Birthday Shopping Trip to Soho – Rum and a Wolseley Classic

This weekend my father had a small get together for his birthday, so we decided to treat him to a bottle of really nice Cuban rum to mark the occasion. Now one of the great things about working in the centre of London is the easy access to some brilliant shops and restaurants so I set off down Wardour Street into Soho, on my way to Gerry’s in Old Comption Street. the London home of exotic booze.
About midway down Wardour Street, just outside the Imli Indian tapas restaurant, I spotted this little blast from the past.
Wolseley 18/85

It’s a Wolseley 18/85 the top end version of the the Austin 1800 otherwise known as the Landcrab. Built between 1967 and 1975, the Wolseley variant had a six cylinder engine (hence the name) and a different front grill and rear end to the more common Morris and Austin models. Inside the higher spec even included a wooden dashboard and leather upholstery.  The car was designed by Sir Alec Issigonis, designer of the Mini, and this shows in the surprisingly large cabin thanks to his inventive use of space. In fact the Wolseley 18/85 was more roomy inside than its Jaguar/Daimler contemporaries.

Despite that, like most British Leyland models of the 1970s it suffered from poor production quality and did look old fashioned for its day, so only about 61,000 were ever produced. In retrospect I think it’s rather charming to look at.  In 1975 the Six (renamed in 1972 but essentially the same vehicle) was replaced by the Wolseley Saloon, a rebadged version of  the horrible wedge shaped Austin/Morris AD071. It was the final production car to bear the Wolseley marque. This 18/85 has clearly had a lot of love spent on it so credit due to a caring owner.

After having a good look at the Wolseley and a perusal of Imli’s tapas menu (mental note must try it some time) I carried on past the Old Ship, Wahacca and the blue plaque marking the site of the old Marquee Club, where I misspent some of the finest hours of my youth, until reaching Old Comption Street. Gerry’s is at no.74, and it’s a cornucopia of booze from all over the world.

Window at Gerry's

The guy who runs the place knows his stuff too and hastily sold me a bottle of Santiago de Cuba Anejo rum for my father at £3 less than the Havana Club I originally asked for and then a bottle of el Tequileno Blanco tequila for home consumption. I remembered the Santiago rum from our trip to the island last year. It’s made at the former Bacardi factory that was nationalised after Castro’s revolution. It’s a really good sipping rum that bears drinking neat.

Some jolly nice rum and tequila

Apparently the El Tequileno used to be made by an old Mexican who refused to sell his produce to Gringo during his lifetime, Well his death was our gain as it went down a storm with my homemade guacamole!


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