Booming good bakes for garden parties

Round & About

Food & Recipes

We’re serving up a slice of inspiration ahead of the National Garden Scheme’s Great British Garden Party, raising funds for great causes

Victoria Sponge with a twist
This recipe comes from Sarah Prall

Ingredients:
• 175g self-raising flour
• 175g unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and softened
• 175g caster or vanilla sugar (plus a little extra to finish)
• 3 medium eggs, lightly beaten
• 250g mascarpone
• 150ml double cream
• Punnet of raspberries
• 3-4 tbsp soft set raspberry jam
• 2 tbsp fine white sugar
• 1 tsp rose extract
• Pinch of sea salt
• Garden roses to decorate

Instructions:
• Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas mark 4, Prepare two 8″ cake tins, well greased and then lined.
• Sift the flour and salt together into a bowl and put aside.
• In a large mixing bowl beat the butter to a cream.
• Add the caster sugar and continue to beat until the mixture is very light and creamy.
• Add the eggs, about a quarter at a time, adding 1 tbsp of the weighed-out-flour with each addition and beating thoroughly before adding the next. Beat in the rose extract with the last of the egg
• Sift in the rest of the flour, half at a time, and use a large metal spoon to carefully fold it in.
• Divide the mixture equally between the prepared cake tins, spreading it out lightly and evenly with the back of a spoon. Bake in the centre of the oven for about 25 minutes or until the cakes are lightly golden and spring back into shape when gently pressed.
• Leave the cakes in the tins for a couple of minutes before turning them out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
• Make the rose and mascarpone cream.
• Beat together cream, mascarpone, and a couple of drops of rose extract in a large bowl with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy.
• Add sugar gradually, mixing continuously until frosting is smooth and stiff peaks form, about 5 minutes.
• Use immediately or store covered in the refrigerator.
• When the cakes are cold, spread one cake with the raspberry jam, and add a layer of fresh raspberries.
• Spread half the mascarpone cream over the other cake and gently place on top of raspberry layer.
• Spread the remaining cream mixture on to the top of the cake and refrigerate. When you are ready to serve dress the cake with fresh garden roses.
* For an extra special twist, if you have any, place three or four deliciously scented geranium leaves, such as Mabel Grey or Attar of Roses, in the base of the lined tin. Remove when the cake is turned out to cool.

Lisa’s zingy lemon drizzle cake
Lisa from Thames Hospice has shared their zingy lemon drizzle cake recipe.

Ingredients for the cake
• 125g butter (room temperature)
• 175g caster sugar
• 2 large eggs
• 175g self-raising flour
• 4 tbs milk
• Zest of 1½ lemons (unwaxed)

Ingredients for the lemon syrup:
• Juice of 1 lemon
• 100g icing sugar

Ingredients for the lemon icing:
• 75g icing sugar (sieved)
• Juice of ½ lemon

Instructions:
• Preheat your oven 180C / 160C (fan) / Gas Mark 4
• Butter and line a 450g loaf tin
• Make the sponge by creaming the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, add the eggs one at a time along with a little of the flour (this stops your mixture splitting) add the lemon zest , beat well. Add the remaining flour, fold in gently but thoroughly, followed by the milk. Spoon mixture into your prepared loaf tin and bake for approx. 45 mins (ovens vary so do keep an eye on it!) it should be golden, risen and a skewer (or knife) when inserted should come out clean. If you find it is browning too quickly you can place a piece of foil over the top.
• While your cake is baking, make the lemon syrup by adding the lemon juice and icing sugar to a small saucepan and heat gently until all the sugar has dissolved.
• When your cake is baked remove from the oven and puncture the top of the cake all over (use a skewer, knife of long pronged fork). Pour over the syrup ensuring it covers the top of the cake evenly, don’t worry your cake will absorb all the syrup like a sponge!
• Leave your cake to cool completely before removing the tin, don’t be impatient!
• Once the cake is cold, carefully remove from the tin and place on a plate.
• Make the lemon icing by sieving the icing sugar into a bowl and bit by bit adding lemon juice until a smooth, thick (but still pourable) icing is made, you may not use all the lemon juice or you may need to add a little boiling water to slacken if not enough. Drizzle the icing over the cake however you wish, let the icing set then enjoy!

For more inspiration on planning your own party, or to donate to life-changing charities, please visit ngs.org.uk/gardenparty/.

Summer sizzlers

Round & About

Food & Recipes

June heralds the start of summer and that means one thing – spending time in the garden with your nearest and dearest with a drink in one hand and a burger in the other, enjoy!

