On Friday night at 8pm, a group of us sat down to dinner at Bermondsey's Cafe Amisha. Cafe Amisha is old-school Italian cooking, with an atmosphere that transports you to a modern-day Italian holiday.
Hospitality is the comfort food that I've been missing this year. The conviviality of friends and loved ones together around the table. Food being brought to you. Treats that you might not make at home like steak tagliata, or mushroom ravioli. The indulgence of an aperitivo and a digestivo. The collective atmosphere of other diners having a good time. And wait restauranteurs and waiters eager to welcome you, like long lost friends.
There is little greater than hospitality done right, and for two hours on Friday night, all the boxes were ticked.
Jay Rayner announced this weekend that he won't be reviewing restaurants negatively for the foreseeable future. This felt like some strangely unifying moment in itself, in what is otherwise a critical sea of snide remarks.
In a few weeks time, all things going to plan, I'll be in France in what might be the most normal thing that will have happened this year. I can't wait.
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This week's Learn again comes from a subscriber question – how well can you store wine if you don't want to finish the bottle? We explore your options and your time frames below.
And in Taste, we've got a couple of park wine special to match these slightly sunnier days.
Taste - Park wine
L'Hurluberlu looks like a bottle of Coca-Cola (£18 from Forest). This is cab franc from Loire that is packed full of juicy raspberries and red cherries. I put this in the fridge for an hour, then let the sun bring it up to temperature as we dug in.
There were a few distinct phases of lockdown. There was that first sourdough & learning-French phase. And then there was the Astro Bunny phase – those first weeks when we were allowed out, it was sunny, and Astro Bunny landed on the scene. Astro Bunny (~£25 where available) is a pet nat that tastes of lemon sherbet and peach schnapps. A real lesson in how fun wine can be.
Sparkling English red wine? You must be mad. Well no, actually – we've found two incredible ones this year. The first was Wild Juice Chase by Offbeat: this reminds you of alcoholic vimto in the most complimentary way that could be. We bought a few of these to give away but have now all gone. (£26 at Furanxo).
Second, we've got Dunleavy's Brut Zero Sparkling Red (£28.50 from Vinoteca). Wild strawberries and rhubarb jump out the glass in this natural leaning sparkler. Serve chilled for maximum impact.
Learn - How long does wine stay good for?
Oxygen really will get to wine if you leave it too long. While certain wines naturally last a bit better than others, as a general rule you can expect your wine to last two-to-three days from opening.
If you want to make that last just a bit longer, here's a few things we recommend.
1. Keep a half bottle, and transfer your leftover wine to the half bottle. Less oxygen means less chance of the wine going bad as quickly.
2. Check out Vacu Vin (£9.95 from Amazon), they give the wine that tiny extra lease of life.
3. For something higher end, check out Eto (from £119). This decanter keeps your wine fresh for up to two weeks and has a built in aeration device to make every glass taste optimal. These are absolutely stunning design-wise as well.
Got any other best tips? Hit reply and let us know.