Town mouse on Christmas shopping

Buying Christmas presents has to be planned carefully, in my view, around lunch. The prospect of a mouthful of roast grouse provides a welcome reward for duty done. It also gives the opportunity to review progress, the leisure to find ingenious solutions to plug awkward gaps.

This year, we shall repair to somewhere in the vicinity of Jermyn Street and the Burlington Arcade, still as civilised as it is possible for a retail experience to be. Dukes Hotel, off St James’s Street, is serving British game at present.

A loin of venison from Balmoral would be appropriately fortifying, preceded as this is Christmas, or will be by a cocktail in the bar. Cocktails aren’t part of my usual routine. I have never been able to reconcile my stomach to the American habit of imbibing substantial quantities of almost neat spirit before a meal: bonhomie peaks too soon. But Dukes’ barman, Alessandro Palazzi, deserves to be a legend.

By all means, try the martini made from truffle-infused vodka I did: the earthy aroma reminded me of the woodland floor after a hunting fall. But the drink takes second place to the glasses, so deeply chilled as to be totally white. That’s the way to approach Christmas shopping: a couple of those and you’ll forget all about it.

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