There was a time when I seemed always to be in 21, Portman Square, London W1. This Adam town house was then home to the RIBA Drawings Collection and Heinz Gallery. I first creaked in, wearing leathers, after motorcycling down from Cambridge. When I joined Country Life, a chat with the director, John Harris, was an essential preparation to writing a country-house article.
Now, the drawings can be consulted in the temple like calm of the V&A, and 21, Portman Square has become an extension of the adjacent club, Home House. The Dalmore invited me there to taste whiskies last week. Appropriately, the ground-floor rooms once shabbily elegant have been revamped by a top architect: Zaha Hadid.
One of them looks as if an aeroplane had crashed into it; that’s the bar. Lime-green sofas in shapes like melting ice cream adorn the lounge hardly Adamesque. At first, it seemed that there would be a similar mismatch between the whiskies and their accompaniment: high-octane chocolates made by Coco Chocolate of Edinburgh, delicately flavoured with ginger and rosemary.
By the time my palate had worked up to the sublime heights of the Dalmore 40 year old, I was happy to eat anything. At more than £1,300 a bottle, it may, however, be some time before I drink it again.