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Brasserie at the Grosvenor, Chester

Gordo falls out with the flagrant flouting of sensible pricing and declares it a CPT

Written by . Published on July 29th 2009.


Brasserie at the Grosvenor, Chester

It’s all about VFM. Value For Money. It’s not about the price.

Gordo has had a bottle of wine recently which was VFM, but cost £350 in a restaurant. Gordo paid £175 for it in Harvey Nichols in Manchester. Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, 1989; that was one of the best years of the last century and drinks spectacularly well. Now, just across the street, so to speak, over in Bordeaux you could have been drinking a Chateau Haut Brion, a first growth (the Pichon is classified as a second growth) at well over a thousand pounds. Yet the Pichon will blow its socks off. It is, ladies and gentlemen, even at £350, VFM.

The management team at this hotel have lost touch with reality. The dearest brasserie food in the UK, and not the best cooked.

Now, Marble Brewery here in Manchester brew some absolutely fabulous beer. It's Confidential’s beer of choice (unless you’re in The Circus, the Tetley’s in there is knockout). Confusingly, they call their standard pint the Pint. It’s £2.35 and it’s a cracker. They also have the Dobber, a big strong beer at 5.9 per cent which is a little over £3 – you really need to try it. And this beer is VFM. A bottle of the internationally characterless Bud at Loaf bar costs £3.30. Not VFM.

Now, it’s time to get to the point.

Over in Chester there is a very fine hotel called the Grosvenor. It is spectacularly expensive: but having dined in its Michelin starred restaurant, previously known as The Arkle and now named after the remarkable chef Simon Radley, Gordo knows it to be value for money. Even at over £150 a head.

So, Gordo decided to try out their Brasserie last Sunday, somewhere he has never eaten apart from getting some great sandwiches mid afternoon once upon a time. The place hasn’t changed for a long time either, a good try at a traditional Parisian brasserie, with padded green leather banquettes, lots of mirrors and a good-looking front of house brigade dressed in black with aprons and smiles. We had the pick of the tables and chose one for privacy, which didn’t mean we were forgotten, service throughout was charming, with one mistake. More of that later.

The menu is not French brasserie; it’s a menu that is slightly confused and a bit too clever for its own good. Take, for example, the Crisp onion flute (£8.95): further described as ‘with devilled lambs kidneys and air dried ham’. Gordo asked the waitress what a ‘crisp onion flute’ was. He was no further on after a couple of minutes of listening to a charming young French lady attempt an explanation. But, hey ho, let’s have a go. What it was, was ‘whole devilled lambs kidneys on toast’. Bloody good they were too, if the sauce was a bit too glossy; it was a charming dandy, when it should have been a bit of a bad tempered pugilist.

The Duck egg omelette (£11.95), further described as ‘with wild mushrooms, duck liver and shaved truffles’ came deconstructed; the omelette, round, and half an inch thick, sat with the wild mushrooms atop and atop that, a good slice of foie gras. The only thing here that had any taste was the foie gras. Seasoning had been completely forgotten in both the omelette and the mushrooms when they had been fried off. As for shaven truffles, they were as much in evidence as Gordo’s six pack.

Mains were Farmer Sharpe’s Cumbrian veal cutlet (£26) with Café de Paris butter. Great piece of meat; maybe could have been improved by a French cut as the flank was slightly high having been hung properly. Great allumette potatoes.

Gressingham duck (£19.95) finished up poor. Asked how she would like it cooked, my companion asked for it rare. When it arrived it was in fact a half duck, with the leg on. The only way to cook this is well done, unless you serve it as they do at La Tour d’Argent in Paris, where the breast is removed half way through cooking and served pink, the leg coming later, well done.

In this instance the whole piece was grey, not cooked enough for the leg and too much for the breast. Crispy, is how it should have been. Gordo isn’t at all sure why we were asked about the cooking level as it leads one to believe that one is about to get something rather different. But, blimey, what’s this? Poor seasoning again. It was a letdown.