Can there be anything better than enjoying lazy summer days in the company of friends and family soaking up the sun’s rays while sipping something cool and refreshing in your garden?

With the image in your head and before you reach for another ice cube to plonk in that drink, there’s some prep to do.

There’s something special about sitting out eating on your patio or decking that feels almost luxurious, perhaps thoughts of sun-soaked holidays are in your mind, so how to recreate that at home.*

Imagine your outdoor space is another room in your home, the lawn is the carpet, plants the decoration, you get the idea so just as you’d fashion your indoor space why not do the same outdoors with a few additions / exceptions / tweaks.

The biggest difference of course, is that you are outdoors so top priority has to be shelter or a shade of some variety to allow for the vagaries of the great British weather. We all know how unpredictable it can be but don’t let that deter you and yours from dining al fresco. Shades, sails and awnings have become popular in recent years to add a stylish touch and are the ideal way to protect you from a shower and also to ward off excess heat. Depending on your home and garden, perhaps a pergola, gazebo or lean to is a more permanent option?

Bridge the gap between home and garden with a sleek, high quality, durable awning from Outashade. Available in a variety of styles from traditional to contemporary, they feature modern hard wearing fabrics and boast lightweight folding arms. Most awnings are motorised now, but they also offer manual operation for less frequent use. Outashade give you a shaded patio and a cool home – a winning formula. Visit outashade.com to view the full range of their products.

Don’t neglect your ‘flooring’ once you’ve dealt with the ‘ceiling’. A large colourful rug enhances the indoors out idea, hard wearing and weather resistant, they’ll add to the outdoor lounge look.

If it’s going to be a late night, you’ll need some well-thought out lighting to keep the party going – solar powered ones are a popular choice, from strings of fairy lights to lantern styles available in brilliant or warm white or add a splash of colour.

You’ve created your ‘room’ so now it’s time for the good stuff, bring on the food and drink. Perhaps you’re a stalwart fan of the original BBQ, no summer garden feast is complete without one, whether it’s the traditional kettle style, gas powered for cheats, or you’ve gone the whole hog and got a brick built one and talking of brick built additions, pizza ovens have grown in popularity over the past few years and with an endless array of toppings to choose from to conjure up your perfect pizza, why wouldn’t you?

If you’re in need of inspiration, head to Ascot Racecourse on July 20th and 21st for Smoke and Fire Festival where you can enjoy family fun with gourmet barbeque flavours from award-winning street food vendors and pop-up restaurants. Get up close with live fire and BBQ demos and smokers. Rides, workshops, a mini real ale and cider festival and live music all add to the entertainment.

If space allows and you really want to go all out then there’s no better way to really bring the indoors out than with an outdoor kitchen, guaranteed to add the wow factor.

Storage space is a useful addition so you can leave some utensils there permanently and of course, the obligatory chef’s apron, while a fresh herb garden will enhance the flavours of your food for extra special finishing touches.

You can’t enjoy the full al fresco experience without a drink, outdoor bars became all the rage during that time a few years ago when we couldn’t go out but as long as you’ve got plenty of ice you’ll be doing fine.

Family-run Bourne Buildings in Farnham supply quality garden buildings of all structures, designs and styles fit for all budgets and all gardens. From sheds, greenhouses and playhouses to garden offices, summerhouses, workshops and garden bars, there’s sure to be a building that’s perfect for your garden and your needs. How about an open-sided structure where you can dine looking out over your garden to enjoy the summer fun. See what’s on offer at Bourne Buildings Ltd

There’s a great summer of sport ahead of us with the Euros from June 14th to July 14th, swiftly followed by the Olympics, July 26th to August 11th, and you won’t want to miss a minute so how about adding a big screen to complete your entertaining?

Of course, there’ll be times when you just want someone else to do the entertaining so make the most of our wonderful local pubs in the summer and chill out in one of their gardens with a beer or the quintessential summer drink, a Pimm’s.

* Sun not guaranteed!

All Angels

Round & About

Food & Recipes

What better way to celebrate English Wine Week, June 15th to 23rd, than be raising a glass from one of our finest local vineyards.

All Angels vineyard sits in 31 acres of rolling Berkshire countryside around the small village of Enborne. Just five minutes from the centre of Newbury. A breath-taking world away from the hustle and bustle of the town. All Angels not only sells premium quality English Sparkling Wines! They also offer guided Tours & Tastings at the vineyard and Private & Corporate event experiences.

