According to figures for last year’s sales, champagne is sparkling once more in Britain: for indulgent birds like The Gannet, wearied by the recent fad for prosecco, this is jolly good news.
Where, though, to raise a proper glass of bubbles in celebration? 45 Jermyn St, Fortnum & Mason’s smart new Martin Brudnizki-designed restaurant, boasts an ineffably swanky champagne and caviar bar with an impressive range of grandes marques and growers’ champagnes.
A bespoke caviar trolley fashioned from American walnut glides around, equipped not just with the world’s choicest fish eggs – Gourmet House’s superb farmed Iranian beluga among them – but a set of precision scales usually used to weigh diamonds.
Or there is Texture, Icelandic chef/patron Agnar Sverrisson’s restaurant and champagne bar on Portman Street. His magnificent list features more than 140 bins: the prestige cuvées of Dom Pérignon, Krug and Louis Roederer, of course, but also a wealth of great growers’ champagne: the excellent Veuve Fourny and the maverick (by champagne standards, at least) Ulysse Collin, whose richly textured vintages remind one that champagne is, first and foremost, a wine. You might stay for Sverrisson’s splendidly light but flavoursome menu in the Michelin-starred restaurant.
In Paris, you may have to wait a few months for the city’s most legendary bar to reopen: the hotel is being refurbished, but Bar Hemingway in the Ritz hotel (the writer is supposed to have liberated the bar from the Germans, and it was renamed in his honour) will not, so I am told, undergo any radical changes.
Even more importantly, the Ritz has retained the services of Colin Peter Field, often cited as the world’s best barman: Kate Moss is a big enough fan to have written the preface to his cocktail book. She is especially fond of the French 76, a blend of vodka, sugar and lemon juice topped up with bubbly.
Should you find yourself in New York, head to Flûte, a cosy midtown basement that was once a notorious speakeasy and is now one of the most convivial places to drink champagne in Manhattan. Its considerable list includes more than a dozen by the glass, some at the top end: to be able to order a single glass of Piper-Heidsieck Rare 1999 is, well, very rare.
There is caviar here too: Petrossian’s finest Royal Ossetra, served with crème fraîche and blinis; or, for more prosaic palates, sliders and spring rolls. The bar mixes great champagne-based cocktails. Flûte opens its doors until 4am every Friday and Saturday night: night owls will have a hoot.