I seize on every new cigar terrace with unashamed glee as it shows the resourcefulness of our island breed. I enjoy cigars and felt that I was being personally targeted when legislation was brought in outlawing, or at least restricting, enjoyment of the fine tobaccos of the Vuelta Abajo – which must number among nature’s most wondrous gifts to mankind. Dinner without a cigar is a little like an Agatha Christie novel from which the final pages are missing, robbing one of the satisfying pleasure of the denouement. In fact, the way I see it, the main purpose of a lunch or dinner is to provide the context for enjoyment of a cigar.
However, I now see how wrong I was to react with hostility to the forced amputation of one of life’s degustory pleasures from another; instead I should have adopted the ludicrously optimistic cast of mind of Dr Pangloss (in Pangloss, Voltaire reached an almost Dickensian peak of caricature). As the good Dr would have put it, “All is for the best in the best of all possible worlds”, as this restrictive and quite frankly un-British law has resulted in the flowering of a new species – you might even go as far as calling it a genus – of architecture: the cigar terrace – a bower to which the epicurean can retreat to commune (in comfort) with the sacred leaf. The ancient tribes of South America used to set so much store by the stuff that they used to blow it into the faces of warriors preparing for battle (passive smoking has clearly been around for a while). And of course it was offered to the gods and by all accounts the gods were jolly appreciative; I seem to recall once seeing a picture of one or other of the Mayan deities of the underworld enjoying a cigar.
But enough Mesoamerican anthropology and back to modern-day Mayfair, where the smoking terrace has reached its highest evolution. Richard Caring has emerged as a friend to the cigar smoker and consistently manages to create some delightful outdoor spaces for enjoying cigars, the most recent of which at Annabel’s is one of the nicest nightspots (whether smoking or non-smoking) that I have come across in a long while. It has charm and style; visiting it felt like taking a small holiday. If I did not enjoy the occasional cigar already, I would make a point of taking up the habit just to be able to make full use of this exquisite little oasis.