Spitalfields, haunt to an odd mix of Nikon-toting tourists and besuited City workers on the hunt for a spot of lunch, is a conveniently short walk away from my law school. All too often I find my purse unburdened by the siren call of the jewellery shops around the fringes of the eponymous market, while Bleecker Burger and the bars in the area are becoming so familiar that I blame them for any discomfort in the waistband region. Like me, this is a part of town that has grown a little too big for its britches. I have a memory from the nineties, coloured with glee, of riding a miniature toy train around the market. Gone is that Dickensian cave of treasures, toy train dispensed with in favour of a cleaner, redeveloped space populated by chains. And yet I still love the area. There's a few gems to be found in the sea of ubiquitous tack on the traders' stalls, and some truly cool spaces. Like Vagabond.
I'm a wine lover but not a wine lover. I did a few tastings at various societies at university but couldn't get past the aroma wheels or spittoons - oh, or the fact that little lightweight Tamsin at 19 really couldn't handle her alcohol. Now, 5 years down the line, Vagabond marks my very first trip to a bar devoted exclusively to wine. So, I repeat. I'm really not the oenologist that some of my fellow mid-twenties friends can claim to be.
Friends like Ivy (pictured here with Viv - aren't they such beauties?) aka birthday girl of the evening, who showed me how Vagabond works. Stroll up to the counter to rent a card for the night (or, you know, for the rest of your life) and top it up with as much credit as you desire. Et voilà: the crazy wide selection of wines on tap are yours for the taking! Volumes are also completely at your discretion - whether you're after a tasting mouthful, a full glass or an entire bottle.
A delectable Gewürztraminer, my first and favourite wine of the night. Untrained drinker that I am, I loved that I could still identify the grapes and imagine them, plump, on the vine in Alsace.
Brand new reds bottled in the past 3 years - toddlers, really.
Brushing shoulders with dustier vintages pushing their mid-thirties.
A birthday toast.
And you know what goes well with wine? CHEESE. Especially apt on National Cheese Day. This board boasted a few staggeringly delicious specimens. The blue in the middle of the platter was particularly memorable. A dolcelatte, maybe? Whatever it was, it was so creamy I could have wept. You can also order big plates of charcuterie if you get peckish - one to remember for next time.
Cute (and very '80s) Polaroids were snapped, woeful tales of less-than-perfect housemates swapped, and the unlearned (me, mainly) schooled on the sartorial distinction between full and quarter brogues.
Plentiful cheese + wine = an ideal combination for ringing in a birthday (chosen well by Ivy, as expected!) It's also a devilish thief of time. Before I knew it, I was trudging down Euston Road, having missed the last tube...so worth it. I've still got a little credit left on my Vagabond card, which I'm keeping safe for the next time I want to shed a few hours and pounds of responsibility. If you're into wine, come along with me next time and educate me on the finer points of wine tasting, please!