"What are we celebrating?" asked my friend when I suggested having a glass of Champagne to kickstart the Friday night.
Would she have asked the same question if I'd bought a bottle of cava? I doubt it. Yet for many of us, cava is our first point of entry to the heady world of Champagne but without the French fizz's cache.
Richard Bigg, the charismatic owner of the Camino group of restaurants and the Big Chill bars, thinks this is a wrong that needs to be righted. And Richard's way is to install the UK 's first dedicated cava bar in the basement of his latest Camino restaurant in Blackfriars.
As ever with the Camino group, the attention to detail is fantastic. The refitted brick walled basement, complete with arches, a charcuterie and cava bar could have been plucked straight out of one of the great Spanish cities. The subtle mood lighting dark wooden furniture, and Richard's 'trinkets' (he collects items on his Spanish sojourns with which he 'litters' his restaurants) are balanced by a couple of modern touches, the most striking of which is the glass floor that looks down on the stored cava. The ambiance is authentically Spanish, and dare I say romantic.
Most of the 40-odd types of cava on offer are from Catalunya (95%) and spans the brut, reserva and grand reserva styles. The Northerner and I were impressed by the dryness and depth of flavour of the reservas that we tried, which is no surprise given that cava is made in the traditional method, metodo tradicional, in the same way as Champagne. Of course it doesn’t taste like Champagne, but it's far superior to its Italian cousin, prosecco.
The food is the traditional strength of Camino, and Copa de Cava maintains the standard. Our particular favourites of the night were the Vieira Rosado – Cornish scallop, morcilla Iberica, butter beans – and the Galician style octopus.
Richard and his team are also behind Pepito in Kings Cross, the bar that made sherry, arguably the worlds least cool drink, cool. And you could argue that they have done the same thing here. Perhaps its time to rethink when and with what drink we celebrate. Perhaps it's time to try cava.