Archive | March, 2010

How to: Buy Your Perfect Watch

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How to: Buy Your Perfect Watch

Posted on 29 March 2010 by Chris Ford

Tag Heuer MonacoStep 1

First off is deciding on what style of men’s watch you want. Will you wear it at work, out on the town or both?  A big bulky watch designed for hunters probably isn’t the best watch to wear while wearing a suit.

Step 2

After you decide on the general type, you need to decide on the movement. The movement is basically the inner workings, there are three types; quartz, mechanical and digital. A quartz watch uses a tiny vibrating crystal inside, these are very accurate. Mechanical watches are either hand wind or Automatic (self winding using body movement) .The digital watch is battery powered, cheaper although considered a more casual style of watch, certainly not ideal for the boardroom!

Step 3

After you decide on the style and type of movement there are some additional considerations. Make sure you get the proper size face, a regular size face on a large man could end up looking like a ladies watch.

Look for quality construction including polished bezel and case. When it comes to mechanical watches Swiss made are generally the best.

Step 4

Waterproof, water resistant? Water resistant is NOT water proof, it just means the watch is OK if it gets splashed. When it comes to waterproof, men’s watches are rated by depth.

Step 5

Take a look at the crystal, the clear covering over the face. There are three possible materials it can be made of:

  • Plexiglass: this is the cheapest, it scratches quite easily but is difficult to shatter
  • Mineral crystal: this is more expensive, it’s more likely to shatter but less likely to get scratched
  • Synthetic sapphire: this is the most expensive, it’s almost scratch proof but is easy to shatter.

Step 6

Strap type, metal, leather or rubber.  Tradition dictates that a metal or rubber bracelet should be reserved for a more casual dress with leather to be worn with a suit. But in recent years the lines have blurred largely thanks to the recent Bond films showing off the Omega Seamaster.

Step 7

When you’re ready to buy consider second hand,  not only are some vintage watches amazing, but you will save yourself some money and look much cooler in your vintage 70s Omega than the guy who just bought a brand new version of the same watch.

If you are going for a premium Swiss Made watch then  stick to authorised dealers, the internet is full of fakes and replica watches some that look extremely convincing to the untrained eye.

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Penfolds Vintage Years

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Penfolds Vintage Years

Posted on 26 March 2010 by Marc

Now, if there is one thing I enjoy it’s a nice glass of wine.  It’s funny, wine seems to be one of those drinks where there is a perception upon the drinker to be some sort of a, dare I say it, snob!  Personally I find this rather amusing but I have been known to play along with the game just for the hours of entertainment it provides, however I may just be a little perverse in getting enjoyment from it.

In my mind a good wine is simply one that you can enjoy without sucking in your cheeks as if you had just sucked on a lemon.  This can easily be £5 wine from the supermarket or a £500 vintage from a specialist wine merchant and I do believe that’s where this class distinction comes into play, it is assumed that a good wine has to be expensive.  This is a notion I do not buy into, it is true however that by and large you have a better chance of drinking a consistently good wine when you’re prepared to spend a few pounds more than the supermarket own brand special.  That said I have drunk some very poor wine costing in excess of £100 a bottle!

So, why all this verbiage I hear you cry? Well, I wanted to tell you about a little wine tasting soiree I was invited to earlier this month that was sponsored by Penfolds.  It’s fair to say that Penfolds are arguably one of the better known New World wine producers and they also seem to have a reputation, unfairly I might add, for being expensive.  Now, it’s true they may not make many wines that you’ll pick up for £3.99 but they do make some of the most consistently delicious wines around and have been doing so more or less since they were founded by Dr Christopher Penfold in 1844.

The event was the first in a series of events entitled Penfolds Vintage Years presents.  The premiss is simple, a guest speaker is invited along to share with the audience their vintage year in business and Penfolds selects a handful of wines from around that year for everyone to sample.  The venue for the inaugural event was The Hospital Club which is one of London’s many private members clubs and the speaker was John Caudwell; who chose 2006 as his Vintage Year, the year he sold his group of companies for an eye watering £1.46 billion, in cash!

