I feel I am slightly pushing the boundary of ‘a random challenge’ for this week’s Secret Life adventure. Although it wasn’t dictated by a colour and number, it was arranged by a friend without my knowledge….does that count? This one actually feels like a real treat. It was booked by my good friend Tracey, knowing that it would happen just after I came back from my annual flamenco guitar adventure to Seville, and would be pining for a taste of Andalucia.
A sherry tasting evening! This was indeed well timed as I had arrived back from Seville just 24 hours before, after a week of watching some of the most amazing flamenco. With days consisting of playing guitar, grazing on tapas and drinking Rioja in 35deg heat, I was struggling with the now wintery feel of London. Cue Drakes Tabanco, one of my favourite tapas bar tucked away in Fitzrovia - with one of the most authentic Spanish vibes that I have come across in London.
For this evening the owners had invited Jan Pettersen, the Director of the Bodegas Rey Fernando de Castilla in the beautiful city of Jerez. As Jan introduced himself we both did a double take as this was a bodega that Tracey and I had tried to visit when we were in Jerez last year but it was sadly closed and so we ended up on a tiny ‘Tio Pepe Train’. But that is another story….
This particular bodega is one of the finest in Andalucia. Their collection of sherries is made up of the finest wines from the area. Ranging from the pale, light and finos to their unique Antique sherries that have won the highest national and international distinctions. Were we in for a treat! Jan was a really engaging speaker, talking passionately about his favourite subject, yet making it really accessible. Tracing the origins of sherry as the ultimate Spanish drink with food, through to it becoming very unfashionable in the UK, unless you were a woman of a certain age. This truly is a very misunderstood drink. We were first treated to the Fino en Rama especial paired with a lovely ceviche of sea bream, almonds, cumin seed and peach. As we ‘oohed’ and ‘aaahed’ our way through this first pairing, Jan came around and spoke individually to everyone. Telling him our excitement at tasting his finest sherries in London, after failing to visit the bodega in Jerez, we secured an invitation to call on him when we were next in Jerez. I am looking up those flights as we speak…..
I won’t talk you through the whole menu, but instead show you it below in all of its wonder. I am hard pushed to pick out a favourite. A highlight had to be the braised Iberico pig cheeks though, along with the lovely Olorosso Viejo. This dish is one that I always look for on a Spanish menu and Drakes did it to perfection. That, coupled with Jan’s poetic description of drinking a warming Olorosso in front of his fire in the winter in Andalucia and I was enthralled.Although I would normally veer away from a sweet sherry, even I was totally won over by the Pedro Ximinez Extra Viejo and it’s lovely raisiny taste, coupled with blue cheese and oat cookies, yum.
So it might not have been a night out in my beloved Sevilla, but Drakes, you did us proud. We even left with a small bottle of the Fino en Rama especial, signed by the main man himself. Salud!
Well if this didn’t strike you as much of a ‘challenge’ in terms of the Secret Life, then this week’s one will get us firmly back on track as I head off to bed in preparation for a 5am start for my next adventure….
Denise Yeats is an events director, communications consultant, endurance athlete and avid adventurer.