Lifestyle

 

We were recommended to try Villa di Geggiano by a friend who knows Chiswick well and things were looking good when we found a parking space just around the corner from the restaurant, a unique experience in London, particularly on a Saturday, and put us in a good mood for our lunch.  At the moment Villa di Geggiano is only open for lunch at weekends and for dinner during the week from 6 pm but we were told that this may change when the days start to warm up and the terrace and gardens can be made full use of – they obviously know their market and when customers want to visit.

Chiswick is not an area that we are familiar with so had not known about the struggling restaurants that had tried and failed on these premises.  Some may have predicted that Villa de Geggiano too were doomed but they had not reckoned with the expertise of the Bianchi Bandinelli family.

Their background is from the highly desirable Chianti region of Tuscany, which is already a firm favourite place with the English, so much so that it is fondly referred to as Chiantishire.  The original Villa di Geggiano, after which the restaurant is named, has been run by the family for over 400 years over which they have maintained and developed the Tuscan estate, each generation taking up the mantel to preserve the legacy.

Villa di Geggiano has been running since 2014 and so far all is going well.  A combination of Italian flair and a love of fine food and wine makes for a winning recipe.

Certainly our first impression was very promising – the restaurant has a lovely large terrace at the front which in the summer would be a welcoming ‘watering hole’ on the way home after work.

Villa de Geggiano in Chiswick terrace

 

Once inside we were greeted warmly by the general manager, Lukasz Borowski  who directed us to the lounge for a pre-lunch drink.  What confronted us was a very elegant room with an eclectic collection of antique, modern and quirky decorative pieces – nothing anodyne about this room and definitely a talking point whilst relaxing over a pre-lunch drink.

 

lounge at Villa de Geggiano in Chiswick

 

lounge at Villa de Geggiano in Chiswick

 

lounge at Villa de Geggiano in Chiswick

 

Presented with a list of traditional Tuscan cocktails from which to choose, it is unfortunate that we elected to drive to the restaurant or more precisely that  I had been voted designated driver.  If this had not been the case I would have loved to have tried a Passion fruit martini or Tuscan Devil both reasonably priced at £8.00.  Perusing the impressive wine list there are 8 from the Villa’s own vineyards made predominately with the local Sangiovese grape.   In fact it is believed that the Bianchi Bandinelli family were the first to introduce Chianti to our shores as early as 1725.

 

Villa de Geggiano restaurant in Chiswick

 

The actual restaurant is quite large, serving a hundred diners in the main room and there is a private dining area at the front of the building .   The large skylight floods the whole room keeping the interior bright and although we did not see it, the restaurant stretches further back to another garden at the back – in warmer weather this will be another lovely al-fresco dining experience away from the busy main street. .

The eccentric decor is repeated in the dining room with a mixture of pendant lights and a strangely green felt covered tree structure – we’re still wondering why even now!

Notwithstanding such eccentricities, the service and meal were par excellence.  In fact I can confidently state that I have not had a better three course meal.  It being lunch time I chose lighter options and started with Burrata con Caponatina di Melanzane, which lived up to its meaning in Italian, buttery – a delicious mixture of mozzarella and cream balanced against the light spiciness of the aubergine ‘stew’.  Robert had his favourite Tuscan dish which he always orders when it’s in season, Vitello tonnato  – this time the thin cuts of veal loin with tuna were accompanied with a saffron sauce, apples, celery and baby gem – he assured me this was no disappointment.

For our ‘secondi’ I chose the pan fried Monkfish with samphire, datterini tomatoes and celeriac cream – it is no exaggeration to say this was simply delicious – the fish was perfectly cooked and the other ingredients balanced the dish, particularly the use of the speciality datterini tomatoes with their added sweetness and seasonal samphire.  Robert went off-piste with the special of the day, Pasta with lobster – being true italians, this also was exceptional.  Not really needed but we had side dishes of small roast potatoes with rosemary and garlic and some spinach enlivened with chilli.

Finally we could not resist the puddings, I had the vanilla panna cotta and hazelnut foam and Robert an apple semifreddo and jelly with white chocolate and crumble.

Naturally a restaurant of this standard is not cheap but Villa di Geggiano is overall good value as the food was exceptional.  Our starters were £8 and £12 respectively and our main courses £25  and puddings at £7 each.

Four years on and Villa di Geggiano is still going strong and I’m certain that there are many more treats in the pipe line to offer their customers.

So don’t just leave this gem to the locals – a specific trip to Chiswick is well worth the effort.  Villa di Geggiano is a special place and the closest you will get to Tuscany in the middle of Chiswick.