John was a very engaging speaker who gave us a synopsis of his life growing up in Shelton, Staffordshire before progressing to the point where he could sell the fruits of his hard work for a tidy sum.  Despite his immense wealth, John is very much involved with charity work and heads the charity Caudwell Children that he founded in the 1990’s.  It’s a fantastic organisation which helps a great many children, including those of a friend of mine so as you can imagine, being in the audience was quite a treat as I have heard only good things about him.

Speaking of treats, I can’t forget the Penfolds wines! There were eight wines for tasting and it was very difficult to pick one over another.  We were very fortunate to not only sample the Bin 28 Kalimma Shiraz from 2006 but also the 1990 offering which, when tasted directly after the other, really allowed you to taste how a good wine just gets better with time.  I now have to figure out how to build myself a cellar so I can start laying down my wines but truth is, I don’t think I have the patience or will-power to leave a bottle of wine for that amount of time!

The wines were billed as premium but in all honestly I’d say that was more about quality than price, which was not what you might think.  Starting at a very reasonable £8.99, 80% of those tasted are priced at under £12 a bottle while the most expensive, the delicious RWT Shiraz was a bargain at £47.  This was a wine I would certainly consider buying a few bottles of to hide away for 10 years or so as it was obvious it’s going to go from a fantastic wine to an amazing wine in that time although Penfolds suggest it will peak between 2012 & 2030 so I may need to buy a case so I have enough bottles to test over the years!

As if the talk by John Caudwell and the opportunity to sample some fine wines was not enough, Penfolds also saw fit to let me have a copy of the most recent edition of The Rewards of Patience which they publish every five years.  It’s a fascinating read which includes tasting notes for nearly every wine Penfolds has ever produced.  What’s more you can download a digital copy of The Rewards of Patience for use on your computer free of charge!

My understanding is these events will happen 4 times a year, presumably they will evaluate the first one to see if it is worthwhile and it would seem to me to be so.  We had good wine, an entertaining guest speaker and the venue was perfect with very helpful and attentive staff.  All in all it was a most enjoyable evening so, should you have the opportunity to attend a Penfolds Vintage Years event don’t hesitate to go, you’ll enjoy it immensely.

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Richard James designs new collection for Austin Reed

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Richard James designs new collection for Austin Reed

Posted on 24 March 2010 by Chris Ford

The suit is no passing trend – it’s an essential wardrobe piece. While some suit styles, cuts and fits may move in and out every season, Richard James knows how to give the classic-style suit some modern flair.

Which is why I was very excited to hear the Savile Row legend had designed a range for premium high street chain Austin Reed.

While in Austin Reeds Regent Street store I tried on the Navy Sharkskin suit from the range, mainly out of curiosity with no intention to buy but was amazed how well the suit hung and at £500 a bargain compared to what you would pay for James’ own off the rack range which to be honest I don’t feel are any better than what is on offer here.

The suits are exquisitely cut in luxurious lightweight mohair’s and wool silk mixes in subtle summer colours which combined with James’ signature sharp tailoring finished to create a strong British tailored look this collection really is something special.

There are also a range of shirts and ties,  the ties were fairly standard but the shirts again I was impressed with the attention to detail, a very nice touch are the mother of pearl buttons which you really don’t see on the high street so well done Austin Reed I’m impressed although my wallet is less so!

Austin Reeds ‘Cut’ Range is available now from selected Austin Reeds stores and online at Suits start at £500, Shirts £70 and ties £45

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Where To Find A Good Cup of Joe

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Where To Find A Good Cup of Joe

Posted on 23 March 2010 by Marc

You’ll notice that Mr Black likes his coffee.  That’s all I ever hear him talk about, well that and cigars.  Opinion is divided on where the term Cup of Joe originates.  Most people attribute it to Josephus Daniels who banned alcohol in the Navy in 1914 but it’s been used as far back as 1840, the only problem is no one from then ever bothered to write down what it meant!

