Lifestyle

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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Well, viniculture is one enduring legacy all bon vivants should be thanking the Romans for.  They had vineyards as far north as Lincolnshire but by the 19th century production had almost died out mostly due to pests.

Thankfully with the huge demand in the UK for locally sourced products and the increasing interest in food and drink from small producers, the English wine industry has been well and truly resurrected in the 21st century.

As a whole the UK’s wine industry has upped its game in recent years and has continued to make its mark in international rankings as customers are increasingly realising the high quality of the wine produced in the UK.  As a result of this demand a greater number of producers are flocking to the market.

Group-shot-in-vineyard,-with-medal-stickers

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I can still remember vividly what the late European Director at Wines of Chile (a generic organisation), Mr Michael Cox, said in a Chilean wine seminar in London a few years back.  “For a long time,” he said with an amused expression, “Chilean wines can only satisfy demand but can’t excite.” Back then, those seminar attendees smiled in agreement. But now, people can grin for Chilean wines for many good reasons, as wines from Chile have never been so exciting.

One of the driving forces behind the rapid transformation of the image of Chilean wines has to be attributed to Mr Eduardo Chadwick, the President of Viña Errázuriz.

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Some-Chilean-wines-are-gaining-iconic-status

I was all over the place attending wine fairs in the first half of 2015. First up was an organic wine fair in Montpellier in January, followed by ProWein in Düsseldorf. Then came the London Wine Fair in early June. In mid-June, I found myself in Bordeaux for the biennial wine fair, VINEXPO.

There are so many different wine fairs in Europe. Are they all that different? Do you need to attend all of them?  The answer, though it depends, is probably “No”.  For me, if I have to pick only one to attend, I will most likely choose the well-organised and super effective annual ProWein in Düsseldorf. After all, who can beat the German for their efficiency?

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VINEXPO-2015__Credit_Vinexpo