When London’s only “art monger” invited me to lunch at the Academy Club, I could have been forgiven for expecting to be handed a painted mackerel. Instead, I am pleased to report, the experience was a memorable afternoon balancing gastronomy and a good old fashioned gossip.


The Academy Club is not, as I mistakenly expected, located at the Royal Academy. It’s concealed within the labyrinthine backstreets of London’s Soho, and once inside, possessed with the charm of an old family photograph; familiar, characterful, nostalgic and every bit alive.

My host was Julian Hartnoll, the self styled Art Monger of St James’s.

At one point we were joined by the spritely and chatty sommelier and creator of the ‘Wine Car Boot Sale’, Ruth Spivey. Ruth asked Julian what an “art monger” is? He explained, “You know when you go into a fishmonger you can pick up the mackerel and have a good look at it?” mimicking the process, “Well, in my little shop you can do that with the art. You can pick it up and have a good look at it!”

Which is true. Julian’s shop is on Duke Street, St James’s, and, although tiny, is packed with a visual display of artworks, both on the walls and spread across a main bench for the purpose of handling. From John Bratby to a wild array of prints of eye-catchingly colourful French fabric designs.

For the main course we both ordered the scallops. Whilst perusing the wine list, the owner of the club came over to the table to chat with Julian. He was lamenting over the stresses of tasting some ’99 Dom Perignon. “Delicious...” he sighed.

For my wine tip he suggested the Fontanasanta Manzoni Bianco 2014. This is wine made in the Dolomites region in northern Italy by the perfectionist Elisabetta Foradori. A cool climate wine with razor-sharp freshness and hints of white flower. It was lovely with scallops; a match made in heaven!

As the glasses were about to be filled, Julian pointed out that he no longer drank any wine and that I would have to drink the whole bottle. Luckily we were able to share a glass a glass with Ruth and the club manager, although Julian did manage to benefit from a deep inhalation of the aromas!

As for the gossip-politic… well, that is not the business of these pages. We’d have to meet for lunch to cover that!

Here's a lovely post about the wine producer Elisabetta Foradori: http://louisdressner.com/producers/foradori/

COPOUT Book by Nick Breeze

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Last week a picture was posted on Twitter of vines in Shabo, a large estate that lies to the west of Odesa on southern Ukraine’s Black Sea coastline. The image seemed benign at face value but the reality, of course, is that the city of Odesa has been bracing itself for attack by Russian forces. 


As COVID-19 conspires with the grimmest of winds and rain to force a societal retreat behind our own front doors, the word ennui springs to mind. The muddle of displeasure is pierced when Natalia hands me a large bulbous glass of a liquid I do not recognise.



Britain’s lamentable exit

On the eve of Britain’s official departure from the EU, my partner and I decided to explore a small town on the Italian Riviera where thewintry cold doesn’t feel so much like cold war bite.

I had warned my significant other that I would be having an inverse departure party, a release of the sanity valve if you like!


Sitting inside the ancient castle walls inside the town of Soave, a short drive from Verona in northern Italy, the unique slightly almond aroma of the indigenous grape, Garganega, rises gently from my glass. The castle sprawls up the side of an extinct volcano that gives the region its variant soil structures that mark out the better quality of Soave wines.


Tanisha Townsend decided to move to Paris 4 years ago after regularly passing through the city en route to the world’s most famous vineyards. In fact, it was about 2 years ago at the Printemps de Champagne Bouzy Rouge tasting in Reims that I saw (who we shall now refer to as) GirlMeetsGlass chirpily speaking to her web followers on Snapchat.


The cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, the final resting place of Saint James, rises out of the landscape, infested with antiquity. The rambling steep streets give way to shafts of dramatic light, emblazoned chapels, and tightly packed tapas bars, dusty, as old novels pressed together in antiquarian bookshops.


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