When should you drink Port? The answer is, always! As an aperitif, with food, with company, with dessert, with ease.
That’s why it is so exciting to see London’s first Port House open, albeit as a temporary pop-up, with Churchill’s Port House.
Over the years, decades even, Port has been relegated to an after-dinner drink, too often associated with leather-armchairs-and-roaring-fireplace moments rather than everyday occasions. Whilst there would probably be nothing better than enjoying a delicious glass of aged Tawny by the fire this winter, we don’t get many of these moments in our modern lives.
Port wines are more varied than most consumers realise, and they are perfect partners for many more modern occasions, so the challenge is to prove this to consumers.
Sherry has seen great success in London through a series of ‘Sherry Bar’ openings in the last 3 or 4 years, starting with Bar Pepito in Kings Cross, but with many more since, showcasing the fantastic versatility of Sherry with food in a bar setting. However, there has not been an equivalent for Port, until now.
While most of the Sherry Bars have been collaborations between London restaurateurs like Richard Biggs and Jose Pizarro, it took an adventurous Port House to decide to finance a pop-up in London’s Soho on its own. Enter Churchill Grahams LDA, the producers of the Churchill’s range of Port and still wines who are funding the activity, with Max Graham, the artistically inspired son of Johnny Graham, the owner, in charge of operations.
The Port House is housed in a narrow, traditional building on Greek Street, set out over 3 floors, with an entry for London’s smallest ‘kitchen’ in the second floor room including two “chef’s tables” where you can see all the frantic preparation happening, plus inviting rooms on the ground and third floors.
This is a pop-up, running on a temporary event licence over a limited period between November 2013 and February 2014, and because of the limited licence it is only open 3 days a week for service; Thursday- Saturday (12:00 – 0:00). For a pop-up it is rather grand and polished. Heavy tables and chairs purpose-built (from IKEA I think) rather than salvaged/begged/borrowed, and elegant table settings, so you will experience the port in style.
The concept is to match Churchill’s range of ports which run the full gamut of White, Reserve, LBV, Tawny, Crusted and Vintage with tapas. Port and food matching in London is for the adventurous, but to make it less challenging, they’ve opted for a Spanish range of tapas dishes rather than using Portuguese cuisine as you might expect. This is no bad thing in terms of making Port relevant to Londoners.
Although I only tasted the fantastic home-toasted almonds and some delicious chorizo, the food on offer looked top-notch (I particularly crave the black pudding or morcilla, wrapped in pastry). The almonds were a perfect match for a glass of White Port before dinner, and the spicy chorizo was well balanced by the roundness of the Crusted port.
The location is a perfect setting to attract a broad range of trend-setting and fashionable Londoners as well as adventurous tourists. It may be taking place over Port’s traditional peak consumption period, but it might just make you see it as a more varied drink for your Christmas and New Year celebrations than you might have expected.
If you like Port, or want to discover it, get yourself to The Churchill’s Port House, but be quick and be early!
Churchill’s Port House
26 Greek Street,
London, W1D 5DE