Saturday, 18 June 2011

The Great British Summer

Yesterday, the heavens opened.

Today, the heavens are still open but not so much as yesterday.  Today, it's a bit like God is turning a giant tap on and off and on again.  He's playing games with me.  Just when I think it's safe to go back into the garden, woosh, down it comes again.

Yesterday, we went out for a meal.

The lovely wife booked us into Aspleys at the Lanesborough Hotel, Hyde Park Corner.  A swanky hotel for the rich and famous.  And us.

London was flooded as we splashed our way past the Top-hatted clientele who stood in the doorway awaiting their carriages.  Rolls Royces and other large automobiles queued outside, one by one picking up their rich masters who dashed the 3 feet in the rain to the already opened car doors. 

On we went, but alas our table was not ready.  "Would Sir care to wait in the bar..?" A cocktail for the lady and a non-alcoholic fruit juice for me although why I bothered getting a £13 non-alcoholic cocktail is lost on me now.

Aspleys is billed as a Heinz Beck restaurant who has 3 Michelin stars.  He might oversee Aspleys, he might put his name to it and he might have trained some of it's chefs, but 3 stars it ain't.

We had a top table booking so for £45 a head, we were treated to a glass of champagne, starter, main and desert.  We went for a bottle of the cheapest wine on the menu, at £30.  Some bottles on the menu were listed at over £2,500 which seem a bit excessive for a night out so we sprang for something a little cheaper.

As it was a top table deal, the menu was limited but as there were only the two of us, we went for something different for all courses which basically covered the menu.  Unfortunately, neither choices were much good.  The food looked good on the plate but didn't taste like anything special.  Afterwards, the wife said I could quote her in my blog.  I'm not entirely sure what she said but the following comes to mind..."quote unquote" and "Rubbish".

The main reason my lovely wife booked Aspleys, was not so much the food, or the 3 Michelin stars but the cigar bar which is set at the side of the hotel, in a covered and heated area, full of comfy chairs, a roaring fire which was roaring away in a massive fire pace.  The Garden Room have a very well stocked humidor which is on shelves that you pass on the way in.  This contains all the mainstream Cuban brands and sizes found in most shops but further inside, they have another humidor, a walk in humidor, full of exotic, ancient, aged, rare, and expensive cigars of all shapes and sizes.  Pre-embargo and private cabinets sit proudly in this perfect little room with a smell that was like nothing I'd ever smelt before.  Beautiful. 

The cigar sommelier was a lovely fella but I forget his name.  He was polite and enthusiastic and knew his stuff.  He even offered to show me the around the walk in humidor, pointing out rare cigars, old sticks made by Fidel's personal torcedor, a Cohiba cabinet where each cigar is worth £2000.  That cabinet was sold, awaiting shipping to some lucky sod.  This really was a treat and I was every bit the kid in a candy shop.

Back to the patient wife and my cigar was cut and lit for me.  I went for a Cohiba Robusto which is easily the most beautiful cigar I have ever smoked.  I know I've been going on a bit about the Oliva Double Robusto, but this was in a league of its own.  No comparison.  I really wish I'd bought some of these for the trip to Luxembourg but I can always pick up a few when we're there next week, so no dramas.

We had a caipirinha to start, then I went for a 7 year Cuban rum.  Lovely.  While we enjoyed ourselves, the cigar sommelier came back to us for a chat and showed us photo's of himself in the Cohiba factory, rolling himself some cigars.  He pointed out that the Cohiba factory is closed to the public so this was a rare thing.  Fair play to him.  He also recommended where to stay when visiting Cuba, saying October would be perfect.  So, maybe this year will be the year.

This is certainly a place to bring the Doyles.  Not for the food but for the whole cigar experience which was great fun.

We arrived home shortly after midnight.  I went up to bed at 1am and fell soundly asleep.  Two hours later and my phone goes beerp...a message...from work...somethings wrong...4am and I was sat at my desk trying to sort it all out...12 hours later and I was back home and back in bed. 

Back to now and the weather is like the food last night, rubbish and disappointing and all I want to do is have a cigar.  Oh well. There's still time and with the U.S. Open on the telly, things could be worse.  Comon' Rory!

To sum up, The Lanesborough is overrated for food but great for cigars.  

The Cohiba Robusto modeled by my wife

The view from Southwark Bridge at 4:30am today

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