This hour, hardworking, ravenous folks who crumbled and wolfed lunch before 1pm, is Aperitivo.
Aperitivo is, if you like, an Italian tapas. Traditionally Milanese, but available across Italy, Aperitivo is an early evening drink alongside bite-size bar snacks, ranging from olives and potato crisps to charcuterie, cheeses, and more extravagant delicacies, dependent on the establishment. (But strictly no pork scratchings).
Aperitivo is laid out across the bar, and traditionally accompanied by a bitter Campari-based cocktail such as Negroni Sbagliato or Americano. The idea is to eat just enough to tidy you over until dinner, although a good Aperitivo can wipe out any need for dinner at all.
Mayfair's Banca is just one high-end Italian restaurant jumping on the Aperitivo bandwagon – we like to call it Vespa - by offering a range of tasty treats along its shiny bar from 5pm-7.30pm, Tuesday to Friday.
It's an impressive selection ranging from Zucchine e Carote fritte – lightly fried courgettes and carrots – to Polpo alla piastra – seared octopus with caper dressing – and a range of delicious mini sandwiches on focaccia bread.
Now folks, Aperitivo is a beautiful thing. It does, I firmly believe, have every intention of ensuring just the right side of raucous, humiliation-free, hangover-free, post-work drinking.
We Brits stand in awe of the European with his intelligent coupling of drink with food. Ah, we recognise slowly, the lightbulb in our thought bubble glowing tentatively, it IS better to chew while we slurp.
But, be warned. I give you Aperitivo with one caveat. Happy hour is in our bones. If you develop rather too much of a fondness for Campari, the following may still happen, no matter how many octopi you devour. (I see them now, shocked circular faces, waving all their arms at me in horror.)
1) You may find you eat 12 sandwiches. Yes, 12. And there were witnesses. Skinny ones.
2) You may find yourself in the beautiful toilets for longer than is acceptable, because you're unravelling the gold-patterned luxury toilet roll and decanting it into your handbag so you can feel posh at home.
3) You may find yourself on Oxford Street two hours later giving a heartfelt monologue on the true message behind Selfridge's Christmas window display.
4) You may find you love One Direction more than anyone thought a 32 year old possibly could – even Caroline Flack - and taking out people's eyes as you throw wonky shapes on the dance floor.
5) And you may give your number to a man who continues to text you on a daily basis even though you haven't replied. He may, at one point, ask if you're alive. You may be tempted to reply ‘NO, I'M DEAD'.
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