Personally, I’m more of a tea drinker but there is a distinct lack of establishments catering to the tea lover.  If you thought those ghastly coffee shop chains butchered coffee you should see what they do to tea! So with this in mind I thought I’d highlight a few places around the UK that serve superior coffees and not a chain in sight.


For one of the best espresso’s in town you really have to give The Espresso Room a try.  It’s a classic example of a true, independent coffee house.  Don’t be put off by the intimidating demeanour when you first encounter it, one sip of the magical dark elixir will soon put you at ease. Address: 31-35 Great Ormond Street, WC1N 3HZ

For a particularly fine filter coffee I would heartily recommend The Tea and Coffee Plant. They are an importer/bean roaster with a café on the side.  The coffee is organic and Fairtrade and with it’s chilled-out vibe in Notting Hill it’s perfect for a spot of people watching. Address: 180 Portobello Road, W11 2EB

Kaffeine is an Antipodean-style coffee house which boasts a Synesso espresso machine.  This, according to the experts, is the Rolls Royce of espresso machines.  I wouldn’t know about that being more of a Bentley man myself but the coffees are rather good! I’m told the Chocolate Brownies are very tasty but it would feel adulterous to try one when I see their amazing Lamingtons sitting there Address: 66 Great Titchfield Street, W1W 7QJ

Now, London is my stomping ground so to speak but I also know it’s not the epicentre of the universe so I left a note for the milkman telling him to suspend deliveries for a week and traversed this great isle in search of more great coffee establishments.  Perfect if you find yourself out of town one fine weekend!

South England

If you ever find yourself in Cornwall and gasping for a cuppa head for Wadebridge for there you will find Relish, which has a deli and a café serving nice food as well as great coffee.  Address: Foundry Court, Wadebridge, Cornwall PL27 7QN

I knew there had to be a reason to visit Brighton and I found it in Ground (no website, just great coffee) It’s a compact and bijou café with very friendly staff who take pride in their work and feature guest single-estate coffees that are all very tasty.  I’ll be shocked if you only visit here once! Address: Ground, 36 George’s Road, Brighton, BN2 1ED   Tel: 01273 696 441

Oxford is famous for many things but I suspect Combibos is not listed on any tourist map, yet! It’s a family owned and run café and as well as splendid coffee they serve up scrumptious breakfasts.  Staff are so friendly and attentive I’d consider moving just to call this my local!  Address: 93 Gloucester Green, Oxford OX1 2BU

North England

There’s a certain feel in Leoni’s Coffee House (no website), it’s the exact opposite feeling I get in one of those chains whose name I dare not speak.  It’s cosily down to earth with no pretensions to be anything other than a  smashing coffee shop serving up fine coffee with good food.  Address: Leoni’s Coffee House, 16 Wheelgate, Malton, North Yorkshire YO17 7HP Tel: 01653 691 321

Not content with one great coffee shop, Leeds has two, both of which are named the Opposite Café.  I only ventured to the one in the Victoria Quarter as I fear I’m a little old to be loitering near Universities where I often get mistaken for an archaeology professor, I think it’s the monocle?! Anyway, the Opposite serves up a proper cup of coffee and the staff really know their beans.  Address: Victoria Quarter, Queen Victoria Street, Leeds LS1 6AZ Leeds

My final destination was the Coolaboola which is situated in a station.  So yes, you can just grab a coffee and go but to do so would render you liable to missing out on the wealth of knowledge the staff have on both the farms where the beans come from as well as the flavour profile.  These chaps really do care about the black stuff and if you’re catching a train out of Dodge a pit-stop here will make any train journey glide by.  Address: Jesmond Metro Station, Jesmond, Newcastle upon Tyne NE2 4RH

So, that’s a few places in England to try out.  In the next month or two I shall be exploring North of Hadrian’s Wall as well as nipping over to the Valleys in a bid to find the local cafés that are refreshing taste-buds.  Do leave a comment if you know of a coffee shop that serves up a decent cup of Joe.

