When London’s only “art monger” invited me to lunch at the Academy Club, I could have been forgiven for expecting to be handed a painted mackerel. Instead, I am pleased to report, the experience was a memorable afternoon balancing gastronomy and a good old fashioned gossip.


The Academy Club is not, as I mistakenly expected, located at the Royal Academy. It’s concealed within the labyrinthine backstreets of London’s Soho, and once inside, possessed with the charm of an old family photograph; familiar, characterful, nostalgic and every bit alive.

My host was Julian Hartnoll, the self styled Art Monger of St James’s.

At one point we were joined by the spritely and chatty sommelier and creator of the ‘Wine Car Boot Sale’, Ruth Spivey. Ruth asked Julian what an “art monger” is? He explained, “You know when you go into a fishmonger you can pick up the mackerel and have a good look at it?” mimicking the process, “Well, in my little shop you can do that with the art. You can pick it up and have a good look at it!”

Which is true. Julian’s shop is on Duke Street, St James’s, and, although tiny, is packed with a visual display of artworks, both on the walls and spread across a main bench for the purpose of handling. From John Bratby to a wild array of prints of eye-catchingly colourful French fabric designs.

For the main course we both ordered the scallops. Whilst perusing the wine list, the owner of the club came over to the table to chat with Julian. He was lamenting over the stresses of tasting some ’99 Dom Perignon. “Delicious...” he sighed.

For my wine tip he suggested the Fontanasanta Manzoni Bianco 2014. This is wine made in the Dolomites region in northern Italy by the perfectionist Elisabetta Foradori. A cool climate wine with razor-sharp freshness and hints of white flower. It was lovely with scallops; a match made in heaven!

As the glasses were about to be filled, Julian pointed out that he no longer drank any wine and that I would have to drink the whole bottle. Luckily we were able to share a glass a glass with Ruth and the club manager, although Julian did manage to benefit from a deep inhalation of the aromas!

As for the gossip-politic… well, that is not the business of these pages. We’d have to meet for lunch to cover that!

Here's a lovely post about the wine producer Elisabetta Foradori: http://louisdressner.com/producers/foradori/

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