Tuesday, March 16, 2010

London's first sherry bar: Bar Pepito

I am a sucker for invitations; launch parties, red carpet, front row - hey, even back row - and I'm there. It's partly because of an ingrained over-achiever ticklist I can't seem to shake, but also an insatiable curiousity. I like to know what's going on and I love learning new things. I realised last year you can't say yes to everything (without physical and mental health sufferance!) so I have started to be more selective. Before this starts sounding too much like some kind of dating profile, the point is that two weeks ago I got an invitation that was far too tempting: the pre-launch party for London's first sherry bar, Bar Pepito. It's a joint project between Bar Camino (of which it now completes the courtyard in Kings Cross) and Gonzalez Byass, who own the Tio Pepe and Pedro Ximenez brands.

I first encountered the masterminds behind this new adventure at their sherry exploration event last Summer where Ollie kindly let me tag along as his +1. It was here that I discovered sherry was good for more than just trifle and teeny crystal glasses for Granny at Christmas.

Andrew from Gonzalez Byass and I have been chatting since then about a port, sherry and chocolate tasting that we're going to run this year (let me know if you're interested!) and have run the first of our practise sessions (read: we sat down and ate lots of chocolate and drank lots of good wine and called it research! Hey, we took notes!). I figured this was as good an excuse as any to get more familiar with the wines.

Walking into the tiny room that is Bar Pepito is like stepping into Spain. Andrew and his colleagues spent a week exploring Spain and visiting their vineyards hijacking authentic memorabilia, tiles and prints to decorate the room (not bad fir a week's work!). This includes an incredible picture of Picasso with a bottle of Tio Pepe and the table tops are barrel lids from genuine sherry barrels.

It was great to catch up with Andrew and Martin from GB and Richard and his team from Bar Camino (and now Bar Pepito), a really inspiring bunch. The sherry flowed all evening and even the staff felt like we were in a small, family-owned tapas bar in Spain; they weren't Spanish but the knew the sherries intimately and did an impressive job of taking people through the journey from the dry Tio Pepe (the wine with thelowest sugar content in the world - great for the lack of calories, people) to the raisiny, far too moreish Pedro Ximenez (completely at the other end of the scale). There were tapas but we weren't too be distracted from the drinking, though what we saw come into other people's hands looked delicious - manchego, jamon carved from the leg at the bar. It was a mistake to forgo this as there's not much around in Kings Cross at midnight (when we left to find food). Bar Simmons (another funky small bar nearby) do let you order delivery to the bar though (just in case you're ever in the same position...).

It properly opens this Friday night. I'm sure it will be consistently crowded, but that's part of the fun, right?