The magic of champagne

The four portraits of four siblings that Catriona had painted from their photographs over four months were framed, hung and lit and ready for a viewing by the loving parents. That so much creative endeavour should succeed or fail at a glance made me terribly glad I wasn’t a painter. At the appointed hour of six o’clock, I was still in bed upstairs, but listening out, as anxious as she was. Then I heard the parents’ optimistic tattoo on the front door. We needn’t have worried. I heard them spot their children hanging on the rock face, then their overjoyed exclamations at the interpretations and likenesses. She’d captured their two

How to beat the champagne shortage

A difficult year for imports means our nation is facing some serious Champagne problems. December usually brings deep discounting in our national retailers – allowing us to stock up on big name Champagne for Christmas – but this year we’re facing an unprecedented shortage of fizz. The grand marques are allocating stock all over Europe and so your usual choices may not be so easy to find or attractively priced once the big shop comes around. That means that house Champagne is going to be more important than ever if you want to bag a case of the good stuff without paying over-the-odds. The good news is that these own-labels

The healing power of champagne

The day after Catriona was fitted with a plaster cast and crutches, her elder sister arrived from the UK for a rare visit. Marigold is also on crutches. Diabetes. Which left me as the only able-bodied member of the household, though an ethereal one. I try daily ‘to run with determination the race that is set before me’ (Hebrews 12:1). Champagne helps. Our seasonal neighbour Professor Brian Cox has pointed me to a website specialising in getting the produce of small family-run champagne houses to your doorstep within 48 hours at a considerably cheaper price than the local supermarket and very decent it is too. I have a half-bottle at

Splashing the cash at VIP nightclubs is now the favourite recreation of the rich

The world described in this book is weird enough anyway, but reading about it during lockdown is positively surreal. It’s about VIP nightclubs, mainly in New York, but also in Miami, Cannes, St Tropez or wherever rich people congregate. Ashley Mears is a professor of sociology, as she likes to remind us with references to Bourdieu, Durkheim, Veblen, etc, but mainly she is a very good reporter. The reason she was allowed into the VIP clubs is that she used to be a model and can still pass as one, though actually too old for admission (at 31) by most club standards. But it amused some of the promoters to

I have always liked angry food: Ugly Butterfly reviewed

Ugly Butterfly is a zero-waste restaurant and champagne bar on the King’s Road, Chelsea. The ‘champagne bar’ addition is so awful as to be pantomime villainous — I think of zero-waste diamonds and zero-waste wars — but perhaps they need this kind of duplicity to seduce the punters, who move so slowly towards wisdom? ‘Zero-waste’ isn’t an advertising catchphrase designed for Chelsea and its constituent tractors and immaculate blondes, unless they are very drunk. It is from Adam Handling, who has six venues, including the Frog in Hoxton and the sustainable deli Bean & Wheat in Old Street. Ugly Butterfly is pretty, because anything ugly in Chelsea would shrivel through