I hope that they have broken the curse of 66-68 High Street Chiswick – they certainly deserve to.

 

Chef and kitchen staff at Villa de Geggiano in Chiswick

The skilled kitchen team that produce the magic

 

 

 

Chrissy Jarman Features Editor of The Vintage Magazine

 

Chrissy studied at Southampton University where she gained a degree in Fine Art Valuation and worked for 16 years at Gerald Marsh Antique Clocks in Winchester, now known as Carter Marsh.  Following her departure from Carter Marsh she has been instrumental in the launch of The Vintage Magazine and the design of its website.  As well as being a contributing author she is the Features Editor of the magazine with special responsibility for Arts and Culture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recently I went to Stockholm for a long weekend.  I am not sure if it was due to the cold weather, my habits or just unconsciously trying to stay professional even whilst on holiday, I found myself constantly in search of a decent wine in the supermarket to go with my dinner, but to no avail, nothing was found. The only thing I could see in any supermarket was terrible-looking non-alcoholic wines or beer. I did come across a wine shop on a Saturday afternoon, but guess what, it was closed at 3pm. Coming from the UK where you can buy booze 24/7, I was in shock. Who would close a wine retail shop at 3 pm on a Saturday?

Then my wine-professional-self kicked in. Suddenly I got it. For years, I have learnt that the Scandinavian countries have government regulated alcohol monopoly in place. Now I realize how it works. The Swedish government operates a monopoly on the alcohol retail sales. Anything above 3.5% ABV will need to be sold through the 430 plus government-owned “Systembolaget” wine shops.

Originally, everything, including the import and export, production and both on and off-trade alcohol sales, was controlled by the government. However, in 1995, when Sweden joined the EU, they were allowed only to retain its retail sales monopoly on alcohol. Therefore, nowadays it’s possible for business to import and sell wines to restaurants directly. But to buy wines to enjoy at home, you will need to go to Systembolaget.

As a result, my trip in Stockholm ended up with only a glass of Spanish wine, three times the usual price I would pay in the UK, from Ribera del Duero in a restaurant. But at least it was really delicious!

Museum of Spirits in Djurgarden Stockholm

Museum of Spirits in the island of Djurgården, Stockholm – Photo credit@Spiritmuseum

It seems like Stockholm might not be an ideal destination for wine travel then. However, to my surprise, I found a little gem in the island of Djurgården amongst all the major tourist attractions. It’s a boutique style Museum of Spirits (SpritMuseum – dedicated to alcoholic drinks, not ghosts). Small it might be but it is modernly decorated and equipped with a tasting room, a bar and a restaurant. I went into the special Champagne exhibition first where you could learn everything about Champagne.

Aroma pumps in Museum of Spirits In Djurgarden Stockholm

 

More Aroma pumps in the Museum of Spirits

Aroma Pumps

Just when I thought that this museum was disappointingly tiny, I turned into the main spirits section and was totally blown away. Admittedly, it is not massive. But I was extremely impressed by the well thought through layout and various aroma pumps that are on display.  Aromas of all major spirits such as Cognac, Whisky, Calvados, Bourbon are there for you to sniff. Then more astonishingly, the aromas of many rare ingredients for spirits making, for example, wormwood, which is for making Absinthe is there too for you to smell. Being a wine and spirits educator myself, I have been dreaming of such a ‘classroom’ to show students how those ingredients smell like.  Apart from the aroma pumps, there are different sections where you can learn about spirits making in an interactive way. Even the sometimes difficult to understand distillation process has been made easier to understand by the beautiful animated film that is on show.  In short, this is heaven for people who like to learn more about spirits in a very engaging way.

Slow baked hake with burned onion puree and pickled onions by chef Petter Nilsson

 

 

 

 

 

Apart from the main exhibition sections, there is also a bar and a restaurant called The Dining Room headed by Chef Petter Nilsson who spent 15 years in Paris at the acclaimed neo-bistro La Gazzetta which he co-owned.

Delicious ingredient-focused, season-specific Nordic dishes are served here. After learning all about spirits, admiring the seasonal collections, it is definitely a treat to settle down and enjoy a beautiful and nourishing Nordic meal here. Not to mention that the view from the restaurant is picturesque, which is a bonus!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Museum of Spirits in Djurgarden Stockholm

SpritMuseum: Djurgårdsvägen 38-40, 115 21 Stockholm, Sweden.   Photo credit@Spiritmuseum

Current exhibitions:

 

·         CHAMPAGNE! – Until 30/10/2018

 

·         SWEDEN: SPIRITS OF A NATION – Until 31/12/ 2018

 

SpritMuseum: Djurgårdsvägen 38-40, 115 21 Stockholm, Sweden.