Boasting views over the site of the First Battle of Newbury, Beacon Hill, Watership Down, Highclere Castle and Coombe Hill, the vineyards and surrounding land hold an incredible history dating back to the 12th century. This includes several eras of civil and world wars and playing home to some of history’s most influential figures, such as Colonel Joyce, William Marshal and the 101st US Airborne.

The Darley family bought Church Farm in 2009. Inspired by friends with a successful vineyard much further north, and a confident analysis by one of the country’s leading viticultural consultancy firms – “Perfectly aligned, south-facing slopes of four to six degrees providing optimal sunlight exposure; free draining sandy loam over green sand with warming gravel and flint; ideal growing conditions for optimal grape ripening” – they began the business of growing grapes and producing wine.

Since then, Mark Darley has retired from his City job. Now focusing all his attention on refining the brand All Angels. Including by:
• An uncompromising dedication to outstanding quality in the vineyard, winery and bottle. From how the vines, and hand-selected grape varieties are nurtured and concentrated throughout the year. Using some of Britain’s best winemakers and facilities, to the elite Traditional Method of secondary fermentation in bottle.
• A firm belief in Single Vintage, Single Estate wines as the truest reflection of the year’s growing season and the vineyard’s land and ecology. Only grapes grown in their vineyards are used in All Angels wines.
• A deep-rooted ethos for sustainability and ensuring that the land and the ecosystem is improved year on year. This includes the creation of multiple wildlife ponds. A 5 acre wildflower meadow and a 250 tree orchard, amongst many other modern and traditional sustainability projects.
The tireless work ethic, dedication to detail and passion for stunning, premium quality, fine sparkling wine is now starting to pay off. The industry is finding out just how good the wines of All Angels are…
• In April, esteemed wine critic Matthew Jukes, published his thoughts in a recent article in Vineyard Magazine. “The wines are exemplary…The rare quality at All Angels is patience… All Angels deserves to be a household name…”
• Speaking of household names, Oz Clarke included All Angels Classic Cuvée 2014 Long Aged in his top three for the London Wine Fair in 2022 and in 2023 the most recent Classic Cuvée, the 2015 vintage won 3 prestigious industry awards: Gold at both the WineGB Awards 2023 and at the Drinks Business Global Sparkling Masters Awards 2023 and Best Wine for the Thames & Chilterns Region.
• The areas top Chefs’ are also supporting the growth of this local flavour sensation. Bringing All Angels into their listings and dishes to complement the outstanding cuisine they’re crafting. These include Tom Scade of The Vineyard Hotel Group, Henry Ireson of Damson Restaurant and MasterChef 2020 winner Thomas Frake, who has recently moved to the area.

You can find more information on All Angels at www.allangels.com, including information on buying their wines, how to join a Tour & Tasting or how to host a private event at the vineyards.

Six of the best from Nico

Liz Nicholls

Food & Recipes

Six by Nico is the newest addition to the Westgate in Oxford. Liz Nicholls was lucky enough to be among the first to try it at the weekend

As the city of dreaming spires (with a wondrous view of them from the top of the Westgate) Oxford is known for its old-school charm.

But when a newcomer to the foodie scene creates a buzz, it’s a real thrill. And when that newcomer is an original foodie fanatic who has made his name in other, bigger, brasher cities before landing here, I’m sniffing about for titbits and tasters.

This is how I found myself absorbing the neon genius of an Irn Bru sorbet with a perfect ‘deep fried mars bar’ (actually a very classy chocolate pave & associated bits) in the intergalactic bonsai zen den at Six By Nico.

If you haven’t been to one of Nico Simeone’s restaurants (there are branches in Leeds, Belfast, London, Cardiff, Birmingham, Manchester and his native Glasgow) the concept is magically enjoyable. For £50 a head you can sit back and relax while you’re served a six-course tasting menu (dietary requirements catered for if you’re that person) that changes every six weeks, drawing inspiration from a memory, place or idea. For an extra £39 you can enjoy an expertly matched wine with each course, which I highly recommend you do.

Now, you might hate a ‘tasting menu’. Weeny portions and a lack of imagination at other restaurants might have given them a bad name, but not here. Thanks to hard graft, his Italian heritage, a flawless service team and a real passion for food, Nico knows exactly what he’s doing. The first menu is ‘the Chippie’, a nostalgic chip shop-inspired half dozen.

