) had also been invited as a judge, so I knew there would be at least one friendly face. As it turned out, I needn’t have worried. The people running the event were super friendly and I immediately felt right at home. Or as “at home” as possible at the elegant Caledonian Club, where the tasting was being held. You will have to wait until May to find out which wine was chosen as the winner, and I hope to be invited back again next year.
After the tasting Owen had to get back to Wales and I met up again with Peter, who had spent the afternoon visiting a couple of museums. As we were near Harrod’s – and as I had never been to Harrod’s – we went to Harrod’s! In fact, we decided to do a three-posh-store circuit and after Harrod’s we also stopped off at Harvey Nichols and Fortnum & Mason. I think a few years ago I would have found these places more interesting, especially the food courts. Anyhow, we stopped for a drink in the upstairs lounge at Harvey Nicks, as we still had a couple of hours to go before meeting up with John again. Then we found out John was going to be delayed, so we went off in search of a pre-pub snack in nearby Soho.
My first choice, Boca di Lupo, was already packed at 6.30 pm and we were told to come back in an hour or so to see if there was any space then. Uh… no. Then I remembered Zelman’s. This turned out to be an excellent choice. We were immediately shown to a comfy spot in front of the glass-walled “open” kitchen and our server couldn’t have been nicer. So different from the “fake-friendly” treatment elsewhere the previous day. Our snack was a massive smoked beef short rib, which we shared with a side of triple-fried chips. We honestly wished we were hungrier so we could try more dishes – Zelman is already at the top of the list for my next London visit.
By the time we met up with John I was pretty tired, so we just had a couple of drinks and a nice chat before I called an Uber to take us home.
Owen finds a secret passage behind fake bookshelf door at the Caledonian Club
cool Tudor style buildings just off Regent Street
the Egyptian escalator in Harrod’s
chillin’ and rechargin’ at Harvey Nicks
fall-off-the-bone smoked beef short rib at Zelman Meats
triple-fried chips with Holy Fuck mayo (their name, not mine)
pubbing with John and Peter
Last year I attended the first edition of Vinos de España – Una Pasión that was held in Sevilla and had a lovely time. I mean really, who can resist the prospect of being able to “visit” over 45 bodegas in one day? This time I did my best to branch out and try some new stuff, starting off with white wines (before hitting the reds), and was pleasantly surprised by wines from different regions that I wasn’t familiar with. THEN I bumped into Alex, another sherry educator, and after that we kind of gravitated to the sherry room and got stuck in there. Ah well… it was a wonderful afternoon. And as always great meeting up with sherry friends.
I met the lovely Ania @ania_marchlik a few years ago in Las Teresas, and so it seemed fitting that while we were out celebrating her 10th Anniversary of living in Sevilla that we would end up there. Though we started off the day’s celebrations revisiting another spot with fond memories for both of us – the Corral de Conde – a “patio de vecinos” where Ania and her friend María once hosted a Peirogy Party in the fabulous courtyeard there. Then we stopped off at another of Ania’s favourite places, Taberna Quitapenas, before heading for a sumptuous lunch across the street at La Quinta.
Before and After (no more wine… oh hey! cava!)
It was after lunch that we found ourselves at Las Teresas, sitting at the very spot where we first met. We had a nice chat with Rafael, enjoyed some of his perfectly sliced jamón and then, as so often happens, we ended up at The Office (AKA La Azotea) for a Penúltima.
TUG-O-JAMÓN – yep, kinda drunk at this point
Ania has gone from acquaintance to work colleague (she is also part of my fab We Love Tapas team) to cherished friend. I can always count on her honesty and discretion and, besides that, we always have so much fun together. So happy we met.
So there I was – as usual – making last minute bodega visit plans via Twitter and WhatsApp the day before my trip… and mostly that worked out, except that two of the bodegas I wanted to visit weren’t available at such short notice. Really, it was probably enough seeing five bodegas in two and a half days, but I am always left wanting more. I think I might plan a longer stay in Jerez soon and make day trips to Sanlúcar and El Puerto while there, and keep it down to one bodega a day. Well, maybe two now and then… 😉
This time the bodegas were all very special in their own way, as bodegas tend to be, but there were also a couple of totally blow-me-away moments. I’ll write about this more over on my BRAND NEW Sherry Educator pages on Sevilla Tapas. But please be patient, because it may take awhile to get them set up properly. You can have a look now, but things are very much still “under construction”.
Meanwhile, a sneak peak of where I visited this time…