The Gallivant – an English Seaside Hideaway

May 20, 15 The Gallivant – an English Seaside Hideaway

Posted by in All

I’ve always loved to visit the seaside. As a kid growing up in Central California, we would often take road trips to the beach and stay overnight in little seaside hotels. The Gallivant just outside Rye in Sussex aims to capture that easy going California vibe – and I think they are quite successful at doing that. Situated across from sand dunes so big that you can’t see the long sandy beach on the other side, The Gallivant is a little coastal hideaway on a two lane road that runs past the dunes. The single storey building has been around for 25 years and started out as a beach side café. Roughly 5 years ago, Harry Cragoe bought the hotel and has transformed its into the lovely boutique property it is today. They like to refer to it as ‘a restaurant with rooms’ and the restaurant and terrace are a focal point of the hotel. It’s all very cosy, comfy with a sky blue and white colour motif running throughout the hotel. The rooms are a good size with plenty of lovely little touches like old fashioned black telephones, canvas beach bags and very fluffy bathrobes. I especially liked the ‘Larder’, rather then have a mini-bar in every room there is a large pantry at one end of the hallway that is stocked with artisanal snacks, soft drinks and wine. It’s all done on the honour system, you just write down what you’ve taken and hand in the chit at the end of your stay. I think having it at the end of the hallway is genius – less temptation and all that…. The hotel focuses on offering outstanding products in a relaxed but thoughtful atmosphere. One of their main USP’s is that fact that they strive to provide local, seasonal, high quality produce – 95% of all the ingredients used come from within a 10 mile radius. I love the fact that everything is fresh and seasonal. While I was there, I had...

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Angel & Crown, good pub grub (and wine, too!)

Jan 23, 12 Angel & Crown, good pub grub (and wine, too!)

Posted by in Food and Wine, restaurants

The Angel &  Crown is a new gastropub just re-opened in St. Martin’s Lane. A stones throw from Covent Garden, Trafalgar Square, ENO and numerous West End theatres, it’s in a great location and not only pulls a good pint, they have also redesigned the pub so that the upstairs is now a snappy dining room. The pub was taken over by The ETM Group and has been transformed from an old fashioned boozer into a cozy gastropub. The upstairs dining room is compact but not crowded and has a small bar to cater to diners. The menu is full of British seasonal foods and specialities. I was invited to dine by ETM and they had devised a menu to show off the cuisine. While we were waiting for everyone to show up we had pork crackling, black pudding Scotch egg and devilled whitebait to nibble on, all available as bar snacks and ranging in price form £3 – £6.50. I loved the Scotch egg, black pudding is one of my favourites and wrapped around the egg, was delicious. We had London Bellinis (pressed apple and elderflower topped with Prosecco) to sip on while waiting, a bit on the sweet side for me, I asked for extra Prosecco! One of the things they aim to do is to bring the wine list out of it’s ghettoized existence and actually have wines that you’d be happy to drink, not just watery pinot grigio or a fruit bomb of a cabernet. The first wine we had was surprisingly, a German riesling. Riesling gets a bad rap but the Dr. Burklin Wolf trocken 201o is as dry as they come. A delightful nose of orange blossom, beeswax and white flowers with a bit of passion fruit, on the palate it’s dry but fruity, candied lemon, passionfruit and lime leaf finishing it off. A fantastic match with the potted smoked mackerel and dill, the wine cut right through the mackerel and left me wanting more of both but...

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Chateau Musar – red and white wines of Lebanon

Nov 06, 11 Chateau Musar – red and white wines of Lebanon

Posted by in Lebanon

Imagine a winemaker who’s wine has to age for a minimum of 7 years before it’s released to the public. Madness you might think in this day and age where to hold even a year’s vintage  would be considered economic suicide – unless of course, one was a Port or Champagne producer. That is however, exactly what Chateau Musar does. They age all of their wines both red and white for a minimum of 7 years and sometimes even longer. If they could, they’d hold them even longer but as Ralph Hochar, son of one of the owners explained during a recent winetasting in London, they just don’t have the room in the cellar to hold anymore. The UK is the biggest market for Chateau Musar because it was where they first started exporting their wines back in the 1970’s. They started by importing their wines to the UK and are still their own importers, which is one reason why their wines are very competitively priced. They are unique in the wine business as they have no public relations machinery, having developed their market through a grassroots campaign which meant plenty of wine dinners, tastings and lots of one to one schmoozing. Chateau Musar was founded in the Bakaa Valley, Lebanon in 1930 by Gaston Hochar and has always been a family run business. Ralph is part of the current generation although his Bordeaux trained uncle Serge is head of the house and head winemaker. Serge has been the winemaker since 1959 and over the past 50 years he has trialed various vineyard and winemaking aspects but has always remained true to the wine, striving to make the best wines from the land and remaining true to his ‘natural’ winemaking philosophy. I found myself at the recently renovated Grosvenor Hotel in Victoria for the tasting. On show, we were able to try various vintages from the most recent 2003 Ch. Musar red back to the 1991 Chateau Musar white. Chateau Musar produce Bordeaux like...

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Ch. Musar – Lebanese wine & dinner at The Bluebird

  Ch. Musar is probably THE wine of Lebanon. I can’t think of any others off the top of my head but if you mention it to wine folk, you’ll get nods of recognition and faraway looks even if they’ve never tried it. Ch. Musar situated in the Bekaa Valley, has survived numerous Middle Eastern upheavals, since it’s founding in 1930, always managing to put out a vintage except for the ’76 and ’84 vintgages when the vineyards were caught in a no-man’s land due to war. And even then, they tried as best they could to bring in the grapes. Penny at Bluebird has been busy organizing various events for the Wine Cellar at Bluebird there and a couple of weeks ago I attended the Ch. Musar dinner she’d organized. The dinner was held to launch Ch. Musar’s celebration of chief winemaker Serge Hochar’s 50th anniversary of winemaking. His son, Ralph, was on hand to walk us through the tasting with a surprise appearance by Serge at dinner. The evening kicked off with an informal winetasting in the wineshop before moving on to dinner in the loft of the Bluebird restaurant. Ch. Musar makes primarily red wines but we were treated to their 2003 Hochar Pere et Fils white, an aged wine made from merwah, which is a close relative of semillon. The wine is made to be drunk with a bit of age and isn’t put on the market until after a year after bottling. I quite enjoyed it, ripe baked apples, spicy gingerbread, brioche, complex nose with great acidity. This is a wine that still had plenty of life in it. Penny helpfully supplied canapes to nibble on whilst tasting. Ch. Musar reds are made from various blends of cabernet sauvignon, carignan, cinsault and grenache. The Chateau also believes in using as little intervention as possible, making wine in the traditional Bordeaux way, using  natural yeasts only and no fining. Serge believes that the “sediments are the best part of the wines,” and contribute much to the wine.  We sampled the...

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