The Yorkshire free range chicken (£16.95) with lemon, honey and pancetta was absolutely bloody gorgeous. Cooked to the point that the French are good at, the breast plump not stringy, the use of basting butter infused with lemon, the breadcrumbs dribbled with a bit of honey, this was a fantastic piece of chicken. Stunning pancetta as well. We needed the side dishes, Hand cut chips (£3.30) Potato dauphinoise (£4.95) and Broccoli with toasted almonds (£4.95) to make a meal. They were lovely.

Puddings: Crème caramel (£5.95) which was made far more interesting than normal with the addition of texture via triangles of crispy toffee-ish wafers and, unusually, flecks of thyme leaves. Then a workman-like, somewhat mean portion of Treacle tart (£5.95) along with ‘Ice cream cones’ in the form of chocolate ice cream (£3.95). This was off the children’s menu and where the only mistake was made by service; the children’s menu wasn’t offered at the beginning, so we had to get my young dining companion, at six years of age, a grown chicken, listed above, for his meal.

We drank two glasses of Touraine Sauvignon, Chateau de la Presle, a Loire (£5.25) and a large glass of Chateau du Grand Pierre, 1er Cotes de Blaye, a fifth division Bordeaux (£9.25). The red was pretty good.

So, a meal of two qualities basically: five dishes good, two poor. In general, the quality of the ingredients was very high, but for a brasserie, they were too interfered with. In this case the proximity of a Michelin starred kitchen has resulted in a lot of lily gilding which in turn leads to mistakes.

Then the bill arrives.

£159.35, with the tip, £175 quid.

A ton and three quarters for a quick brasserie late Sunday lunch for two and a half people.

This was the first time in years that Gordo has been stumped for words. Rarely does he look at the prices on a menu, from walking in the place he can work out what the bill is going to be within ten quid. He was a good sixty quid out on this one.

Let’s look at these prices. Broccoli with toasted almonds, £4.25. Hard cost, 30p. Mark up, 1,400 per cent. Potato dauphinoise, £4.95. Hard cost, 17p for the potato, 20p for the cheese, etc. total, 37p. Mark up, 1337 per cent. Chips, £3.30. Hard cost, 17p. Mark up, 2005 per cent.

If you take a look at the Chicken dish above, you need carbs and a green veg with it, so let’s look at chicken, chips and broccoli. Chicken, half of, hard cost, £3 (very generous, was great quality mind you), add the chips (17p) and broccoli (30p). This gives a hard cost of £3.47. The total carte price, £24.95 for a main course, in a brasserie, of chicken and chips with one veg. This, dear reader, is pricing by a management team who are completely out of touch with reality. It’s obscene.

Now, let’s look at the wine.

Don’t forget, that £175 bill had three glasses of wine in it, not three bottles. The Chateau du Grand Pierre is listed at Gerrard Seel wine merchants at £7.15 retail. So, the maximum hard cost of my 250 ml glass, £2.39. So, I paid, for a glass, £9.25. Mark up? 387%. And that was being generous with the retail price. Let’s not talk about the Muscat at £8.50.

Now, Gordo knows a bit about costing food. In fact, he estimates that the hard costs of this meal, generously, would be about £32. At £175, that is a mark up of 546 per cent.

The management team at this hotel have lost touch with reality. The dearest brasserie food in the UK, and not the best cooked.

If Gordo was dining at Claridges this lunchtime, arguably one of the finest hotels in the world today (the food and beverage overseen by Gordon Ramsey, owner of three Michelin stars) Gordo would find his chicken, spuds and greens would be £32.50.

But, wait, dear reader, included would be ‘romanesco dusted scallops and prawns with caramelised cauliflower and mustard mango salsa’ as a starter, and ‘pear and almond tart with caramel ice cream and maple toffee sauce’ for his pud. Now that, ladies and gentlemen, is VFM.

The Brasserie at the Grosvenor, £24.95 for one course, is a CPT. Now, for those of you who don’t know what a CPT is, it’s a Complete Piss Take.

