Monday, 27 November 2006

Stinking of cigars and reeking of booze

MR CHURCH and I spent the entire afternoon in Floridita, smoking cigars, drinking 7 year-old Havana Club and shooting the breeze. Well, I did the smoking, he did the talking and we both did the drinking.

Floridita is Terry Conran's cigar bar in London's Wardour Street, a place I frequent rather too often when I'm in London, especially as I can't really afford to smoke cigars at London prices. (My other half helpfully suggests I delete the last three words.) The London establishment is supposedly based on the bar of the same name in Havana where the Daiquiri was invented, and where a life-size statue of Ernest Hemingway perches in perpetuity on his favourite stool at the end of the bar.

It's a shame that taxes on cigars are so high here that they can only be enjoyed by the rich, because smoking a cigar is essentially an egalitarian pastime in Cuba and Central America.

To the initiated, cigars are subtle, sophisticated, artisan products to be savoured and quietly reflected over, especially with a related product of what the French call the terroir (the characteristics of geography that bestow individuality on an agricultural product), in this case Cuban rum. I like a full bodied flavour with spicy rich smoke and notes of pepper, nutmeg and coco, so Partegas Serie D No 4 are my thing - kind of the cigar equivalent of a four-shot espresso.

To the uninitiated, cigars stink like hell. Mr Church's training regime does not involve rolling pungent and aromatic smoke around his palate, but half a bottle of rum is apparently not a problem. Mrs Church is going to be on my case very soon because I sent him home stinking of cigars and reeking of booze. I am a very bad influence, it has to be admitted.

But all this reminds me to recommend you to the wonderful A. E. Lloyd & Son, with branches in the Wyndham Arcade in Cardiff and Terrace Road in Aberystwyth, without whose services I'd be forced to emigrate. They will happily ship cigars to anywhere in Wales and have as good a selection as Floridita, although I doubt they can claim Ernest Hemingway as an ex-customer.

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