 

https://spritmuseum.se/en/

 

Leona de Pasquale wine correspondent for The Vintage Magazine

 

Leona De Pasquale DipWSET, The Vintage Magazine’s Wine Correspondent

Originally from Taiwan, Leona has been working in the wine industry for more than 10 years as freelance wine writer, translator and educator. She wrote and translated for Decanter Magazine (Chinese Edition in Taiwan), Le Pin Magazine in Hong Kong and is the UK & Europe Correspondent for the most influential wine and spirits magazine in Taiwan (Wine & Spirits Digest). She is also the translator for The World Atlas of Wine, American Wine and Natural Wine. She obtained her WSET Diploma in 2016.

Lisbon

Lisbon

Recently in Millesime Bio (the world’s largest organic wine fair) in Montpellier, I overheard a conversation between a visitor and a Portuguese wine producer.  After tasting some of the impressive wines which were mostly clean and showing pure fruit characters, the visitor challenged the producer by asking, “with a wine [pure] like this, where is the Portuguese ‘terroir’?”

The question is not an easy one. Famous for its Port wine and infamous for many cheap and cheerful Rosés, Portugal wine industry have undergone some dramatic transformations in the last few decades. Huge funding had been injected into many different regions, which helped to improve winemaking techniques, equipment and vineyard management.

But the Portuguese, long been criticised by some marketing experts for their unpronounceable and difficult-to-sell grape varieties, continue to guard and cherish their native varieties and slowly but surely prove to the world that you don’t always need Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc to win sales.

Focusing on what you have, embracing new technology as well as protecting ancient traditions, one can make impressive wines and proudly show the ‘terroir’.

Portuguese native grapes

The Portuguese are the guardian of their native grapes

 

During my short stay in Montpellier, I thoroughly enjoyed trying the below Portuguese organic ‘terroir’ wines.

Mica 2017 Vinho Verde Vinibio

 

 

 

 

Mica 2017, Vinho Verde, Vinibio

 

Made by a group of four organic wine producers in Vinho Verde region in the northern part of Portugal, Mica is their flagship wine made by a blend of Loureiro and some Azal and Trajadura. “Loureiro” means “laurel” and typically shows aromas reminiscent of laurel flowers, orange blossoms, apple and peach. It has refreshing acidity balanced by some residual sugar (19 g/l).

I asked the producer Antonio Sousa Pereira if Mica is always off-dry?  The answer was, “it depends”.

He told me that 2017 was a very dry year in the region and Loureiro had lots of sugar accumulated by the time of harvest.

Every year, Mica has different style ranging from bone dry to off-dry. They just let the nature take its course.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Phaunus Palhete 2016 Vinho Verde Aphros Wines

 

 

 

 

Phaunus Palhete 2016, Vinho Verde, Aphros Wines

 

A blend of 80% Loureiro and 20% Vinhão made by this biodynamic producer. This is not your usual Vinho Verde! It’s quirky but it’s also ‘traditional’.

Using the ancient method of blending white and red grapes, fermented dry with ambient yeast in clay amphora, the wine shows some funky aromas initially, leading to fresh cranberries and herbaceous and earthy notes.

I also admire their wine label which shows a Faun (a mythological half human–half goat creature) enjoying some music whilst the vines and grape juice are working hard together to produce delicious wines.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rick Stein The Seafood Restaurant glass frontIn the past year, the Rick Stein story has been turned up a notch as this well-known ‘Brand’ has been developed and promoted throughout the UK, as one  new restaurant after another has sprung up in every affluent town.

Our first encounter was at Sandbanks, notoriously known as having some of the most expensive real estate in the world, and then at what was ‘The Depot’ a well-loved riverside restaurant in Barnes, where it is now ‘bedding down’ nicely as a new Rick Stein.

Bearing in mind the extraordinary success of the Rick Stein brand, we thought we would go to where this empire was launched, the internationally recognised Seafood Restaurant in Padstow, Cornwall.

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Rick Stein at Barnes view of the River Thames

We had heard mixed reports about Rick Stein’s new restaurant in Barnes, situated on Mortlake High Street.  The Depot had been a much admired restaurant with a fine reputation frequented by a loyal clientele who would be bitterly disappointed if the Rick Stein team fell short of their expectations.  It was by recommendation of a friend and local that we tried Rick Stein Barnes as he had had some mixed experiences with this restaurant under its new management but hoped that by the time we visited those initial inconsistencies in service and food would be corrected.

