Staying on an Olympic theme, a review of all things sporting and vinous seems appropriate at the moment. It has been such an amazing time in London and good to see visitors from around the globe enjoying being here. Despite all the valid reservations about commercialism, relocation of businesses, ticket fiasco and empty seats, it has been superb so far. From the wonderfully subversive opening ceremony it has gained momentum and won over even the most hardened skeptics. Both my sons have been in awe at the sheer spectacle and I am confident that they will have wonderful memories from being part of it.
I have not been surprised by the superb performance of Team GB because ‘home advantage’ is such an robust finding. I just wish I had followed my instinct and had a flutter on us doing well. The crowds have been brilliant and must have had an impact on results. I went to the England v Brazil ladies football game, slightly reluctantly, but it was the best atmosphere I have experienced at Wembley since 1996 when I saw England beat Holland 4‐1 in the euros. A big part of this was the prevalence of kids who had tickets through the ‘tickets for schools’ scheme and were happy to scream and Mexican wave through the match. They were fantastic and the game thrilling. It is just a shame Team GB will not be in the final on Thursday, as I’m going it.
Even more thrilling was being at the park on Sunday night. We abandoned the Handball in the Copper Box (despite it being a cracking sport) to catch Bolt on the big screen and there was a real sense of seeing history in the making. We had been to the park for Diving but left before sunset as our youngest was exhausted but one of my top tips is to stay until late if you can. At night the park is spectacularly lit up, not as crowded and has a bit of a party atmosphere. The Orbit is worth going up but don’t go near the BMW pavilion unless you want to be force fed corporate nonsense. The London Ambassadors deserve a special mention. They are representing us in all our diverse and eccentric glory. My favourite ‘ambassador’ plays dubstep on her phone through her loud hailer. Superb!
In terms of food and wine I have been disappointed. At the boxing at Excel we paid £1.50 for an apple and it wasn’t even a good apple! They should be giving away English apples as a celebration of our produce but I guess it is like the way we exploit dairy farmers in this country, pay them a pittance then mark it up exponentially to generate huge profits. The ‘biggest Macdonalds’ in the world is a bit of a monolithic carbuncle that shouts out ‘global warming’ and the Champagne and Seafood bar is run like a overly strict boarding school where you ‘have to’ have this or that if you want to sit on the terrace. I guess it is legal to require people to buy Champagne (De Nauroy and Mumm) to sit somewhere but it’s not very inclusive or sensitive. I saw an Asian family pretty unhappy about it but the member of staff dealing with them didn’t seem to give a toss. The ‘prestige’ wines on sale were pretty good though, Argento Private Collection Malbec (£26.50), Spee’ Wah Pinot Grigio (£23.50), Chateau Coucheroy Pessac Leognan (£35.50) and an ok 2011 Chablis from Jean Dafaix (£32.50), and not as massively marked up as apples. The Olympic wines (see previous blogs) were really uninspiring with the Fairtrade Chenin the best bet of the three. Take empty water bottles as there are plenty of places to fill up and buying bottled water is a bit like burning money (expensive and polluting).
An alternative to eating at the park or the other venues is to eat locally or take snacks. Security has been pretty efficient and not overly pedantic (although at the shooting at Woolwich on Sunday it seemed a bit tighter). If you are at the Park then go to Franco Manca at Westfield which has excellent affordable pizza and great natural wine from Ottavo Rube. Alternatively book up one of the pop up restaurants. Jimmy’s supperclub at Annex East is very close to the park and has a small art gallery (website here). The other night Phil from Les Caves de Pyrene matched Jimmy’s sound cooking with Rene Mosse Moussamoussettes NV, 2011 Riesling from Andre Scherer, Le Petit Fantet d’Hyppolyte 2011, and Moscato d’Asti Ca’ d’Gal. Fun wines and nice people. Less successful was GlobalFeast2012 (website here) although Lin Soderstrom’s cooking was good. The guest chefs from around the world change every night and they have an amazing ‘global’ table.
For a couple of Olympic events we only got two tickets rather than four so I will be missing out on the Basketball tonight. However, it is the Corney and Barrow summer tasting with an Olympic quiz which should be fun. I will be ‘competing’ in the blind tasting and am hoping for a medal of any kind.