This is no bodged assortment of battered bits, instead you’ll find the courses deconstructed and dreamed up as better variations. From the starter, a mindbending parmesan and tatty concoction with curry oil, through the mains including a ‘steak pie’ of meaty magic which arrives in a smoke-filled cloche for a theatrical flourish to that incredible pud, you’re taken on a journey. But, amid a stonking interior (top marks for the amazing banquettes and yellow leather scalloped sofas) the food manages to sing. It’s not fancy for the sake of itself, either, but the flavours and originality should, hopefully mean this place is here for many changing menus to come. Oxford is stony ground for people to take root (as I know, 12 years after landing here myself) so I hope the Westgate crowd take it to their hearts.

I can’t wait for the next one. And, take it from me, you won’t leave hungry or hammered but with a spring in your step.

Bookings from 20th May. Visit Home – Six By Nico

MEZEMAS bringing the Greek meze magic!

Round & About

Food & Recipes

We chat to Panny Skrivanos whose authentic & high quality MEZEMAS fresh feast boxes are spreading the love from his homeland, and his beloved relatives

Filoxeno is the famous Greek spirit of hospitality and Panny Skrivanos has managed to box this concept and deliver it to food-lovers’ homes.

No wonder, then, that Panny has been winning rave reviews for his meze boxes, delivered across Bucks and Oxfordshire, complete with lovingly written menus and heating instructions. He’s even made a playlist of Greek music on his website if you want to ramp up the Greek vibes (plate smashing optional).

Panny set up the business with his family in 2015 to bring truly authentic, fresh and high quality Greek food to Oxfordshire and Bucks. Originally The Souvlaki Brothers, they spent years catering festivals, events, weddings and parties, opening a busy takeaway in Oxford’s Covered Market but the shop closed following the drastic reduction in footfall after 2020.

“We looked at a way to bring our food directly to our customers and broaden our menu to include the dishes we grew up eating, which inspired us in the first place,” he says. “And MEZEMAS was born! Since lockdown, shopping habits have changed, and it can be very expensive to eat out these days. Our business model allows us to provide really high quality food at a reasonable price. The past few years have also confirmed the importance of sharing time with friends and family, and we hope our sharing feasts will contribute in some way to helping people spend quality time together.”

Panny grew up in Torquay, where his family ran tavernas. Now he loves living in Chinnor with his wife, young son, cat Patti and Dot the tortoise. “Our local restaurants and takeaways are good, but, like a lot of villages, Chinnor lacks a little variety for food, and this also inspired us. Way back, my family originated from Smyrna (now Izmir, Turkey) but relocated in the early 20th century to Chios, in the North Aegean. It’s a beautiful island with great food culture and recipes. I’ve always been proud of my heritage. I’m conscious of a connection to my past when I’m cooking. I often think about my YiaYia and Thea Stavroula who were just the most amazing cooks. They’d probably have improvements to make with my food, but if I can get close to their cooking I’m doing OK!”

“I’ve always been proud of my heritage. I’m conscious of a connection to my past when I’m cooking.”

One myth about Greek food is that it’s meat-heavy… “In fact, for a long time, for much of the population, meat was a precious and expensive commodity. Many traditional recipes make good use of small amounts of meat, and lots are vegetarian and vegan-friendly. Our box contains a mixture of all of these, for all tastes.

“That’s the beauty of meze! I recall one holiday to Lesbos searching for food in a quiet, small village but the only taverna was just closing after lunch. The owner said he had some leftovers; lemon potatoes, dolmades, saganaki etc – and could put some on a plate for us – delicious! That’s a fine example of Filoxeno.”

Visit Mezemas

Hogs Back celebrates the hops

Round & About

Food & Recipes

Hogs Back Brewery blesses hop garden and continues ‘beating the bounds’ tradition

Hogs Back Brewery has held its annual Hop Blessing at its brewery and hop garden in Tongham to encourage a bountiful harvest.

Around 100 people gathered in the evening sunshine to enjoy the ceremony and the ‘beating the bounds’ walk, back as part of the event for a second year.

The Hop Blessing took place on Ascension Day (9th May), the day on which crop blessings were traditionally held for centuries. Rev Claire Holt, of St Paul’s Church in Tongham, blessed the crops and, with Hogs Back Brewery managing director Rupert Thompson, led guests on the walk around the 8.5-acre hop garden.

Image: Guests raise a glass at the Hogs Back Brewery Hop Blessing with managing director Rupert Thompson and Rev. Claire Holt 

Image: Rev. Claire Holt with Hogs Back Brewery managing director Rupert Thompson and brewery dog Basil

Blessings of crops was observed in rural communities and Hogs Back revived the tradition in 2014 when they planted their original hop garden over the road from the brewery and continued it when they relocated to the current, larger site. Currently, the 6,000 hop plants in the Hogs Back garden are climbing up strings, spurred by the recent rainfall, and the brewery is hoping for an ample crop to harvest in late August.

