Saturday, January 29, 2011

Cheese Tasting at Le Café du Marché in London

Last Thursday’s cheese and wine tasting at Le Café du Marché was exactly what was needed to slough off the late-January blues.

The restaurant is hidden down a cobbled alleyway just off Charterhouse Square: one of those charming surprises that London tucks away in odd corners. It’s in a converted Victorian warehouse - all huge windows, profusely flowering window boxes, white-painted brickwork and pretty signage. Our event was up a spiral staircase in the upstairs room - featuring very handsome exposed beams, warm brick and delightfully French decorative touches.

I immediately sensed I was in good hands with the staff, who briskly whisked away my coat and proffered a welcoming glass of sparkling rosé. After a brief chat to meet the other Qypers present we all sat down to the main event.

Tom Badcock of Cheese Cellar and Joel Lauga of Great Western Wine had prepared an amazing evening of cheese and wine pairings. Tom especially is a fabulously over-the-top cheese genius (“I grew up on a farm milking goats”), and I scrambled to type notes on my iPhone as Joel’s parade of wines took swift hold of my freshly-detoxed January brain:

“Cheeses are dynamic - they move”;

Thistles are coagulants - hence “milk” thistles - but the ancient Romans used snails to coagulate their cheese;

“Swiss Vicherin killed more people than any other cheese” (Tom was particularly strong on European cheese culture wars);

And perhaps the comment of the night:

“The best Roquefort is put down a cave and stroked for six months by French troglodytes.”

Tom explained that blue cheeses only go with sweet wines, and illustrating the point perfectly was Joel’s choice of 2008 Domaine Castera Cuvée Privilège - a divine wine which is definitely going on my must-buy list.

Tom Badcock from Cheese Cellar (photo by Tiki Chris)

Another stand-out pairing for me was the 2009 Gewurztraminer Classici DOC, Alto Adige, Colterenzio with lactic goats cheeses. I also loved the Rioja with the Vicherin (Mont d’Or).

Cheese-wise it is unfair to expect me to pick a highlight as anything cheesy rocks my world, although I came away with a firm resolve to eat more Vicherin (in season NOW) and to hunt down a Lancashire bomb.

Our hosts at Le Café topped the evening with more Rosé and a wonderful spread of charcuterie and crudités. To finish, a fudgy and deeply flavoursome rhubarb sorbet. What an amazing restaurant - I highly recommend a visit; in fact I am planning to go back for my birthday next month.

Thanks Qype for arranging this truly stunning evening.

Check out my review of Le Cafe Du Marche - I am hedgiecc - on Qype

Sunday, January 23, 2011

London Art Fair

The energy and enthusiasm of the city always amazes me. On a dark, freezing night at the beginning of January - a time to be tucked up in the warmth at home detoxing after December’s blow-out - throngs of Londoners descended en masse on the 23rd London Art Fair.

It has now officially become a venerable institution and it’s great to see the Fair thriving despite all the developments in the London art fair scene in the last decade - at the affordable end, London now has the Spring and Autumn Affordable Art Fairs in Battersea, and of course Frieze occupies the high-end Avant Garde international slot. But the London Art Fair seems to straddle quite successfully the contemporary-ish, affordable-ish well-heeled (and unsqueezed) middle ground - focussing mainly on UK Art.

Much of the stuff on display was familiar if you’ve been to London galleries or other fairs during the past year, but it is good to see it all mixed up with emerging artists and the more affordable side of the ‘big names’. I’d really like a Tracey Emin etching! - and it was great to see again Grayson Perry’s amazing Walthamstow Tapestry (last viewed at the Victoria Miro Gallery) and some of his ceramics dotted around. There was an incredible buzz at the preview evening and so much to see. The Fair ends today.

One of Emily Young's beautiful angels - the way she works with the markings in in the stone is exquisite

A detail from Ralph Fleck's Antiquariat (2010, Purdy Hicks Gallery)

A gorgeous floral by Ffiona Lewis - Window Poppy - Cerulean Blue (2011, Redfern Gallery)

If I had the cash this is the one I would buy - a quietly powerful early work by Derrick Greaves (L'Humanite, c 1953)

Many thanks to Nic for inviting me to accompany him - you can read his review for Londonist here.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

2010 - my year in twelve photos

Appropriately enough for a year packed with political action, I began by attending the photographers' protest in Trafalgar Square against the heavy-handed implementation of Section 44 of the Terrorism Act by the metropolitan police. Retrospectively compared to the student protests of later in the year, this was very genteel.

Lesley insisted I celebrate my birthday and these chocolate-mint cupcakes really cheered me up!

Not an easy month, but one that reaffirmed the preciousness of famiy ties: my sister-in-law had a difficult recovery from a routine operation, and while she was in hospital my niece collapsed on a shopping trip and was whisked away by ambulance for hours of tests. My nephew and I slipped away for a quick pizza. He very sweetly left half of his for his father and sister. Luckily, everyone made a full and energetic recovery.


A volcano who no one had ever heard of blew up in remote Iceland, and it was truly stunning how many of my friends, relations, acquaintances and colleagues its ash cloud inconvenienced. Roy and Glenis (luckily for us) were here already, but were delayed going home. We had a very jolly early picnic at Kew with their two-year old granddaughter Lulu. (photo courtesy Lulu)

A lovely month with many happy get togethers but perhaps the most memorable was an early birthday party at Saigon Saigon for the lovely Sue (another victim of the Icelandic volcano). All Sue's London friends were in attendance.

South Africa's long awaited football world cup started. I joined my flickr and facebook friend Charles for a night of supporting Holland outside London's Dutch pub, De Hems.


John and Caroline, being very cautious types, waited 20 years before deciding the time was right to get married. They did so in high style, in a beautiful forest ceremony at a country house in Somerset, with much pleasant carousing over the course of a weekend.

We all flew back to Jo'burg for my Mother's 80th birthday party at the Westcliff hotel, and a second wedding reception at Inanda country club. It was great catching up with my oldest and best friends in both Jo'burg and Cape Town.

The South African jaunt spilled over to early September, allowing me to post another photo - Sue again, with Mark, at another picnic in early Spring: at the West Coast Nature reserve (home to fabulous displays of daisies, as well as cliff rocks basking in sunshine with terrific views)


A landmark month for me, seeing my first ever paid gig as a photographer at an official event (thanks to Emma for believing in me!) Careerwise, things reached a new level with the company offering me a full-time permanent position working from home.

Snows in November - for the first time since I came to live in London in 1986! On the streets of London things were hotting up though with a series of protests by students against the ramping up of tuition fees (and the shocking U-turn by the Lib Dems on the issue).

I host Christmas! - Actually for the first time since moving to my flat. A super-jumbo turkey kept us all well-fed for three meals running!