BAR ROOM BUDDIES: THE LONDON BAR SHOW
Have you heard of Salvatore Calabrese? If not, shame on you. In the world of cocktail making, he is a legend. For years the face of The Library Bar at The Lanesbrough, he is now running the bar at the exclusive private club, Fifty.
I will tell you something else about Salvatore Calabrese. He is a shameless hustler. Without scruples and morals. Well, on a croquet lawn at least. A total and utter villain.
The words “ I have just been hustled by Salvatore” were ones that I would have given you long odds on me ever saying, but after the first round match of The Hendrick’s Bartender’s Croquet Tournament, I could be found with my head in my hands muttering those plaintive words over and over again while my mallet partner, Greg, tried to console me.
It had all started so well too. My good chum, Nick Strangeway from Hawksmoor had invited me to tag along with him to The London Bar Show this week so I could meet some of the incredible people in that community and perhaps pick up a few tips for places to go and people to meet as I attempt to EAT MY GLOBE.
First up, the annual and hotly contested croquet tournament. Bedford Square, normally reserved for those owning the surrounding buildings had been rented for the day, marquees set up and croquet lawns laid ready for battle. I arrived a little early and found a corner of the square to sit and ponder on my navel while luxuriating in the midday Sun.
Then, the hordes began to arrive. The great and the good of the international bar world and most of them seemed to be in fancy dress. Nobody told me. Fortunately, I had decided, in honour of the glorious weather, to don a pair of fetching shorts and an Hawaiian shirt I had bought on a visit to Graceland. When anyone asked me what I was supposed to be, I just looked into the distance as if offended by their ignorance and said “ Hunter S Thompson”
Not much of an effort and certainly paling beside some of those on show. Xavier from Hendrick’s was in full “Raj” regalia including pith helmet and shotgun.
There were surgeons in masks running around next to women in full crinoline (bear in mind the temperature was nearly 80o by this time) and even Nick Strangeway had made an effort. Well, he wore a battered cowboy hat.
For those of us who do not know Croquet or who think it is a peaceful little game to be played in the garden on a quiet Sunday afternoon, it comes as bit of a shock to see how strategic it can be and how ruthless people become when the they begin to play. The afternoon was soon filled with cries of " you f**king bastard" as balls were knocked as close as possible into the middle of next week.
Which brings us back to Salvatore Calabrese. We had already lost a game to Nick and Jorge from Hawksmoor and were looking for an easy mark. Salvatore ambled over with his partner, Peter and challenged us with the words “ what are the rules?” I told you, shameless.
Not only does he patently know the rules, but he and Peter proceeded to, well beat the living crap out of us and, as quickly as the game began, it was over and Salvatore was posing for a picture and asking innocently, ‘ did we win?” Shame on you, maestro shame on you.
Still, we regrouped and won our next three matches to make it through to the quarter finals where we were drawn against Jurgen and Stefan, The Travelling Mixologists from Germany.
Suffice to say, we did not win. What is it they say about The World Cup? Nations come from all over the world to play football and then, the Germans win. As in football, so in Croquet apparently. The wiped us aside and then went on to clean up on their way to the trophy.
Still, this gave us more time to eat. Hendricks obviously don’t do anything by half measures. Not the drink which began flowing at 1pm and came in the form of Martini’s, Aviations, the G&T with cucumber and any number of others. Nor, indeed the food which came in the shape of two whole hogs roasting on horizontal spits
By semi finals time, the drinks had kicked in and the whole scene was descending into a fancy dress bacchanalia
with Colin and Dimi, The Cocktail Kings, being chased around the park by a disgruntled opponent who accused them of a double hit and Dre from The World Wide Cocktail Club being sacrificed to the gods of Croquet.
By about 7pm, the tournament was over, prizes handed out and the crowd was dispersing in bizarrely attired groups to the befuddlement of passing tourists.
Me? I had somewhere else to go.
Next stop, a Tequila tasting courtesy of my new chum, Julio Bermeja. Julio is the owner of Tommy’s in San Fransico and the official Ambassador of Tequila for the United States.
A hugely agreeable man. He took me aside and said “Simon, do you know Tequila?” I looked a bit shamefaced and admitted I really didn’t. “ Ah” he said “ there is no drug like it on earth”
With that, he invited me to join him on a tour of five distilleries in Jalisco in November which fits in perfectly with my plans as I already intend to be in Mexico by then.
By 10pm, I really was ready for the off. A combination of hot Sun, Tequila, Martini’s and Mariachi music had pushed me over the edge.
The worrying thing is that this is only Day One and I have four more to go.
I am not sure about EAT MY GLOBE, but how about SAVE MY LIVER?