Take one part Upstairs at The Ten Bells, two parts Hendrick’s gin, with a dash of F. Scott Fitzgerald, and you have yourself an Unusually Literary Banquet.
Sat upstairs at one of the 19th Century’s most notorious London pubs, we cosied-up by candlelight in the dining room that is the Upstairs restaurant. Gin aperitif in hand, we scouted the small room – sitting only forty at its max – the large sash windows allowed for only a handful of artworks on the walls. Dark wood and distressed walls set the backdrop for the vintage glamour of the decor. Outside the rain poured, and we thanked our lucky stars that we were in for the evening.
Hendrick’s Unusually Literary Banquet explored ‘the delightfully peculiar legacy with a culinary, literary and botanically-infused meandering through gin in literature’. As we patiently waited for David Piper – Hendrick’s Commander of Special Operations – to introduce the evening, with an extract from David Copperfield and a Mr. Micawber’s Favourite hot gin punch toast.
“The greatest characters in literature tend to be great drinkers, and their favourite tipple? Gin. The history of literature is, in many ways, the history of alcohol – making stories up and mixing cocktails are analogous activities”. David Piper
Cheers filled the room, and the enticing offerings from head chef Giorgio Ravelli, and Issac McHale began to appear. Starting with nibbles of McHale’s famous Buttermilk Fried Chicken served on a bed of fresh pine needles, we sipped on the hot autumnal punch in Hendrick’s teacups. Savoring each ‘snack’ – the lettuce hearts with cow’s curd and anchovy were particularly interesting on the palate.
With a four-course feast ahead, paired with a number of novel libations – created by Hendrick’s British Ambassador Duncan McRae – the atmosphere at Upstairs was abuzz with merriment. With the esteemed chaps from Upstairs front of house, chatting to guests, serving, and brilliantly working the room while the food and gin flowed, a gamey start of Wood Pigeon Salad with white grape and tiny delicious cubes of celeriac brilliantly introduced the slow-braised rustic finish of the Featherblade of Beef – which quite literary disintegrated on sight. Matched with a tankard of Trimanchio’s Funeral – a potion of Hendrick’s gin, lemon juice, ginger syrup, honey and Innis & Gunn ale, the peculiarly tasty brew livened the buttery fibres of the beef. Who would have thought that a gin and ale (in one vessel) could be so brilliantly matched?
The culinary offerings were as delightful and appealing as the accompanying literary extracts from Piper. From the great romantic Roman poet Horace exclaiming that “No poem was ever written by a drinker of water”, to the tales of the Gin Craze of the 18th Century where extreme drunkenness was rife – to later years, where gin became the favourite of the Jazz Age and the tipple of choice of affluent classes.
Hendrick’s Unusually Literary Banquet was pleasing in almost every way. An evening of pure indulgence – with the opportunity to mingle, laugh, taste and learn something new. We know Hendrick’s have a long history of lectures and gin related evenings, but this was their first combining food. Somewhat amazing, the pairing of the gin libations with the Upstairs menu was a great seasonal fit.
Yes please to more Literary Banquets!