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How To: Tie a Half Windsor Knot

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How To: Tie a Half Windsor Knot

Posted on 19 March 2010 by Marc

Last month Mr Black discussed the Four in Hand knot.  Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s a mighty fine knot but if I may be so bold, I’d say it’s more of a beginners knot.  It’s what you might use while attending high school but once you’ve grown up, you’ll want a grown up knot to accompany you and that’s where the Half Windsor comes into it’s own.  Matched with a crisp shirt you’ll have what is known as sartorial elegance.

So, if you don’t want to be left in the collar-fashion wilderness, follow the advice of Charles Tyrwhitt of Jermyn Street who have produced a nifty step-by-step video guide on how to tie the knot.

Prepare yourself First, turn your collar up and pass the tie around your neck before folding the collar back down. Make sure the wide blade of the tie is around 10 to 12 inches longer than the narrow tail.

Get stuck in Next, pass the wider section over the tail once, then back underneath before bringing it through the loop to create the knot. Fold the blade over the knot, back through the loop once again and tuck it inside the knot. Then gently pull the blade down before pinching the knot to create a neat triangle.

Tidy up You can then tighten by pulling the narrow tail while pushing the knot towards the top of the shirt. Before it reaches the collar, fasten the button and adjust to comfort. The result is a larger knot than the four-in-hand, but extremely smart all the same.

How to wear it The Half Windsor tends to suit a larger and more rounded face and is ideal if you have a beard as it draws ones attention to your neck. When choosing your neck wear bear in mind that a diagonal striped tie goes well with a crisp white or blue shirt while a versatile solid neck-tie suits check and striped shirts.

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Tea Bag or Yellow Submarine?


Tea Bag or Yellow Submarine?

Posted on 16 March 2010 by Chris Ford

In the main I’m a coffee man but I do like the odd cup of Earl Grey, especially with a nice cigar to hand.   Most people use tea bags but there really is a flavour difference when you use loose tea leaves, much like freshly ground coffee beans taste far better than instant frozen coffee.

Anyway today I came across this rather cool tea infuser inspired by The Beatles Yellow submarine which you’ll get the most benefit from if you pair it with these gorgeous Bodum Corona Glass mugs

The infuser is available from Utility for only £9.00

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TOMS Shoes – One for One

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TOMS Shoes – One for One

Posted on 15 March 2010 by Marc

Over the weekend I was catching up with the various blogs I read as part of my struggle to keep my finger on the pulse  of what’s going on in the world.  It may come as surprise, a shock even, to discover that one of my regular reads is City Girl Style.  However when you think about it, a truly modern man should be au fait with what’s going on with the fairer sex.  After all, what man doesn’t care what a lady thinks when she casts her, sometimes overly, critical eye over him?

Saturday’s feature was on TOMS shoes and it jogged my memory, no easy task let me assure you!  However, as a fan of the Dave Matthews Band I recalled that last year Dave, of the aforementioned band, designed a limited edition pair of vegan friendly TOMS shoes based on the bands popular Fire Dancer design.

You can buy TOMS shoes online in the UK from Office Shoes and Schuh however the Fire Dancer ones are only available from the Dave Matthews US on-line store.  So what better way to show you’re one step ahead of the pack than by not only being seen sporting this Summer’s coolest footwear but by wearing a design that very few people will be aware exists.  Rest assured, girls in the city will take one look at your casual footwear and know you’re no slouch when it comes to ethical fashion!

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Devilishly Good Duvel Beer


Devilishly Good Duvel Beer

Posted on 14 March 2010 by Chris Ford

I was first introduced to Duvel while on holiday in Brussels,  the hotel had a big promotion on at the time and were really pushing the stuff.  Well I’m easily led so I tried a glass, mainly curious as to what a beer of 8.5% would taste like.