Rev Holt said: “Blessing the Hogs Back hop garden continues a tradition that would certainly have been part of the cycle of hop growing in Farnham for centuries. It gave me great joy to lead the prayers for the Hogs Back hop garden, the brewery, and all who work in them, for this year and long into the future.”

Thompson said: “The Hop Blessing is always a wonderful event, bringing together the local community to remember how important hop farming was to this region. We’re grateful, as ever, to Claire for blessing our hops and delighted to see so many people enjoying the ‘beating the bounds’ walk and a pint or two back at the brewery.”

The Hop Blessing has always been a free event but this year guests were asked to make a donation of £5 to British Heart Foundation, the brewery’s chosen charity for 2024. Hogs Back will be fundraising all year for BHF, especially at the Hop Harvest celebrations in September.

With the hops blessed, the Hogs Back team will now be tending the bines carefully until harvest. Three varieties are being grown: Fuggles – used in the brewer’s flagship Tongham TEA ale; English Cascade – used in its Hogstar lager; and Farnham White Bine – a local variety that Hogs Back revived from near-extinction.

Hogs Back’s Hop Harvest celebrations take place from 13th to 15th September, starting with a ‘Roots’ session featuring original music on the Friday, followed by a musical festival style event on the Saturday and a more family-friendly TEA Party on the Sunday. Tickets are available on the Hogs Back website.

Producer Profile: Graham Beck

Round & About

Food & Recipes

Our wine columnist, Giles Luckett, catches up with Graham Beck’s Cellarmaster, Pierre de Klerk

I’ve called this piece a producer profile as that’s technically what it is, in the same way that a Ferrari is technically just another car. This is probably closer to a hymn of praise. As regular readers of this column will know, I’ve recommended Graham Beck’s wines on many occasions – and rightly so, they’re fantastic, and offer a mix of quality and value that’s hard to find. I’ve been an admirer of their wines for over twenty years and I’ve never had a bad bottle.

So what makes Graham Beck’s wines so good? To find out I caught up with their Cellarmaster Pierre de Klerk to discuss his vineyards, his wine, his thoughts on climate change and wine, and the future of South African wine in general.

Giles: Graham Beck is based in Robertson, one of the cooler areas of South African wine production if memory serves. How important is this location to the quality of your wines?

Pierre: The site is everything. You can have the best vines, the best winery, and the best winemakers in the world but if you don’t have great sits to produce great grapes, you can’t make great wine. Robertson has a cool climate, but within any one vineyard you can have microsites that produce different results. It can be challenging, but it also gives you amazing raw materials to work with.

Giles: How would you sum up your winemaking philosophy?

Pierre: For me, winemaking is about nurturing and respecting what nature gives you. When making sparkling wines, you need to keep your eye on the ball as there are just too many pitfalls. Most of the time you’re working with a mix of grapes from a number of different sites and to get consistency and harmony you need to be vigilant.

Graham Beck Brut (Majestic £11.99). White gold with amber lowlights. It’s elegant, fresh and refined, with a lovely nose of Granny Smith apples, limes, coconut, and yeast. On the palate, it’s clean yet rich and offers plenty of white fruits with hints of honey and spice. It’s perfect as an aperitif, with seafood or white meats and creamy cheeses.

Giles: South Africa makes great wines across the board. I’ve had fantastic Chardonnays, Cabernets, and Pinot Noirs from districts such as Stellenbosch, Walker Bay, and Paarl. Why do you think South Africa is so well-suited to producing sparkling wines though?

Pierre: It’s cool enough to give grapes like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay the long ripening season they need. The sunny, dry climate, low levels of disease and the diversity of the South African soils add colours to your palate to paint the final picture. Chardonnay on limestone in Robertson [very similar to those found in Champagne] is completely different to Chardonnay on granite in Stellenbosch. It’s ideal for world-class, sun-kissed sparkling wine.

Graham Beck Vintage Rosé (Simply Wines Direct £17.99). Deep pink with an inviting bouquet of red berries and blossom, this is fuller than the Graham Beck Non-Vintage Rosé (Majestic £16.99 or £11.99 on mixed six) and has cherry, mulberry and blackcurrant notes, good intensity and sufficient weight to partner with food.

Giles: ‘Right grape, right site’ is a mantra I hear a lot these days, and it’s one that seems to have played a significant role in the elevation of the quality of wines in Australia, Chile, Argentina, and South Africa. Is site selection important to you?

