Food & Wine

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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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.


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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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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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Thai curry is just one of those things. If you go to an authentic Thai restaurant and order their staple dish it’s just bursting with flavour and I always love it. I went to a Thai place in Brixton the other day for a friend’s birthday lunch and we all sat outside – yep, that’s right we sat outside in Britain in January. But along came our big bowls of steaming Thai curry and everyone was happy – warmed, satisfied and chipper, if a little numb in our fingers and toes.

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The Ultimate Thai Green Curry

I’ve never been much of a soup person. Other people always go on about how great it is, how easy to make and how delicious it can be. Maybe it’s because I used to eat those Covent Garden soups from the supermarket which are bulked out with butter and cream – and that’s all they taste of to me. Soup from the supermarket, especially Tesco own or even Sainsbury’s own, just doesn’t cut it one bit. And they all seem to have funny, artificial, unidentifiable ingredients, just like almost everything else on the shelves. I’m also really not a fan of boiled vegetables or watery soup (keep broth away from me) – for me it has to be thick, creamy and tasty to the max.

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Who can resist this charming Southern Italian region? Be it the sea, the sand, the sun, the food or the wine, in Puglia, you name it, you get it!

Having a Mediterranean climate, little annual rainfall and the fertile soil, Puglia is heaven for farmers and wine growers and paradise for wine lovers. What’s better, the natural condition makes it easy for farmers to practice organic agriculture.

I visited a few wine estates in southern Puglia last year and was hugely impressed by the organic practices many have adopted and the modern interpretations of the local native grapes: Negroamaro, Primitivo, Susumaniello, Malvasia Nero, to name just a few. One of those traditional wineries with a modern twist is Masseria Li Veli  

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With the festive season approaching, our Wine Correspondent Leona De Pasquale explores why Gigondas wines can be something that spice up your Christmas dinner table.


“The mountains melt like wax before the Lord,

before the Lord of all the earth.” (Psalm 97:5).

Welcome to Gigondas!  Perched on the foothills of the famous Dentelles de Montmirail, it is arguably one of the most pretty wine villages in France.  For long, Gigondas wines have been seen as an alternative to Châteauneuf-du-Pape with equally good quality but offering much better value for money.  But in fact, the two appellations are quite distinct in terms of terroir.

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Gigondas Village