Category Archives: News & Trivia

The Ivy inside

London’s Best Valued Lunch Experiences

Looking for top notch service and high quality food without booking through a ‘deal’ site?

The restaurants listed below have been recommended by Alex Wijeratna, Fordor’s leading restaurant critic exclusively for Tastour.
Londons Best Valued Lunch Experiences

Here’s a list of the best lunch deals in London right now:


Londons Best Valued Lunch Experiences

Sartoria – £25-£30, 2/3 courses

Italian, glam but relaxed place on Savile Row run by celeb chef Francesco Mazzei


Londons Best Valued Lunch Experiences

Le Gavroche, £56, 3 courses with half bottle of wine

Classic French haute cuisine, Mayfair, old school plush basement time warp


Londons Best Valued Lunch Experiences#

Koffmann’s, £26, 3 courses

Knightsbridge, classic regional French cuisine by legend chef Pierre Koffmann, due to close in December


Londons Best Valued Lunch Experiences

Bar Boulud – £18-21, 2/3 courses

Modern US/French, great value and wide ranging gourmet French/US brasserie joint in the Mandarin Oriental


Londons Best Valued Lunch Experiences

45 Jermyn St, £25.50-£29, 3 course

pre & post theatre menus, off Piccadilly, high class brasserie


Londons Best Valued Lunch Experiences

Spring – £27.50-£31.50, 2/3 courses

in grand setting in Somerset House, Modern British/Italian, highly seasonal

Londons Best Valued Lunch Experiences

Bernardi’s – £18-£22, 2/3 courses

Marble Arch, Italian, fashionable and unfussy food


Londons Best Valued Lunch Experiences

Corrigan’s Mayfair – £25-£29, 2/3 courses

Mayfair, top end game and seafood salon


Londons Best Valued Lunch Experiences

Gymkhana – £25-£30, 2/3 courses

Mayfair, award-winning atmospheric and posh new wave Indian


Londons Best Valued Lunch Experiences

The Ivy - £23.50-£27.50, 2/3 courses

Covent Garden, charming old school celeb haunt

Londons Best Valued Lunch Experiences

Newman Arms – £19, 3 courses

Fitzrovia, amazing value, modern British food in tiny 1st floor dining in a Georgian pub


Londons Best Valued Lunch Experiences

Hereford Road, £13.50-£15.50, 2/3 courses

Queensway, modern British, best value set lunch in town
Decanter PL

Wine Notes and Facts for Decanter Pessac-Léognan Tasting, London

Hello Tastourians,

Wine Fairs are difficult to gather the group around, so I thought I’d share my notes with you. Yes, I am a wine geek, and whenever I go to an event such as this I always research and create a ‘presentation’.  But more importantly, whenever I host an event, it’s all about giving you the best experience.

Pessac-Léognan (PL)

It’s pronounced pay-sac-lay-oh-nyahn… and I challenge you all to say that 3 times fast at the end of the Decanter tasting tomorrow night.

PL is an appellation in the sub region of Graves. It is not actually in Bordeaux, it’s located 25 miles outside the city centre of Bordeaux. But the wines are so far superior than any other in the appellation that an exception has been made. For example, Château Haut-Brion, is the only First Growth property outside the Médoc. This regions ego is rightfully-so bloated, it actually fought and won its independence from the Graves region 1987… that’s boring and legal, and I know why you’re really reading… you want to know the best tables to go to at the tasting.

What is everyone raving about? What makes this wine taste so different than the rest? When you think of Graves, think Gravel. Hey, maybe that’s where it got its name? In fact it is. See not everything I say is a bunt hit to the pitcher. PL wines are extra – earthy and some say the most soil-driven of all the wines in Bordeaux. But that’s not all. This region has the hottest micro-climate of Bordeaux, meaning that the wines will be richer and fuller in body; much more like those of its southern neighbours and new world brothers.

You may get the following: Roasted Meat, Tobacco, Leather, Iron, Spice

Here’s a Tastour Tip: Pessac and Léognan are two different villages 6 miles (10Km) apart, with Léognan being the most southern region . So, if you’re looking to strike up a conversation with that gorgeous blonde, that one will surly win him or her over.

Here’s another interesting fact: During the English Reign of France, they exported barrels of wine from Graves to England. Making Grave the first French wines exported. This is slightly ironic, as the main export today is timber. Unlike many of the other regions in Bordeaux this area is densely populated with forest.

Drum roll, please… I have one more. I have heard that Haut Brion is credited for being the first Bordeaux wine to receive a professional review on April 10th 1663. What do you think Samuel Pepys would say about Robert Parker? hummm.

So what about the whites? Whites are rare in Bordeaux. However, you’re in luck. The most prestigious whites in Bordeaux come from this region, in fact 20% of the wines from PL are white). When you see one, take note of its age. I’m often telling you to drink Sauvignon Blancs young. This is not the case for wines from Graves. They often age up to a decade. I sure hope Decanter has lined up a few for us to try! These will not be the fresh fruit driven Sauvignon Blancs you are used to. They will be made fat and round, by obsessive lees-feeding and oak soaking greedy grapes. For me, a little bit of greed is a good thing, and I hope you don’t mind if I exhibit the same as I love this style of white. Uncommonly for Old World wines, producers of this region treat their whites like an aspiring actress. They’ve has slight cosmetic surgery… like a bit of Botox and a citrus peel. A little goes a long way, and under the knife of a good surgeon can perform miracles. In case you’re wondering, the grapes they use are Sauvignon Blanc (minimum 25%, Sémillon and small amounts of Muscadelle. You might be able to smell orange blossom and passion fruits (if you’re not too busy chatting away)

Okay, so you’ve read this far, and your reward is the answer to the million dollar question…
Kelly, There are 16 Grand Cru Classés, which ones are going to be at the Decanter Fine Wine Tasting?

