So PK says there's this place round the corner called the Foxlow that does really terrific steaks and on Tuesdays you can bring your own bottle and they won't even charge corkage. Since my bottles never have corks, this only interests me so far, but who doesn't like a steak? It'll be cheaper than Pizza Express, he goes on, if we bring our own drink. And the drink will be better.
These assertions too, are contestable. Nevertheless we decide to be a bit free-wheeling for once and try it out. He arms himself with something from the basement shanty he calls his cellar: a bottle of Tour St. Bonnet 2009, apparently a Cru Bourgeois from the Médoc which he bought en primeur and has managed to keep unmolested ever since. I do the usual: that is, limp balefully into my local Waitrose and spend ninety seconds looking at the reds on special offer. Something I've never heard of called Tanunda Hill catches my eye. At £6.99, it's a bit steep, but reduced from £9.99 allegedly, which makes a difference. It's a 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot mish-mash from Australia with a screwtop, and that's all good, too.
On the other hand, it's a bit odd walking into the restaurant with a couple of full bottles under your arm. I find restaurants unsettling at the best of times, what with the certainty of having to spend money and all that business of behaving yourself and making nice with the waiter/waitress, plus I am wearing shorts, which makes me feel very slightly vulnerable (do they have snakes here? No, the air-conditioning's too cold) as well as a bit Santa Monica for West London, but we bang our respective bottles down on the table and try not to look like the sort of people who drink in churchyards and by railway embankments.
We hit PK's first, and, yes, this is a suave, thoughtfully-structured beverage, a bit short on tannins but long on narrative and understated interest. My Barossa Valley red makes a surprisingly coherent counter-argument, tasting neither of old men's vests nor motorway chewing-gum, but is a bit boisterous after the Médoc, as you'd expect. PK reckons his comes in with a headline price (allowing for taxes and whatnot) of £9.80 a bottle, which compares favourably with the pre-discount price on mine. This leads to a good deal of sagacious nodding. Oh, and the steaks, accompanied by these real-world wine appreciations, are delicious: I have marrowbone with mine, which I haven't eaten for years. Talk about voluptuous.
One question: if you don't know what's on the menu, how do you know which wine to bring? I don't want to sound like PK, but it could make a difference if you don't like steak. Only other slight gêne is that we now have too much drink. The table isn't huge and the bottles dominate it like a couple of grain silos. We're too old, really, to get through this much, but I'm not hauling my leftover grog back on public transport, nor am I donating it to PK, who noisily derides my stuff anyway.
So we toil through it to the point where we're so voluble and assertive that we're in danger of gate-crashing a ladies-only birthday party a couple of tables away, and this is emphatically not the point of bringing your own bottle - to fill yourself with twice the amount of booze you would normally consume, simply because you can afford to. Too late. We have become a couple of noisy, bibulous Socratics, one of whom (me) occasionally picks up the oversized notebook in which he intended to record his tasting impressions but forgot to, and now sees this book as a rhetorical prop, or, sometimes, just a prop.
Well. We get through it and lurch into the balmy night. As it turns out, it has cost us - despite the cheapish drink - about the same as bingeing at Pizza Express. But the food is better. And the last time we looked in at Pizza Express there was live music - a boy/girl duo - who were about as deafening as the final approach into Heathrow. We lasted all of twenty seconds before regaining the street. At least in the Foxlow the loudest sound was two old farts arguing about whether or not it's okay to eat marrowbone with your fingers.