Monday, June 21, 2010

Rare Meerschaum pipes in London antiques market

Until recently I had not fully appreciated just how many people treasured and collected old pipes. 

Then I met Michael Clements who runs a regular stall on one of London's best known antique markets and he explained to me how old pipes are so prized by collectors and in particular the fantastic carved Meerschaum pipes made from the rare fine clay. 

The highest quality Meerschaum (from the German - sea spray) is only found in sufficient quantities in two places in the world. 

Craftsmen have long prized this fantastic material and carved the most incredible and ornate pipes.

Over many years, as the pipes are smoked they take on a beautiful colour as the tars from the tobacco infuse the fine clay. For this reason older pipes are much prized by collectors. 

Michael explained to me that in many cases the pipes are waxed when they have been finished so that different parts of the pipe colour at different rates.

This can be clearly seen on this magnificent  example where the hat and clothes of this figure have been waxed and the face has coloured as the pipe has been smoked to create the most wonderful contrast.

Many of the very finest examples of Meerschaum pipes come in their own beautiful shaped wooden boxes, covered in leather and lined with velvet to ensure these masterpieces have a long life.

The craftsmen who made these pipes produced many weird and wonderful creations and I like to think that if Keith Richards were ever in the market for a pipe he would beat a path to Michael's door for this particularly wonderful example. 

Michael is one of London's foremost pipe experts and his stall includes many old and collectable pipes. 

His stall is only open on a Saturday but if you would like more details on his regular stall please contact Nic Wing via this blog

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Opening of another wonderful new smoking spot in London -The Terrace Garden, at the Langham, London

I was lucky to be invited to attend the opening evening of  what could well be one of my favourite London summer haunts. 

The compact and surprisingly peaceful Terrace Garden at the Langham in Portland place. The hotel is right opposite the BBC and a very short walk from Oxford Circus and the hustle and bustle of Regents street and Oxford street.

This great old Hotel is coming to the end of a major refurbishment and one of the final pieces in the jigsaw is the stunning flower lined terrace at basement level. As you head out to the terrace you will pass the compact Champagne bar and cocktail bar on the left.

Either inside or out this is going to be a great place to relax and take the weight off your feet after a prolonged shopping trip in the west end or after walking the Cuban Cigar Walk London.

It will also become one of London's favourite spots for a fine Cuban cigar and to top it all it's the ideal  destination for all major sporting events. Thinking about it I may well just move in!

Outside on the Terrace there are  rattan tables and chairs which nestle under huge umbrellas to shade you from the sun or possible a light English summer shower. 

The whole area is surrounded by greenery; shrubs, trees and planters giving it an almost colonial feel and a great place to take time over a cigar from the well stocked humidor.
Inside and the Champagne bar is replete with an excellent selection of Laurent Perrier Champagne. It also serves a wide range of cocktails and that cooling and moreish staple of every British summer event;  a jug of Pimms.

To top all of that it has large comfortable leather chesterfield chairs and settees surrounding a large plasma screen television which will show major sporting events while you make yourself comfortable.

I can’t think of a more civilised spot to watch the World Cup and they serve a fantastic meze platter which will keep you happy until full time.

The Hotel and cigar team have done some research to bring you a recommended quick half time cigar and something more substantial to smoke with a glass champagne to celebrate that all important victory. 

The sales team at Hunter & Frankau (the UK's importer of Cuban Cigars) have recently undertaken a rigorous few days of champagne and cigar tasting in order to provide us champagne and cigar lovers with the perfect match.

The results of their labours reveal that for a short break between sets or at half time the perfect cigar is a tubed H.Upmann Junior which you can just get through during half time if you put your mind to it. It combines beautifully with Laurent Perrier NV Champagne.

Assuming your team or favourite achieves a famous victory and you are heading out to the terrace for a celebration and with a little more time the recommended combinations are a Romeo y Julieta short Churchill with Laurent Perrier Rose champagne or a Cohiba Siglo VI with Laurent Perrier Grand Siecle champagne.    

To celebrate the opening of The Terrace Garden The Langham, are giving you the chance to win an evening on The Terrace but you will need to be quick as the competition closes on Friday 18th June.