Pierre: Respect the best combination of soil and climate. Site selection matters hugely. Come into our cellars and taste 200 base wines [still wines from which the final sparkling wine will be made] and from two cultivars [Pinot and Chardonnay], you’ll be flabbergasted by the differences.

Graham Beck Blanc de Blancs (Majestic £18.99) is 100% Chardonnay, it’s golden, with a nose that’s delicate yet weighty and complex with apples, pears, toasted brioche, citrus and yeast. On the palate, it’s soft and yielding, with white peach, yellow plum, and red pear fruit offset by honey, spices and vanilla. There’s an intriguing mix of delicacy and intensity that is the hallmark of a great blanc de blancs, and the obvious bottle age has added depth.

Giles: How do you see the future for South African sparkling wines? More innovation? New wines?

Pierre: The future is bright for varietal [single grape] wines. We traded some Pinot Noir for some Pinot Meunier [one of Champagne’s black grapes] a few years ago and we were impressed with the results. We have now planted our own Meunier vines which will give us our first vintage in 2026. That should be very exciting.

There’s been a trend in sparkling wines in recent years to offer ‘ultra-dry’ styles. These low or no dosage – dosage being a mix of wine and sugar that’s added to balance acidity and improve mouthfeel – can be delicious, particularly when they have had some bottle age. These wines leave a winemaker with nowhere to hide, however. Underripe grapes, blending miscalculations and winemaking errors are laid bare.

Get it right though and you have marvellous wines such as the Graham Beck Ultra Brut 2016 (Vinum £19.95), a wonderful expression of this style. Deep gold with a rich, dried white fruit nose, it’s ripe on the palate and displays white fruits, honey and a touch of cocoa bean creamy bitterness. The finish is bone dry, clean, and mineral-laden. This is an intriguing style of sparkling wine that’s well worth trying.

Giles: Is climate change having an impact on South African wine?

Pierre: Climate change isn’t happening, it’s happened. It’s getting drier and it’s getting hotter. I was in Elgin, one of the coolest regions in South Africa, in February and it was 23 degrees at 7 in the morning. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir might not be the be-all and end-all in the future. We’re experimenting with new varietals. We’re excited about the possibilities, but there are challenges ahead.

Thanks to Pierre for his time and keep up the great work!

My last recommendation is the Graham Beck Cuvee Clive (Frontier Fine Wines £42.95) – this is their top wine, their cuvée prestige as they say in Champagne. Made in the finest years and using their best fruit, it doesn’t just take South African sparkling wine to new heights, but sparkling wine in general. Made from vines in Robertson and Darling, it receives three months of ageing in oak before spending five years on its lees (yeast and other bits left over after the second fermentation in bottle) ahead of its release.

The resulting wine is amber in colour, with a complex nose of apricots, dried pears, vanilla and blood orange. The palate is weighty and nuanced and floods the mouth with sweetly tinted green and yellow fruits, vanilla smoke, lime, and salt-tinted minerals. This is a mighty wine that somehow manages to remain balanced and refined.

Mezcalito Chelsea

Round & About

Food & Recipes

Mexican restaurant and cocktail bar in the heart of West London

Located in the heart of Chelsea, Mezcalito is a vibrant Mexican restaurant and cocktail bar specialising in tapas-style Mexican fare and classic cocktails. The extensive collection of over 600 tequilas and mezcals is truly impressive and promises an authentic experience for aficionados of agave spirits.

The menu is diverse and tantalizing, featuring Mexican tapas-style dishes that are perfect for sharing. From classic favourites like guacamole and street corn salad to inventive twists like Mexican sushi, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. The Platos Fuertes sound especially delicious, with options like Enchiladas and Camarones al Tequila showcasing bold flavours.

And of course, no Mexican experience is complete without cocktails. The cocktail menu seems extensive and well-crafted, offering both traditional favourites and innovative creations inspired by different regions of Mexico. The weekly events program adds another layer of excitement, with Taco Tuesdays, live Mariachi bands, and DJ nights ensuring there’s always something fun happening at Mezcalito.

The Tulum Bottomless Brunch sounds like a fantastic way to spend a weekend afternoon, indulging in delicious food and drinks in a lively setting. And for those who enjoy cigars, the cigar menu offers a sophisticated addition to the experience, curated with the finest selections imported from Cuba.

Overall, Mezcalito Chelsea appears to offer an immersive and unforgettable Mexican dining and drinking experience, thanks in part to the vision and expertise of co-founder Oliver Castilla-Tristan. It’s a place where guests can savour the flavours of Mexico while enjoying the vibrant energy of Chelsea.

