The Amateur Drinker: Is fizz worth all the fuss?

After a lifetime of abstinence, Paul Burke has decided to hit the bottle and find out what he’s been missing. This week, he gives prosecco a go

I’d only been going out with her for three months when she uttered the words that changed my life forever.

‘I’m having your child.’

Dumbstruck by disbelief, delight and sheer terror, all I could think was, ‘Three months ago, I didn’t know you who were.’

The next couple of years are a bit of a blur. I vaguely remember a pregnancy that seemed to go on interminably, a baby boy being slapped and thrust into my arms, then the buying and gutting of a house bought with money we didn’t have. Not surprisingly, there were times when I reached for the bottle. Though only to fill it with formula milk and put it in the microwave. About 18 months later, we suddenly remembered that we’d forgotten to get married, so a wedding was hastily arranged.

On our first date, I’d been keen to impress with a smart dinner at Frederick’s in Islington. Wouldn’t it be romantic, I thought, to have the wedding reception there too? Yes, and ruinously expensive too. However I discovered that Frederick’s, like a lot of smart restaurants, did a set lunch for a fraction of the price of that first-date dinner. Perfect. The splicing was scheduled for noon at the registry office down the road, so all 50 of us would be there by 1pm.

When we went along to book it, the kindly Italian manager must have taken pity on a young(ish) couple who were clearly strapped for cash. Advising us not to bother with champagne, he opened a mystery bottle and said ‘Try this instead’. ‘This’ was something from his native land called prosecco. ‘Just like champagne,’ he said proudly, ‘And a third of the price’. I took a sip and agreed that it was indeed just like champagne. Though, of course, I had no idea what champagne tasted like anyway. My soon-to-be-drunk soon-to-be-wife was more au fait with bubbled beverages. She said that this prosecco stuff was gorgeous and, with startling prescience, predicted that it would one day be more popular than champagne. Then she and the manager finished the whole bottle.

The wedding reception was fabulous. So seemingly lavish. With the set lunch and unlimited ‘champagne’ you would not believe how much it didn’t cost. Twenty-one years later, we’re back at Frederick’s. If I’m going to try prosecco again, this seemed the obvious place.

It’s even smarter than I remember it but they still do a ridiculously cheap set lunch. We sat down and the waiter arrived with two glasses of prosecco. I took a first effervescent, Alka-Seltzer-ish sip and rather liked it. Enough to take a second, more enthusiastic sip before the bubbles went straight to my head and I almost pitched face first into menu. Prosecco, I must admit, is almost quite nice. And it does taste just like champagne. And Cava. And Tizer.

Frederick’s, 106 Camden Passage, London N1 8EG

Read more adventures of the Amateur Drinker here


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