Monday, 28 July 2014

Vinopolis - the art of wine :-)

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Delicious food ahead...

At last we finally got to redeem the vouchers we got at Christmas and visit Vinopolis!

N and I had been before - and enjoyed the wine-tasting lesson so much we'd bought his parents vouchers back in January. So on Thursday we all managed to get on a train to London and go.

We made it to London at last!

We got to Euston then took the tube over to London Bridge and had a wander round the wonderful Borough Market savouring the smells and sight of food from all over the world.

Some of the bakery stalls were out-of-this-world.

Katzenjammers Cellar Bar
However we couldn't linger as we had an appointment with wine at 2pm. Vinopolis is on the South Bank, by the Clink Prison and The Globe Theatre.

Sunshine on the Shard

It was a gorgeous hot day and the whole place was heaving with people - business types in suits on lunch and tourists gazing at the sights.

The Shard was looking very nice in the sun too.

We did have to seek brief respite from the sun at an underground cellar bar - just to cool us down a bit!
Then it was into Vinopolis - where everything had changed since we were there last time. Instead of people pouring you a sample of wine as you hand your tokens over - you now have a credit card-type token and insert it into the enomatic machines to get a sample of the wine of your choice.

London has stylish cash machines!

But first we had to have a master class in how to taste wine. A rather posh chap showed us techniques for looking at, sniffing and slurping wine. One of us had a spot of bother with the slurping - but I won't say who to avoid embarrassment :-)

Then we were let loose with our cards. There was a white wine room - starting at light and fruity and leading onto rounded and heavy. N and I found the one we had liked last time - the Pinot Gris - and it still tasted really good. The problem is we can never find any to buy - it's always Pinot Grigio.

Then the reds - which after the whites did taste a little dry - or maybe I just don't like to much of the tannin.

Trying the dessert and fortified wines I discovered that I loved the sweet chocolate red wine - in fact I had two of them! (Don't worry - these are not full glasses - you just get a small sample of each - maybe a third of a glass)  We each had 16 tokens on our cards but some of the more expensive drinks removed 2 or even 3 tokens from them.

The Enomatic Machines

Life through a glass :-)
Entering your email address in the machines meant that they would send you a list of which ones you'd tried - although mine hasn't come yet. Last time they gave us notebooks and we could write them down ourselves.

Doing a little research  I think the chocolate wine was called Rubis and it seems to be available from Amazon ... hmmm interesting!!


Avoid at all cost!!

We also popped into the Champagne bar and sampled some pink champagne, which was lovely too! Around his time we decided that maybe we should eat some food before proceeding to the Spirit Bar. They have a couple of restaurants and we went for some simple tapas - breads, oils, cheeses of Italy and some rather fine air-dried ham. It was delicious.

In the Spirit room N's dad discovered he liked Absinth! There were four varieties - the white had no wormwood in whereas the green did. There was iced water there to dilute it with as you poured it over a sugar lump on a spoon.

 I tried the Bloodshot instead  - which was like a Bloody Mary - but with hot chillies in too!! It was a bit of a shock - but actually tasted really nice once the burning stopped and you could see again. Not sure if I'd try it again though...

So, it was a pretty successful afternoon. It was after 6pm when we came out blinking into the daylight. It was an incredibly hot evening and we went for a walk down the river - the Thames is looking pretty murky right now, but lots of river traffic. There seemed to be a party going on HMS Belfast.

Anyone for Buoles?
Wandering into Hays Galleria we saw office workers with their jackets off playing Boules in a sand pit in the middle of the arcade. We watched some - applauding politely when one played a good shot.

Keeping the French theme going we went to Café Rouge for our evening meal. I had some very fine croquettes (fish cakes) and the gentlemen tried the beef bourguignon while N's mum had a delicious sweet potato gratin.
It was all really tasty - although none of us could face any wine to go with it!!

Add caption
A little more promenading to help the food go down then it was time to head back to Euston and the Virgin train home. We'd managed to upgrade to 1st Class on the way back (for a very small fee!) and were plied with drinks. We didn't drink many on the train - as you can imagine we were not really up for more alcohol. We had a few to take home though!

One really exciting thing I saw - was one of the book benches! I saw the Julia Donaldson one!! I loved it - we really must go back to London soon and find them all!

Have a look at the Books about Town website - there are some beautiful ones!

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Restoration Project and a fun art lesson :-)

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I am very excited as I have a brilliant restoration project on the go. I was lucky enough to win the auction for an old-style library card catalogue from the Bibliographical Department at Stafford.

The magnificent beast :-)

It is quite huge - it has 72 drawers. Thanks to Al - who delivered it on Friday. It did take some getting into the house :-) We now want a bigger house just so we can keep it and have it in an office.

Well, I'm keeping it anyway - even if it does take up half the lounge. We are not sure how to renovate it. Looking on the 'net lots of people have stripped them down completely, sawn off the legs and painted them modern colours. (Have a look at this one or this one)

Some of the 72 drawers

It seems a shame - the wood on this one is beautiful and it is so well-made. We have started to remove the brass plates on each of the drawers and have experimented with various techniques and substances to clean them up. We tried lemon juice (slow - but smells nice), Viacal (not as good as on limescale!) but the best way seems to be good old Brasso and a lot of elbow grease and old pants!
I think we are making a good job of them.

The inbox and the outbox

Anyone have any suggestions about what to do with the wood?  It is quite grimy - so we are thinking of cleaning it up with some white spirit and them buffing up the natural grain of the wood with some linseed oil or spray lacquer?

Any helpful suggestions welcome :-) N wants it to look all Steampunk with gleaming brass. It reminds him of Warehouse 13 :-) We'll be able to keep all our mysterious artefacts in it!

Naked drawer

I'll keep you updated on progress!

Also this week we did something we haven't done for quite a while - we painted a picture!

This is the one we were copying :-)

I saw in The Sentinel an advert for a Painty Party at Portofino - where you could go along to the restaurant in Hanley and an actual artist would show you how to paint a picture - and you also got pizza! Sounded like a fun idea so we booked  it and turned up. Craig (the artist) and the other would-be painters welcomed us - they were so friendly!

Nathan's on the left and mine on the right.

There were easels already set up with a variety of paintbrushes in front of each one. Craig got us to put on aprons and then showed us what we were going to paint - it was a canvas he'd prepared earlier :-)

We had paper plates to act as palettes and containers of acrylic paints.

We followed him step-by-step as he recreated the picture again in front of us. Considering we were all copying him - it was amazing how different the pictures turned out. Everyone had their own style!

N chatting to Craig

After an hour and a half of intense concentration we stopped for food. We were served pizzas, salad and wedges which were delicious. We hadn't realised how hungry we were, we had been so absorbed in our art! Then we carried on until 10.30 perfecting our masterpieces! I was pleased with my two seagulls that I put in at the end.

Stop for food!

By the time we left at the end of the night it was like leaving old friends! We had all bonded and had such fun. Everyone has an inner artist!! The next one is on 5th August - so we are thinking of going again. If you fancy joining us let us know! He can fit up to 20 people in and the food was yummy too!

There are more photos of our event on the Painty Facebook Page.