It would be mind blowing if all 16 were there – for £25. However, there is a fantastic selection and all 23 producers offer fantastic wines.

I’ll give you a little tip – if it says Cru Classé de Graves (then go there first, as they will be out of wine by 7pm) On this list, the best are: Oliver, Couhins Lurton, Domaine de Chevalier, Carbonnieux, Malartic-Lagraviere

When they run out, the Tastour Tip, is to go to these underdogs: Larrivet Haut-Brion, de Fieuzal, La Louvière, de Rochemorin

What are the best vintages? Well with a the exception of Haut-Brion, and Mission Haut-Brion, the region wasn’t on the wine investment map. Things really changed from 2005, so if you are looking for some bargain investments, start with this vintage.
I’d love to hear what the producers are saying so do ask, and post it in the comments.

Looking forward to seeing you all there! Hope these notes help.


Clean and fresh... you can drink it by the pint. Photo by Citronodlingen / Lemongarden

What is Extra Virgin Olive Oil?

Olive Oil: Now With Bonus Virgins!

While “extra virgin” is subject to all kinds of interpretation, the process it describes is not. Many mainstream olive oil manufacturers seem to believe that they can interpret the guidelines for what virgin olive oil really is. In fact, there are legitimate standards for what constitutes this.

What is Extra virgin olive oil? It is oil that came from olives that were pressed and packaged. Yes, it really is that simple. The alternative method to pressing involves the use of heat or chemicals to extract the oil. These methods usually result in a less satisfactory oil, which given it’s thick consistancy, unless you have the palate of card board box, it isn’t usually good for much more than use as cooking oil.

Unfortunately, the quick solution to low sales of a substandard product is to market that product as being much better than it really is. Thus, poor-quality olive oil is often branded as “extra virgin” olive oil. This process can be likened to an evil witch caking on the makeup to hide her visually offensive face, whilst trotting around telling any and all who will listen that she “really is beautiful”.  When it comes to food and drink packaging, it’s what on the inside that counts. Don’t be fooled by the makeup… and learn to read the labels.

What is Extra Virgin Olive Oil?

Like wine, the good stuff varies with the terroir of the region and variety used. Some flavours you may recognise are: sundried tomato, grass, artichoke and pepper. Photo by Citronodlingen / Lemongarden

So, how does one find the real extra virgin olive oil? Look for the words “cold pressed”, “PDO”, or “PGI” on the label. In a perfect world, these would indicate that the oil is of a higher quality. However, there aren’t enforced restrictions on the label wording of the packaging. So, ultimately, the truth lies in the taste!


Do you have a favourite Olive Oil product that you’ve enjoyed?  Or a memory you’d like to share? We love to hear from you in the comment section below.

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If you’d like to enjoy a tasting experience with one of our professional and experienced presenters, why not join us at our next event?

Ask us how we could customize an event that suits your exclusive tastes and needs.

Thirsty to read more?

History of the Olive 101
Those Oily Olives

Prosecco – the bare facts

  • A high-quality Italian wine
  • Generally dry and mainly either fully sparkling (spumante) or lightly sparkling (frizzante, gentile)
  • Generally lower in alcohol than most wines: about 11 to 12 percent by volume
  • Unlike Champagne, it’s appreciated for its fresh, light, simple taste and complex aromas
  • Flavour is intensely aromatic and crisp, with hints of yellow apple, pear, white peach and apricot
  • Great as a mix for cocktails
  • The main ingredient in the Bellini cocktail and Spritz cocktail, commonly in a Mimosa, and the Italian cocktail, Sgroppino
  • A less expensive, quality substitute for Champagne
  • Mass world-wide increase in popularity since the late 90’s
  • In Italy, Prosecco is enjoyed as a wine for every occasion. Outside Italy, it is most often drunk as an aperitif, much like Champagne.
  • Produced from the Glera grapes in theProsecco – the bare factsregions in Italy, and traditionally in the hills north of Treviso
  • Is now produced in other countries, such as Brazil, Romania, Argentina and Australia
  • To guard against cheap imitations, an association of traditional Prosecco growers instituted a protected designation of origin status for Northern Italian Prosecco under European law
  • Tastes different to Champagne due to the fact that secondary fermentation takes place in tanks (spumante varient), as opposed to in the bottle
  • Approx. 150 million bottles are produced annually
  • Production amounts to hundreds of millions of Euros annually
  • According to the EU Sweetness of wine Regulations, Proseccos are labeled “Brut” (most dry), “Extra Dry” (medium dry) or “Dry” (most sweet).
  • Unlike Champagne, it grows stale in the bottle over time
  • Should be drunk as young as possible, generally within 3 years of vintage
  • Top-quality Prosecco can be aged for up to seven years

Read more about Prosecco:

Heavy on flavour, light on the pocket book