The South Kensington Club – Tasca Day:
Having lived just down the road from South Kensington, I was intrigued by an invitation to the South Kensington Club. Despite the tube strike, I decided that a special Sicilian lunch with Tasca wines and the opportunity to see around the club was one not to miss. So, on a fortuitously sunny morning I set off on foot from Kennington. It is all too easy to forget that most of London is within walking distance and even at my stop/start pace – taking pictures as I went, it took me no more than an hour and a half to reach my destination.
Inside the South Kensington Club everything is just so. If you are one of those people who finds it irritating when pictures don’t line up properly, when a cheap ornament spoils an otherwise stunning interior or when function has been compromised to benefit form you’ll immediately feel at ease here.
Someone has spent a lot of time getting things right. And that against a concept which to the best of my knowledge doesn’t exist anywhere else in London (perhaps in the World). The membership brochure hints at the philosophy.
We seek to bring together a group of ‘interesting and interested’ individuals who love to travel, to feel good, to learn and above all who appreciate the good things in life
This is somewhere for a healthy hedonist – a lover of life who wants to carry on living for as long as possible. And it’s somewhere with an exceptional range of facilities. Where else will you find a members hammam, a banya and a watsu pool (with watsu master to guide your floating experience). There are beauty rooms, an in house hairdresser, personal trainers and a well equipped gym.
Once you are refreshed and revitalised, there’s a tea library a juice bar, a club sitting room and a Mediterranean restaurant. Founder Luca del Bono knows exactly what he wants to achieve here, it’s somewhere you can sense the passion and drive behind the concept. And, for me, that means it has the best chance of success.
The Club has a series of exclusive events. Tasca Day – a wine tasting and lunch/dinner with the owner of the Tasca d’Almerita Wines is a good example of the type of event members are invited to experience. Hosted by Giuseppe Tasca D’Almerita, who rather charmingly described himself as ‘just a farmer’, we learned about the vineyards in Sicily that are part of the group, about the heritage of the family and about the ethos of the wine makers. Rather than producing organic or biodynamic wines, Tasca d’Almerita has a programme of what they call SOStainability – The aim, to achieve eco-sustainability in agriculture starts in Sicily with grapes. It’s a self-regulated, pro-active scheme which is intended to ensure the wellbeing of the land for future generations of Sicilians. And it is clearly dear to the heart of Giuseppe Tasca D’Almerita.
We went on to enjoy a wonderful Sicilian lunch cooked for us by the chef from Tasca d’Almerita’s own estate with paired Tasca Wines.
A whole series of Sicilian appetizers including a wonderful raw red prawn with salted pistachio and candied lemon
A delicious seabass carpaccio with more finely grated zest of lemon.
And, of course, Aubergine Caponata, that sweet sour vegetable stew which is one of Sicily’s most famous dishes.
My personal favourite though was a tuna tartar with capers. Of the appetizers, this was the one that took me back to Sicily. I remember wandering around Marzamemi, learning about the tuna fishing there. And I remember picking capers from the shrubs. Of course I remember the lemons, the aubergines and more too.
We’d been trying the Tasca wines throughout the appetizers. The white, Tasca Leone D’Almerita was fresh, aromatic and delicious with the carpaccio and prawn. But, again perhaps because of my own memories of Sicily, the red, Nero d’Avola Tasca Lamuri Sicilia DOC 2012 was my favourite and worked beautifully with the caponata (and actually rather well with the tuna for me).
Our pasta dish was Paccheri with almond pesto and amberjack. By now we’d moved on to Tasca Chardonnay Sicilia Contea di Sclafani DOC. We tried the 2012 and two older vintages (2004 and 1998).
Dessert was, of course Canollo – although here a ‘new and fresh personal version’ – served like an sandwich with a light ice-cream filling.
I have to admit to particularly enjoying the Malvasia dessert wine. Tasca d’Almerita Tenuta Capofaro Malvasia, Salina IGT 2010. A great match for the Canollo, though I’d happily have sipped another glass with a little cheese.
I suspect many of the ingredients for our food came directly from Sicily. Certainly, sitting in the light, elegant surroudings of the South Kensington Club, I could easily have imagined myself back there. I know that there’s something very special about a meal hosted by a wine maker, where the food and wine shared is his own. It is the essence of terroir for me, that passion for the land and for the food and wine it produces which creates a special magic.
With many thanks to Luca del Bono for the invitation to join The South Kensington Club for this wonderful lunch. And to Guiseppe Tasca d’Almerita for introducing us to his wines and sharing his passion with us.
For more information about the South Kensington Club contact Membership Secretary Antonia Plunkett or check the website
For more about Tasca d’Almerita wines, check their website or contact UK distributors Berkmann Wine Cellars