It was a surprise indeed, the strength while most definitely there is not over powering.  The beer is poured in such a way that you are meant to be left with a large head, I’m told this helps the beer breathe which is great but what does it taste of?

Well there is a strong fruity aroma with pleasant tones of alcohol. Very easy drinking. Refreshingly good taste of fruits, some citrus over run every so slightly by mild spices.  Fruity after taste with almost no bitterness

Duvel is perfect for that relaxed afternoon in the pub chilling with friends and when served correctly in the special Duvel glass  certainly stands out from the crowd as all us modern men like to!

Duvel is available from most major supermarkets and also by the case from places like The Drink Shop.

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S.T Dupont X-Tend Cigar Lighter


S.T Dupont X-Tend Cigar Lighter

Posted on 12 March 2010 by Chris Ford

The Dupont X-Tend S.T.Dupont X.tend MaxiJet lighter has long been a standard of luxury in the cigar smoking community.  If you’re not aware of the price already, the maxi Jet (the full size X-tend) can be purchased for around £97. Now, before you completely dismiss this lighter, hear me out.

When I first read the hype on the X-Tend I was very keen, talk of laser guided flames excites the boy within, but when I saw the lighter in person I was tad disappointed, I don’t know what I was expecting this laser guided flame to look like but well, it didn’t, so I walked away.

Two weeks later, I was on my way to a cigar evening in Chelsea and my cheapo torch lighter packed up; mild panic ensued, these events tend to just provide matches and I’m not really a match kind of guy, I prefer to toast my cigars with a torch flame for that even, consistent burn I have come to love.  So what did I do? I jumped off the tube at Green Park and popped into JJ Fox to look for a lighter. I didn’t have much time and didn’t have a clue about any of the lighters on display except the X-Tend, so I reluctantly took a punt and bought one.

Well readers, I have never looked back.  This lighter totally lives up to the hype; a strong, straight flame that the wind doesn’t seem to bother, an elegant looking solid construction and it comes with the added bonus of making fellow cigar (and cigarette!) smokers dead jealous whenever you pull it from your pocket!

The S.T.Dupont X.tend MaxiJet can be purchased from Amazon and other good retailers.

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The Perfect St Patrick’s Day

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The Perfect St Patrick’s Day

Posted on 10 March 2010 by Chris Ford

It is said that it takes 119.5 seconds to pour the perfect pint of Guinness and with St Patrick’s Day fast approaching on the 17th March I thought I would arm you with all the information you need to get that perfect pint.  Anyone that drinks Guinness regularly, like me, will know ordering that perfect pint can be a bit hit and miss so here my dear readers is what your bar man should be doing :

The perfect pint of Guinness is served using the ‘two-part’ pour:

  • Select a clean, dry glass – hold the glass at 45 degrees under the spout.
  • Pull the handle slowly towards you and allow the beer to flow smoothly down the side of the glass (note: do not submerge the spout in the beer).
  • As the glass fills, straighten the glass – fill glass until full.
  • Stand the glass on the counter and allow the gas to surge through the beer.

To create the legendary head, push the handle backward slightly (this is known as “topping off”). The head should rise just proud of the rim.

For me the best place in London to get a pint of the black stuff has to be The Tipperary on Fleet Street which also happens to hold the honour of being the first Irish pub ever established outside Ireland  and we all know they are bloody everywhere now!

Keeping with the theme of  St Patrick’s Day, I also enjoy a good whiskey from time to time, and what better way to enjoy a few Jameson’s on the 17th than in some of these ultra cool Waterford Crystal Whiskey Tumblers?

Waterford Crystal has been produced in Waterford Ireland since 1783 and the company has built a reputation for producing some of the best crystal in the world.

These tumblers come in pairs at £65.00 and are available from Waterford Direct and other fine outlets.

You will of course need a good Whiskey to fill your Waterford glass and The Whisky Exchange have a fantastic selection of Irish Whiskeys including my favourite Jamesons.

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