Sophie Davenport’s best bits of Bucks!

Liz Nicholls

Food & Recipes

For our May vox pop, Sophie Davenport, managing director of Widmer End-based SFE Services, shares her favourite things about local life

Q. Hello Sophie! Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
“I am a mum of two daughters aged 13 and eight. We’ve lived in Holmer Green with my husband Grant for five years now. I’m originally from Maidenhead, and Grant is from High Wycombe.”

Q. What does your company do & what do you have on the horizon?
“SFE Services Air Conditioning & Refrigeration Ltd serves commercial and residential clients in Bucks. This year we’ll be sponsoring and attending the Holmer Green Sports Association Beer Festival, continuing our sponsorship with Wycombe Wanderers Football Club and supporting events for Rennie Grove Peace Hospice Care charity.”

Q. What do you most love about where you live?
“Holmer Green has a lovely village feel. The common has a fantastic playground and is great for the kids to play and for a picnic in the summer. Having shops in the village and close by in Hazlemere is so convenient and saves trips into town.”

Q. What pets do you have?
“A British Bulldog, Lola, a Boerboel called Kion and my daughter has a pony, Jim. Our favourite places to walk or ride are the fields in Little Missenden, Penn Woods and West Wycombe. We take our dogs to Posh Paws in Widmer End and I recommend The Barking Barbers in Stokenchurch.”

Q. What are your favourite restaurants or pubs?
“Old Oak in Holmer Green for the best Sunday roasts! The Hit or Miss in Penn Street, Old Queen’s Head in Penn. Browns & Prelibato in Beaconsfield and Zaza in Amersham.”

Q. What about star businesses?
“Nathan’s fruit & veg in Holmer Green; the staff are super-friendly, and it has a great selection of quality produce. Hildreth Garden Centre in Prestwood is my go-to for a mooch and has a lovely café. The Square café in Holmer Green has the best hot chocolate. I go to Mulberry’s in Beaconsfield when I need pure relaxation! B2 Chalfont Clinic also deserves a shout-out: acupuncturist Kate is second to none.”

Q. Any hidden local gems?
“The bluebells in Penn Woods and Common Wood are a must-see. And the trip wouldn’t be complete without a stop at The Squirrel or Hit or Miss.”

“The bluebells in Penn Woods and Common Wood are a must-see.”

Q. What highlights are you looking forward to later this year?
“Holmer Green Sports Association’s beer festivals in May & August and garage night in September. Hell Fire Caves at Halloween is great fun. Then, at Christmas, visiting Waddesdon Manor with the family.”

Q. Are you a member of any groups?
“BoB [Business Over Breakfast] Club in Wycombe, run by Tina Duggan from Oven Loving. I’ve met so many talented local business owners.”

Q. If you could make one wish for the world, what would it be?
“Id wish for a world free from judgment and full of empathy, where individuals are celebrated for their uniqueness rather than condemned for their differences.”

Spring Reds

Round & About

Food & Recipes

Wine columnist Giles Luckett gives us his recommendations for spring red wines. From Pinot Noir to Malbec, these red wines will put a spring in your step

Hello. Having delved into some spring whites last time, I thought I’d plump for some spring reds as, like wine, I’m all about balance. As the weather continues to break all records for all the wrong reasons, I’ve plumped for wines that will work as well with cool evening suppers as sunny day solo sippers. So, whatever the weather brings, with these you’ll be full of the joys of spring.

First up one of four Pinot Noirs. I could happily have filled this, and several other columns, with recommendations of great Pinots. But out of concern for R&A’s bandwidth, not to mention my liver, I’ll stick with these pretty Pinots for now.

Hurrah Pinot Noir

I’ve often said that Chile is a vine’s idea of heaven; not too hot, not too cold, with ocean views and poor, well-drained soils. OK, so it’s not my idea of heaven, but I’m not a vine. Put its location together with one of the most talented winemaking teams in the southern hemisphere and you have somewhere that even this notoriously fickle grape can feel at home.

The Errazuriz Reserva Pinot Noir (Amazon £11.90) is a great example of how good Chilean Pinot Noir can be. Mid-red, the bouquet offers fresh strawberries and raspberries with a hint of jam, rose petals, and mint. Medium-bodied, but with good intensity, there are plenty of red berry fruits with highlights of citrus and underlying oaky creaminess that’s punctuated by pepper and spices. This was lovely with lamb, but I can see it working well with everything from pizza to pasta, or as a solo sipper with salty nibbles.

