Every week, we interview a Londoner who has something interesting to say about our wonderful metropolis. This week, we met with the lovely Henry Jeffreys: full-time head of PR at Oneworld publications, part-time wine columnist for The Lady and writer of his own boozy blog, Henry’s World of Booze. Who better to tell us about where to get a decent glass of plonk, tea with Rachel Johnson and three-bottle lunches?
You write a wine column for The Lady. We can’t help but notice you’re not a lady – how did this come about?
The Lady are terrified of being accused of ‘everyday sexism’, so they employ a few men to keep the powerful masculinist lobby off their backs. I’m the token man.
We’d be fascinated to hear what an editorial meeting is like at The Lady – are you served tea and scones on fine china?
I never get invited to editorial meetings, though I was once invited to tea with Rachel Johnson when she was editor of the magazine and there was tea on proper china but no scones.
Enough about The Lady – tell us about the wine. Where is the best place to buy wine in London?
My favourite wine shop is the Sampler on Upper Street. They have special machines so that you can sample wines. They do lots of unusual stuff and rare old vintages. There’s also some cheap stuff for people like me. The staff are very unstuffy and quietly knowledgeable.
Let’s talk house wine – fine, or avoid like the plague?
Always go for house wine; just make sure you’re drinking it somewhere decent.
How do you know when you’ve got a good glass of vino?
When you want another glass of the same wine, that’s when you know.
Tell us your absolute favourite wine bars in the city.
I love the really old-fashioned ones. The ones where you always have a middle-aged man breaking up with his secretary following a three bottle lunch. The sort of place that Keith Waterhouse would have enjoyed. I’m thinking of El Vino on Fleet Street or Beaujolais just off Charing Cross Road. The food at these places isn’t that great and the wine lists aren’t the most exciting, but I’m very fond of them. They have real atmosphere. For something a little more modern, Terroirs is
What do you think about London’s first winery opening soon? Can our fair (grapeless) city produce decent plonk?
The whole thing sounds like a bit of a gimmick. I can’t understand why you would truck grapes in from France and ferment them in London, especially as there’s now lots of good vineyards in England. Still I’m reserving judgement until I’ve tried the wine.
When you’re not reviewing booze (we’re not jealous), you work in publishing. What is the best book based in London that you’ve read?
There are so many to choose from. Can I pick two? I’ll go for Hangover Square by Patrick Hamilton – very boozy that one, very sad too. London Fields by Martin Amis – it was my bible when I first moved to London and worked at Oddbins on Portobello Road. The names of the characters are poetry: Chick Purchase, Trish Shirt, Keith Talent.
Tell us a London secret.
There are still lots of really good cheap tailors in London, particularly in King’s Cross and Fitzrovia. They’re normally run by Cypriots and they can alter suits so that they fit you like bespoke ones. Use them before they die out.