Noble Rot, as I'm sure you are all very well aware, is a benevolent type of mould that if left on grapes can enhance the sweetness of wine and make good dessert wines, but what you may not know is that it is also the best wine bar for miles around.
Driving past it every day on the way home from work, I noticed a man at the window one time when I was pulled up outside waiting for the lights to change. He looked rather like Paul Auster which, naturally, piqued my interest. Also, once he was holding a pen which added to this ridiculous fascination with the place. (In person he looks more like Paul Auster might in a few years time) So anyway, one day as I sat at the lights he looked at me and waved which made me grin and wave back. This is sufficient proof to me that Paul Auster is living and writing in my town. So, I keep looking at this place each day and wondering what it is. I google it and it seems as though it's a wine bar that has live music. Only when I drive past it after dark one evening and I can see inside do I realise it's a must for the Chianti Club. So last night I took them there. They were slightly nervous, I think because my description made me sound like I was stalking a strange man on one of Bedford's nastier streets because he looked like someone who lives thousands of miles away but the place looks nice after dark. I should write for Lonely Planet, don't you think?
So we turn up and IT IS MAGICAL!! Paul, who we should now address as Charlie, welcomes us in with 'Hello girls, do we know you?' The place is on two levels with a quaint little set of steps up to the higher level. The bar itself is all antique dark wood making it feel like so many French bars I've been in. The wine bottles are ranged against the wall on a rack to rival anything I've seen before. The lights are all cut glass chandeliers, quite French Baroque. The walls are sparse but with some large pieces of art. The whole place is amazing shabby-chic.
Charlie comes to the table with an impressive wine list and asks us all where we work and tells us how wonderfully interesting we are. We are all immediately enamoured with this eccentric and endearing gentleman who may or may not be three sheets to the wind!
The choice of wine is happily deferred to myself and we start with a £16 bottle of South African Pintotage. It is excellent. The conversation and company, outstanding. We discuss everything. Charlie promises to come and talk to us about how it all started with a Hillman Imp. That never materialised but he was charming and quirky and everything a wine bar owner should be. We felt transported out of Bedford and that's worth every penny of wine! I found myself choosing a £25 bottle of Rioja Reserve that made us all 'oooh'. Really good.
We were one member down last night but it was the first evening for a new recruit. So the club's membership swells to 7.
The best moment of the evening was when Alimal arrived after FNM and Liz went to the door to show her where we were sitting, 'Oh, this is Charlie. Charlie could we have the wine list again please?' You have to have lived in Bedford for several years to know how funny and atypical such a scenario is!
On the way out we were all embraced and thanked so much for our custom and kind words - again, when does that ever happen? So I just said that next time he was sat at his window and waved to someone in a car he would know it was me. He was so touched. It really was just an exceptionally homely, friendly evening that must be repeated before long - next time with the A and Phillipe.