Meanwhile, If you see a feller in a mask riding a white horse outside, it’s probably Gerald Grosvenor, the owner. No wonder he is one of Britain’s richest men. The rest of us have to work for a living mate. Where’s that guillotine?

Note: apologies for the poor quality photos, Gordo forgot his camera and used the iPhone. Also, don’t let this put you off Simon Radley’s restaurant in the same hotel, it is quite astonishing and VFM.

Follow Gordo on twitter GordoManchester

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: Gordo gets carried away

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53 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

OJuly 29th 2009.

even more shocking is that the reviewer referred to the omelette as 'deconstructed'... ?? How sad.

The Great GratsbyJuly 29th 2009.

The £29 deal at the Grosvenor is good value even if the yorkshire puddings tend to be a bit dry to my taste. However, this feller Gordo, apart from being a bit of a ****er in the way he writes, is spot on. This restaurant is generally very poor value for money. The manager thinks he is working for the Savoy Group c1985. He is out of touch. The food can be really very good, but however all these little bean counters talk about mathematics Gordo is right. It is astonishingly expensive for what it is. Avoid it.

johnthebriefJuly 29th 2009.

If you want to make a proper party of this bring-your-own affair I have some exceptional 1970 Taylors, and some rather good 1985 as well ... ?

RayJuly 29th 2009.

Thanks for an entertaning review, and a good exposé of markups when inappropriately applied. All restaurants have to make money, but the markups identified can only be sustained if they support exemplary service and otherworldly surroundings. BTW - thank you, thank you, thank you for pointing out that VFM is not a concept wedded to the base prices of everything. I was at Les Crayeres in Reims recently. A 1995 Rousseau Ruchottes Chambertin CG was £220. As it costs c.£150, that's VFM - I can still taste it. What price do you put on that experience? PS have you bought some 89 Pichon yet?

Amateur Robert PestonJuly 29th 2009.

Dave Jones...there's no point in trying, logical argument won't work round here I'm afraid.

AnonymousJuly 29th 2009.

who called you a ****er?

JohnJuly 29th 2009.

Gerald Grosvenor always comes across as a thoroughly nice chap however before entering one of his establishments without checking the prices it might be as well to take a moment to reflect on the fact that he is known as the Duke of Westminster because he is descended from a long line of robber barons

GordoJuly 29th 2009.

OK guys, lets keep it simple. If something costs a quid, in the restaurant game you should look to charge 4 quid for it. (four times mark up). As long as you get the right number of punters through the door, the general idea is that the second quid pays the rent and utilities, the third quid pays the staff and the fourth quid is the profit. Simple way to look at it, but me and Gordon Ramsey's father in law agree on that point. Therefore that way of doing things would have meant that the meal above would be about £120. About right. Keeping it simple, no one in the world can tell me that £25 for chicken, spuds and greens is right. Especially when you find out that this brasserie's prices are higher than Claridges, a hotel that has far more class than the Grosvenor. Try also the Connaught and the Lanesborough. This brasserie is outrageously priced however you look at it. £175 for an OK lunch with three glasses of wine? get out of here!

jim hollowayJuly 29th 2009.

Quite hosestly, if you don't bother looking at the prices on the menu, I think it's you that's not in touch with reality. It's not a piss take, you select from the menu, the prices are there, it's up to you! Then again, some of us would never dream of spending £150 on a meal anyway.

mark mJuly 29th 2009.

So it's crap then George? ;)

SteveJuly 29th 2009.

Do they still make the Ceasar salad at the table.....The yanks love this!!!

lilybrownJuly 29th 2009.

You tell 'em Cas

lilybrownJuly 29th 2009.

Shocking that they can't even season an omelette. That upsets me more than the price of the meal.

GordoJuly 29th 2009.

ps, am getting a mixed case from that lead of yours, some very interesting stuff there.

BlacksmithJuly 29th 2009.

