Monday, 24 October 2011

Weird & Wacky Drinking Experiences in Londontown

By Alwynne Gwilt.

As a journalist in such a big city as London, I’ve been to a fair few funky and fun events. But when I arrived in London four years ago, never did I think I would find myself sitting in a window display at Harrods drinking cognac in the middle of the afternoon, as tourists streamed by, peering in the window at me.The reason for all this fanfare is a rather special trunk that has been made to showcase Martell Cognac, which has been placed in a window display facing Brompton Road at Harrods. The trunk - worth a cool £200k - was designed by Parisian outfit Pinel & Pinel, and took mastercraftsmen over 1,000 hours to create. It comes equipped with all of Martell's gorgeous cognacs, including the L'or de Jean Martell, worth a rather hefty £2,998. Then again, if you can afford £200k for a trunk, I suppose you won't mind that price tag.

And it is impressive, there is no doubt about it. Our event was not just about going to view the case in all its sleek leather and artisanal glory, but also about tasting some of the fine cognacs that were included with it. So, as good intrepid journalists, we all sat around the large table in the huge, classy leather-backed chairs to have a bit of afternoon indulgence and learn more about cognac - a spirit which I am not personally very familiar with - from Brand Development Manager, Thierry Giraud, pictured below.As it turns out, Monsieur Martell was originally an Englishman who headed from Jersey to the south western France (well, who wouldn't?) at the start of the 18th century. He founded his Maison de Cognac in 1715 and the rest is, well, history.

We tasted a wee bit of the company's most famous style, Cordon Bleu - a blend of more than 100 eaux-de-vie - and followed up with the Martell XO, a stronger, peppery flavoured smooth cognac. Finally there was the Creation Grand Extra, a honeyed, fruity and spicy blend, and the creme de la creme, L'or de Jean Martell. The latter comes presented in a crystal bottle, with a gold stopper and hand-painted gold inlay decorating the outside; all rather decadent.



The flavours were immense and as I sat back and enjoyed the delectable delights while tourists looked in, my thoughts wandered to other quirky bars and restaurants in London that I've been to which are fab for a weird and wonderful experiences.

In the daytime, my choice would be Sketch, on Conduit Street. Heading into the parlour feels like entering the world of Alice and Wonderland with its strange decorations and interior design style. If you're there at night, check out the gallery upstairs, which is open from 7pm, and includes a rotating list of video installations by emerging artists, to enjoy while you sup a drink or eat something from the brasserie menu. To book a table, use this booking form.

Then there's the Old Vic Tunnels hidden under Waterloo Station. It's currently featuring a Michelin star pop-up restaurant as a part of London Restaurant Week but always has some sort of exciting collaboration going on, such as the premiere last year of Banksy's film: Exit Through the Gift Shop.

And finally, one can't forget the ever-bizarre Lounge Bohemia, on Great Eastern Street in Shoreditch. The bar is renowned for its strange molecular cocktails and basic, Soviet-era stylings. Think the same colour scheme as Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, only set in 2011 and served with smoking drinks.

Once my brain stopped wandering and I came back to the reality of being sat in the window display at Harrods, I could only think London is a rather fantastic and bizarre place to be on a day to day basis. Or maybe that was just the cognac talking.

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