Late opening in Chiswick

by Charles Lea

At the appointed hour, a chilled bottle of Barnaut Grand Réserve Brut Grand Cru was pulled from the fridge, it was relieved of its cork and three glasses of perfectly chilled Champagne were poured. After a hard day at the counter, wizened old manager Andrew and his colleagues – the gastronomically obsessed Toby and the suave “everybody loves a Frenchman” Anthony – ingested this most popular of Champagnes and compared notes, finding elegant fruit, a little brioche and some malty notes on the back palate. “OK,” quoth Andrew, “I suppose we’d better let the guests have some, now.” An array of eager faces looked on and nodded in agreement.

Two and a half months late, we decided to hold an “Opening Night” informal Champagne reception in our new shop in Chiswick High Road. We were a little pre-occupied at the actual opening to bother with such fripperies but, having bedded in, we felt we should mark the occasion before Christmas got in the way. So, an array of the great and the good of West London, some of our favourite customers, our fellow traders and new neighbours in Chiswick, and a surprisingly large array of young Toby’s family and friends were invited to relax with nibbles and fizz.

Besides the loyal Chiswick High Road crew, Charles Lea (sporting the evening’s best shirt) and Patrick Sandeman were on hand to put faces to the name and be generally charming.

The truly beautiful Barnaut Grand Réserve Brut Grand Cru was the star of the evening, with everyone impressed by the quality and value – why folks fork out up to £15 more per bottle for famous names with less character, we don’t understand, although we do our best to show them the path to true bubbly enlightenment. Also starring on this nippy Wednesday evening were some delicious breads, olives and picky snacks from one of our new neighbours – Canta Napoli in Devonshire Road. For those rare souls that preferred a glass without bubbles, we opened a Ch la Coste 2008 Blanc de Blancs – a lovely, delicate and refreshing Vermentino/Sauvignon blend from Provence which, for just £8.95 a go, makes for a lovely mildly aromatic aperitif.

After a couple of hours of meeting, greeting, pouring and listening to the copious praise for our smart new shop, friends and revellers were turned out on to Chiswick High Road and told to go home. In return for peopling our event, Toby’s entourage insisted that he took them to dinner and, thus, a small party of us popped round the corner to Canta Napoli to enjoy a jolly nice Italian meal accompanied with a few bottles of Regaleali Nero d’Avola 2007 – a quite charming Sicilian red which exhibits Grenache-like sweet berry and peppered raspberry fruit, finishing with a just a dusting of roasted coffee beans.

A smoked mozzarella with roast veg and a chocolate pizza later (I kid you not) (ooh, and not all on the same plate) I was back on Chiswick High Road myself, waiting for the bus home, reflecting on a lovely evening, and wondering what excuse I was going to give the wife for being so late home.


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