There seem to be a lot of accountants on here and as usual, they miss the bleeding point. £175 for a brasserie lunch with three glasses of wine???!!! F8ck that! It's insane! Piccolinos et al are around the corner, they are half the price.

AnonymousJuly 29th 2009.

Gordo - whats this 'lead'?

secret squirrelJuly 29th 2009.

www.lloydstsbbusiness.com/…/ing_ratios.aspGross… profit marginOne of the most commonly used ratios is the gross profit margin, which looks at gross profit as a percentage of turnover:Gross profit % = gross profit ÷ turnover x 100So if a business makes a gross profit of £45,000 from sales of £135,000, the calculation will be:Gross profit % = £45,000 ÷ £135,000 x 100 = 33%This means that for every £1 of sales the business achieves, profit after taking off the costs of production is 33p.Small changes in this percentage can indicate that your costs of production are creeping up, which should prompt you to consider increasing prices or looking for cheaper suppliers.Your gross profit margin is not the same as your mark up, which is calculated as follows:Mark up = gross profit ÷ cost of sales x100So for the previous example, the mark up would be:Mark up = 45,000 ÷ 90,000 x 100 = 50%

AnonymousJuly 29th 2009.

My mate used to work there - 12 hr shifts with no break at minimum wage. nice.

Jerzy (George) W. J. BergierJuly 29th 2009.

Simon... Gordo clearly pointed out that the red wine was Chateau du Grand Pierre, Premieres Cotes de Blaye and NOT Chateau Saint-Pierre, and it does not deserve a price of £9.25 for a large glass. Cotes de Blaye IS fifth division Bordeaux and the wine Gordo was drinking is in no way, even in the region of de Blaye, in the group of outstanding, excellent, very good, good or average wines. Yes, in order to have an appelation of Premieres Cotes de Blaye you must have your property in the best vineyard areas, but the above DOES NOT fall into this category. For your information, the outstanding property in the region is Chateau Passion du Prieure- Malesan, owned by Bernard Magrez, and there are further five in the category of excellent. Even at its best, the wines of the region, are vastly satisfying in rather a low-key manner and do not demand the price Gordo paid. Chairman - Guild of Sommeliers Manchester

JohnJuly 29th 2009.

A good comparison in the VFM stakes would be my lunch yesterday in the Todmorden Vintner housed in a beautiful Grade 2 listed Elizebethan manor house. Fresh mushroom soup, hot roast beef sandwich with parsley and proper chips, the beef being as nice a cut of meat as I've had in years, followed by strawberry knickerbocker glory. The total cost from this team who have had several awards for their cooking in the establishment's last guise, Todmorden Old Hall? A massive £11.70. I've eaten in the Grosvenor Brasserie a time or two and, pleasant as it is to sit back and breathe in the heady aroma of old money, I really can't see it's worth ten times as much.

GordoJuly 29th 2009.

I was pricing the the bird at £7 quid cost, thinking that half then was £3.50; mind you, looking at the picture it was a pretty large bird, but actually cut in quarters, so I still think I am on the high side. The dauphinoise was about three quarters of a medium sized spud, at most the hard cost would have been 50p.

CasJuly 29th 2009.

Can people stop talking about ****ing mark ups. If it tastes good and I think it's worth the money then I'll have it, same with most people. Food is supposed be enjoyable, can all the amateur Robert Pestons please **** off.

Jerzy (George) W. J. BergierJuly 29th 2009.

Mark..., no it is not, but as I said it is not a top wine of the region. Emmanuel and Oliver Chety are experienced owners/producers, in charge of the property for over 15 years making 90% Merlot predominent wine. You can buy it for $10.49 (or £7.15!). Gordo for his £9.25 could have bought a BOTTLE and a HALF, and I gladly would have shared it with him at Sam's Chop House with corned beef hash or steak and kindney pudding, and within £150.00 we also could have had few bottles of stunning Sam's bin ends.

Dave JonesJuly 29th 2009.

