In my official capacity as drinks columnist for this newspaper, I sometimes get invited to glittering events - and I usually say no, simply because glitter and I have an uneasy relationship. One recent invitation, however, had me sitting me up and paying attention. My hand hovered over the "yes, please" button. Then I realised I couldn't make the date in question, so hand moved to the "no, thanks" button. But then I realised there was something better I could do. I could use the invitation to make money for a good cause.
The event in question is a fundraising dinner on 11 September at Bank restaurant in Aldwych. Beneficiary: Action Against Hunger (AAH). One possible description: "lavish". Proceedings begin with an hour of Taittinger Champagne, then move on to a four-course dinner with each course cooked by a distinguished London chef: starter by Giorgio Locatelli of Locanda Locatelli, fish by Henry Harris of Racine, main by Christian Delteil of Bank, and pudding by Tom Aikens of the restaurant bearing his name. The matching wines are being provided by Penfolds, and will be opened under the guidance of top sommelier Gérard Basset.
And somewhere along the way, an auction will be held of fine wines donated by all manner of benefactors. The wines on auction make for mouth-watering reading. As of the time of writing, lots include a magnum of Château Haut-Brion, a six-bottle case of Penfolds Grange 1999, a magnum of Dow's 1977 vintage port signed by Dow's supremo Paul Symington, a magnum of Château Pichon-Longueville 2000, and a bottle of Château Pontet-Canet 1929, donated by Ken Hom. God only knows what the winning bids will be; but the watching should be enjoyable, especially after a meal like this one.
Unable to make that date, I have arranged to donate my ticket as an exclusive raffle prize for The Independent on Sunday readers. All I'm asking of you is to send your name, address and phone number to the address that follows in a moment. Just that - plus another signature, this time on a cheque made payable to Action Against Hunger UK. You're not legally obliged to send a cheque, of course, but I know that you'll do the right thing.
And if you are interested not just in attending but in taking along a friend, there's an incentive to do it. Anyone sending a cheque for £25 or more will have the opportunity to get another ticket at the reduced price of £100. Even if you don't win the prize, you'll have made a sizeable donation to an exceedingly worthy cause. And if you do win, you'll get a bang-up meal for two people for as little as £125 - which is not chicken-feed in anyone's currency, but is terrific value for four courses in central London cooked by some of the best chefs in the land. The meal, if you could get it at any other restaurant, would probably cost £100 a head with all that champagne, all that wine, and four courses.
Sound appealing? Then send in your details (including phone number and a cheque, please!) to Independent on Sunday offer, Action Against Hunger UK, Unit 7B Larnaca Works, Grange Walk, London SE1 3EW. Post them to arrive by 5 September. The winner will be picked out of a hat late that afternoon, and will be informed by phone immediately.
Final technical note: if you make a donation and you are a UK taxpayer, please remember to state that you are a UK taxpayer and happy for Action Against Hunger to claim Gift Aid on your donation. I'll be with the lucky winner in spirit. Deeply envious, of course, but cheering you on.
Top Corks: Three to stave off autumn
Stella Bella Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc 2003, Margaret River (£40.79 from £51.24 for 6 bottles, www.sainsburyswine.co.uk Great wine with Riesling-like lime intensity. A steal.
Roero Arneis 2004, Terre da Vino (£5.99, or £5.09 if you buy two, Majestic) A fresh, citrussy and nutty white from a distinguished producer of Barolo. Arneis is the grape.
Dourthe No.1 Sauvignon Blanc 2004 (£4.99, Waitrose) Bordeaux Sauvignon Blanc is often overlooked because of New World competition. It shouldn't be, as this lively, low-cost example shows.Reuse content