I’ll stay in the southern hemisphere for my second choice, the Vila Maria Private Bin Pinot Noir (Tesco £13). This hails from Marlborough, a region best known for its thrilling Sauvignon Blancs, and while this is a very different kettle of fish/bottle of wine, the region’s signatures are in evidence. Rose petal red, the nose is zesty, fresh and positively leaps out of the glass in its eagerness to please. On the palate, this energy continues to show as an abundance of summer berries, rhubarb, and cherries burst forth, followed by pepper and savoury minerals. This is great fun and for the money, it’s great value. Serve this with red meats, pork or pink fish – the acidity means it will work as well as a white.

Staying in New Zealand but heading south we come to Central Otago. Central Otago was the world’s most southerly wine region for many years, but that crown’s been lost to Chubut in Argentine Patagonia. What hasn’t been lost is Central Otago’s ability to craft world-class Pinots such as the Central Otago Pinot Noir 2019 (Adnams £19.99). Getting a Pinot of this quality with some bottle age at this price is a real find. Deeply coloured with a nose that’s dominated by brambles, with touches of black cherry and vanilla smoke, it has a lovely mouthfeel with plenty of glycerine. The dominant tones are blackberry, and boysenberry, with sour cherries and spices coming in at the finish. They’ve not tried to force the extraction, and that gives it a lovely flow and a refined, elegant profile.

France knows a thing or two about great Pinot Noir. And while the wines of Burgundy can fetch eye-watering sums – Leroy’s Musigny 2015 is £144,000 a bottle – brilliantly compelling examples can be enjoyed by us mortals too. Take the Château de la Terriere Pinot Noir Sauvage 2019 (Edencroft Fine Wines £24.35). This full-throttle Pinot Noir, with great depth of flavour that comes from the Coteaux Bourguignons (Burgundy Hills). Strawberries, black cherries, loganberries and savoury-tinted raspberries are all on show, as is a touch of liquorice, spices and cream to the finish. It also contains no added sulphur, which is good for people for whom red wine can give them headaches.

Marvellous Malbec

It was world Malbec Day on the 17th April – so I thought I’d suggest a couple of Malbecs that have recently brought a smile to my lips. The first is the Adnams Malbec (Adnams £8.49). The thing I like about this is that it’s a stripped-down, fresh honest representation of Malbec. It’s not been oaked into submission, they haven’t tried to over-extract it or do something clever, rather they’ve let the grape do the talking. Plump black cherries, damsons, blackberries and an overtone of violets make for a joyful glassful.

My second Malbec is the Los Olivos from Malbec masters, Zuccardi (Taurus Wines £13.75). The weighty bottle is a forerunner of what’s to come. Very dark and inky, the nose offers classic Malbec aromas of blackcherries, damsons, and white pepper. The powerful palate is saturated with stewed black fruits with lowlights of prune and mulberry, given a lift by cranberry, raspberry liqueur, vanilla, and a long, smoky finish. I had this with a steak and it was excellent, but it would be lovely with cheese or roasted vegetables.

Old and New World Classics

As you may know, France is quite a big place. I looked it up on Google Maps the other day, and it completely filled the scree, it’s that big. Being big it can fit a lot of wine regions into it, some of the lesser known of which can yield fantastic wines for sensible money. Take the Château de Sabazan 2018 (The Wine Society £16.50). This hails from Saint Mont – turn left at Toulouse, you can’t miss it – and is made from Tannat, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinenc. The light, sandy soils give elegant wines full of refinement and nuance which need some time to open up. This is just starting to blossom and is showing blackcurrant and bramble fruit with a touch of leaf tea and brown spices. Give this a couple of hours open and serve with the Sunday joint, mushroom roast, or a cassoulet.

I’ll end with a vintage of a wine that’s become a staple in our house, it’s the Yalumba Old Bush Vine Grenache (Latitude £18.50). Australian Grenache has come a long way in the past few years. Once planted for its love of heat and ability to produce abundant harvest, by giving this noble variety the respect it deserves, quality-focused producers such as Yalumba have unlocked Grenache’s fine wine potential. Mid-red, with a lovely, intricate bouquet of red cherries, raspberries and cedar, this soft, yet rich wine, is full of cherry and strawberry fruit, with violets and almonds adding complexity. As good on its own as it is with dishes such as spaghetti Bolognese, falafel salad, or a pizza, it never fails to impress.

Well, that’s it for now. Next time out I’ll be talking fizz with a producer profile of the mighty Graham Beck.

Cheers!
Giles