Just a word to the wise to readers unfamiliar with the area and travelling to the restaurant by train, do not alight at Barnes Station but continue to Barnes Bridge from which the restaurant is only a few hundred yards away.  We unfortunately did the former so then had no idea where we were and had to stand by the busy road, in the rain, hoping a free taxi would pass which actually was not a frequent occurrence!

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Jessica Russell Flint

 

The name of William Russell Flint has acquired iconic status in the Art world as a talented artist who is, perhaps unfairly, best known for painting semi naked ladies in classical poses, which were immensely sought-after, and  acquired ‘cult  status’ in his lifetime, so much so that he was Knighted for his efforts.

His son, Francis was also an accomplished artist, but preferred striking Architecture and superb landscapes, although he could paint portraits if needed, and he was also commissioned to paint Warships in action in the Second World War, and sail training ships like the Sir Winston Churchill.

However, by the time the artistic genes had been passed on to Sir William’s Grandson, Simon, they were not as powerful, and after ‘dabbling’ in the art world for a while, he made the very sensible decision to become a criminal Barrister, and his meteoric career has fully justified this decision, and he was made Queen’s Council in 2004.

He married his childhood sweetheart, the impossibly beautiful Jaqi Verden, who resembled one of William Russell Flint’s models.  Jaqi went to Art School, and designed highly individual leather clothing, which she sold to Harrods and many other London stores.

Jaqi brought her own talents to the Russell Flint artistic dynasty, and she and Simon produced a daughter, Jessica and a son, Freddie.

Jessica definitely inherited her Mother’s artistic legacy and has created the foundations of fashion empire under her own name, designing an impressive range of distinctive clothes and accessories, which are fast becoming a powerful new international brand in this highly competitive market.

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April is the cruelest month, breeding
lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
memory and desire, stirring
dull roots with spring rain
― T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land

Unlike T.S. Eliot, I love April. Who can resist the charm of spring when everything becomes anew?  When young green shoots and spring blossoms of all colours dotted the luscious pastures and birds sing happy tunes. Well, this was pretty much the image in front of my eyes when I visited the Loire Valley in France in mid April.

The Loire Valley is the longest river in France

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Coravin Wine Pourer - sample wine without opening bottle

OK, I’ve heard this: “If you have a Coravin at home, that means you don’t have enough friends.” Well, it maybe true. But recently I got a Coravin for my birthday and I have to say, it’s one of the best wine gadgets that I’ve ever had.

Coravin is simply a high tech wine pourer that allows you to sample wine from a bottle without uncorking it. Sounds like a magic trick I know, but it has sound scientific background behind. Invented by Greg Lambrecht, MIT nuclear engineer turned medical device professional, over 10 years and after 23 prototypes. Coravin, launched in 2013, initially caught the eyes of many sommeliers in high-end restaurants and only recently became more accessible and affordable to consumers.

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The marble lobby of The Savoy London

The Marble Lobby of The Savoy – a portent of the delights of Kaspar’s Seafood Bar and Grill 

There are  hundreds of new places to go and be seen in all over London, but it is worth remembering, once in a while to frequent those icons of excellence, such as The Savoy Hotel because their reputations have been achieved for good reason.and this particular landmark building has been the beneficiary of a multi-million pound make-over.

Some might feel intimidated by such grand surroundings but amongst the grandeur is a dedicated staff that are proud of the excellence and reputation of The Savoy and are at pains to continue working to the same exacting standards for which the Savoy has been famous since Cesar Ritz was appointed General Manager by Richard D’Oyly Carte in 1889.

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Rick Stein Sandbanks Hot ShellfishHot Shellfish with parsley, chilli, olive oil, garlic and lemon juice, mussels, brown crab claw, langoustine, whelks, scallops, cockles, winkles, razor clams,oyster and clams –

One of the Inovative Dishes on Offer at Rick Stein Sandbanks

Recently we were in the magical county of Cornwall where we were fortunate enough to time our visit with an unprecedented period of sunshine filled days.  To be precise we were in Trebrethrick only a few miles from Rock and a short boat trip across the Camel estuary to Padstow, now fondly known as Padstein due to the predominance of Rick Stein eateries.  However, sadly for us on this trip we were unable to try any of Rick Stein’s emporia but on our return we travelled to Sandbanks in Dorset to try the latest establishment in his burgeoning empire.

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