You’d have thought that on a bleak Tuesday night in January restaurant tables would be easy to come by- not so in London. Our first choices of Zuma and Scotts were already fully booked when I rang in the morning but fortunately there was a table free at the Ledbury, a small stylish restaurant in Notting Hill which has just been awarded its second Michelin star. The evening was enlivened by the presence of a group who call themselves the “Wimps”, a wine appreciation society whose table is pictured here. What “Wimps” stands for I don’t know, but there was nothing at all wimpish about their capacity to knock it down, as glass after glass was brought to their table. The extraordinary thing is that although they seemed to drink enormous quantities, they didn’t show the slightest sign of drunkenness.
There’s a certain irony in the fact that on the very same day the Government has announced a series of measures to discourage alcohol consumption, which they intend to bring in before the election. The proposals include a ban on “all you can drink” offers in pubs and hotels and a requirement for pubs and hotels to offer wine in a range of glass sizes. Similar proposals had been put forward a year ago and had been quietly shelved after the British Hospitality Association and others had pointed out their numerous flaws. The proposals have been re-introduced solely as a vote-attracting policy now that an election is in the offing. The government is saying that alcohol consumption is on the rise. The truth is that it is falling- the Government’s own “Statistical Handbook” shows that it has fallen in each of the last five years and is now 6.4% below the level of 2004. In fact Britons drink less than the French, Germans and Spanish, and much less than the Czechs, who are the European leaders with a consumption of 12.4 litres of alcohol a year compared with the UK’s 8.1 litres. Most studies of the effects of alcohol on health show that regular drinking has health benefits, particularly for the heart. A recent Spanish study for the cardiology journal Heart concluded that in men between the ages of 29 and 69 alcohol intake was associated with a more than 30 per cent incidence or coronary heart disease. Which is good news for the Wimps.