So that big birthday of mine passed without a bit of a do. Something that left some friends completely non-plussed, but, well.
I hate fuss.
No really. I love surprises, that’s different, but most of the stuff I do, especially when doing a tasting or something, is showcasing something for someone else, or talking about an issue or an event. It’s not really centred on me as a person. I’m that person who would organise a party and then spend most of the evening worrying if everyone is having a good time, if everyone has got a drink in their hand, or if anyone needs anything.
And luckily, Mr GFB knows me well. He knows that telling the venue I’m in that it’s my birthday so they can sing, or bring a special dessert is pretty much my idea of hell. So instead, he booked me a surprise treat – two nights away – at The Distillery in London.
The Distillery is home to Portobello Road Gin – originally distilled in No. 171 Portobello Road, they moved down the street a little to 186, which now houses The Ginstitute in the basement (where you can make your own gin), The Resting Room (where you can sample the gins, grab a drink, and a nibble), Gin Tonica (their Tapas Restaurant) and, right at the very top, they have three rooms you can stay in – Rooms 1, 2, and 3.
And so the day after my rather quiet birthday, we checked into room number 2.
There’s a bottle of gin on the side when you walk in (£25 for the gin, tonics and goodies in the fridge extra) and two ready made cocktails in the fridge, Martini and Negroni in dinky bottles that are complementary treats for you. There’s a well stocked bathroom (the shampoo and conditioner from Grown Alchemist are divine) and the view of Portobello Road is fabulous (buskers will entertain you through the afternoon, and the market greets you first thing in the morning), even if it’s somewhat tempered by the slowly shrinking shadow of Grenfell Tower.
Mr GFB and I arrived, travel-tired and a little rumpled, and after a quick walk – and a slice of cake from Hummingbird Bakery, as that too is down the road, and a little snooze, woke a bit more refreshed, for that evening we dined at Gin Tonica. Oh yes, that man had thought of everything.
There’s a menu for Gin Tonica in your room, so if you’re unsure, you can indulge in a little nosey beforehand – or just stick your head into the stairwell and tease your senses with the scent of cooking. The restaurant is only around 30-40 covers, with the dinky kitchen on view to all. No worrying about where your food is, because you’ll definitely see it coming – if you can drag yourself away from the gin menu of course. There are a selection of gins, tonics, gin serves, cocktails and of course wines and beers if gin isn’t your thing. Luckily for us, it is and making a decision became the challenge. Finally I gave in to the G’Vine Nouaison serve on the Gin Tonic Plus menu – Gin, Floc de Gascogne liqueur and plum bitters, topped with Fever Tree Mediterreanean tonic and garnished with lemon, grapes and mint.
Mr GFB opted for another of my favourite gins, Nordes Atlantic Galician Gin, also from the Gin Tonic Plus menu. This was served with Hibiscus liqueur, ginger bitters, and served with Merchants Heart Hibiscus tonic, garnished with orange, ginger, and a flower or two.
Then came the food.
Perhaps my favourite dish of all, was the charred Hispi cabbage with romesco sauce, and smoked olive oil. The cabbage was sweet, that sweetness emphasised by the charring from the Inka grill. This was very closely followed by the Tortilla Vasca, a tortilla with potatoes, and 5 hour onions. The onions were soft, buttery and sweet. We swiftly regretted indulging in cake for lunch.
Utterly unable to consider any sort of dessert, we both selected a final drink instead, and my final one was a house special. The 1888 Martini – their own Butter Gin, Sweet Vermouth, Curacao, bitters and Absinthe, garnished with a cherry.
Boozy, with a balanced rich sweetness, it was the perfect end to our first night.
Overnight, we became aware of a niggle or two. Perhaps the biggest was the bed. Whilst only one set of towels being put out was annoying (we eventually found the second set, in the bottom of the wardrobe), and we had prepared for the noise (definitely more of an issue the second night as a guest checked in next door, and had a rather late telephone conversation), the bed was an issue.
It dipped in the middle and, much as we love each other, on a warm night such as this, there was no escape from that second warm body next to you. Please lovelies, flip the mattress?
Our second day was to feature the launch of Portobello Road Navy Strength in the evening. Unfortunately the Ginstitute was full for the day (we hadn’t booked that bit ahead), so Mr GFB and I headed out for a day of wandering galleries and museums, aiming to return for a gin fuelled night.
And if you read yesterday’s post, you’ll know that didn’t exactly go to plan. Oops.
Overall, we had a fabulous stay, and more importantly for me, time offline, surrounded by gin, and great food. I mean, what more could you want?
Thank you Mr GFB x