Plenty of people like their Martinis with a thimble or less of dry vermouth. I've never understood the pleasure of sipping on a couple of shots of ice-cold vodka or gin, myself. But it's not just vermouth; I'm always liable to get itchy tastebuds without a suitable garnish, which is why one desperate evening, having run out of lemons and olives, I experimented by dropping an anchovy into my Martini. My demonic creation was disgusting in a way that I didn't think possible. An anchovy Martini may always be too much to swallow, but one’s demons must be faced, so I thought Nobu's new Caviar Martini looked like a reasonable first step into the world of fishy concotions.
Until quite recently I didn’t understand the allure of caviar. I had only ever tried tiny quantities of the salty, dry fish eggs balanced ungraciously on a rubbery blini. In the cold light of day, it also seems like eating animals’ eggs may be the oddest thing we humans do. Eating the flesh of an animal for protein is one thing, but harvesting its progeny? Thankfully, we don't spend the whole of our lives in the cold light of day, and it just so happens that eggs belonging to the right sturgeons can leave an extremely pleasant taste in the mouth, actually.
Decent caviar is a gift from the gods – which is why people with money are willing to throw so much at it, and people with power are keen to keep it for themselves. Despite his many failings as a ruler, Edward II knew a good thing when he tasted it. In 1324 he decreed sturgeon to be a Royal Fish, with all sturgeons in British water thereafter belonging to the monarch. Thankfully, the Queen has forgone this prerogative so we can partake, too.
At first sip, the caviar bitters in Nobu's Caviar Martini were forcing me to face my Proustian memories of that anchovy Martini, but these were swiftly repressed as soon as I started on the spoon of caviar. The Gourmet House Russian Oscietra Caviar has that silky quality that connects all the tastiest things in the world – whether it’s sweatbreads, fois gras, or what I can only imagine a glass of Chateau Lafite 1959 tastes like, which goes for over £3,000 a bottle.
Perhaps one day I'll be presented with the nightmarish anchovy Martini again and I’ll have to face my fear – but until then there's always caviar.
GIN & TONIC
■ Caviar Martini (Nobu Berkeley ST)
■ 60ml Elit vodka
■ 8 dashes Devils Club Caviar Bitters
■ Stir vodka and bitters over ice 30 times to release the flavour.
■ Spritz lemon zest on the stem the martini glass.
■ Serve in a with a spoonful of Gourmet House Russian Oscietra Caviar.