Gordo, if something costs a quid and you charge 4 for it as you stated in your response then a £2.39 glass of wine should be charged at £9.56? You were charged £9.25 ...

mark mJuly 29th 2009.

Makes a change from Jonathan doing PPP. (Piss Poor Photos)

wayneJuly 29th 2009.

Dear C.tiggis. There are loads of positive people on this website. Look around it properly would. I love you very much as well. Especially if you're a girl. And you're fit.

AnonymousJuly 29th 2009.

Dave Jones says..“ Gordo, if something costs a quid and you charge 4 for it as you stated in your response then a £2.39 glass of wine should be charged at £9.56? You were charged £9.25 ...” I simply cannot believe you worked that out and posted it on here! SAD.

GKWJuly 29th 2009.

@jtb patricide is justifiable if you don't get a look in on that bottle.

grazzaJuly 29th 2009.

Ive been there before and while it is a bit expensive I found the service to be friendly and highly efficient. Having worked in my younger days in large hotels (fortunately not front of house) there are many costs involved in running a large hotel, from housekeepers, maintenance, administrative cost. All of these costs must be paid through the business. Yes you could find a chicken main course for less, but would it be an organic chicken or free range chicken? Sure you can buy a chicken from Tescos for three quid, and possibly feed a whole family a three course meal for the price of that one main course, but then what would be the point in going out. The food industry is having a hard enough time at the moment, trying to keep their heads above water with rising costs, minimum wages rising and challenging times. I dont think they need sensationalising figures like 387% being thrown around.

smittyJuly 29th 2009.

Have to agree on the Claridges thing. I took my partner a few years back as a special birthday treat. It was the poshest restaurant we'd ever been to and the most amount of money I've ever spent on a meal (because of the cost of the wine). It was obvious we weren't the "type" that dines there regularly and we were clearly spellbound by it. The staff were amazing - friendly in that slightly flirty way that all waiting staff should be, they explained the menu without being patronising, and they made sure we were fine throughout the meal. It was a wonderful, classy and actually charming affair. And some of the best food I have ever tasted. My only disappointment was that someone like Joan Collins wasn't there and there were some braying City types in the corner making arses out of themselves. But even they were tamed after the fabulous staff had a discrete word.

Prestwich ManJuly 29th 2009.

'Now, just across the street, so to speak, over in Bordeaux you could have been drinking a Chateau Haut Brion'Pardon? Both Pichon and Haut Brion are from Bordeaux. One is from the Pessac Leognan sub-area, one from the Pauillac sub-area. You are in danger of sounding like Basil Fawlty talking to the man who ordered a half of Aloxe Corton! I quite agree about the Brasserie, however, but I suggest a short stay in the cellars of Wrights of Horwich (that most peculiar place, a high street offie with a vast, unadvertised cellar containing some of the best wines available) with the unprices wines and only the pricelist arranged by area for company! Save going to the areas, its the best way of discovering the geographical location of vineyards I can imagine.

JohnJuly 29th 2009.

Sorry Gordo, your knowledge of maths is much less than your knowledge of wine - a mark up is the amount that you put on your cost hence buy for a pound, put on £3, selling price of £4 equals a three times (or 300%) mark up

GKWJuly 29th 2009.

@jtb the Taylors "70 sounds great. I had the pleasure of indulging in a Taylors 1908 a short while ago (I wasn't paying) tawny in colour but spectacular in every oter way

Know your spudsJuly 29th 2009.

Gordo, your so called hard costs are a little off yourself, i don't blame you for high lightling that the brasserie TTP (take the piss) with the price of there food, but no way does it cost 37p to make a decent dauphy these days. Where are you getting a decent free range bird at 3 quid a half from? i think i should hang my apron up i'm obviously doing it all wrong these days, food isn't cheap any more, i don't care what any one says. Lets not be silly on mark ups (i totally agree) but lets also not forget good food cost money to buy in- end of !!!

SteveJuly 29th 2009.

Have to agree with Gordo here..they have relied on the American tourist dollar for many years and have totally lost touch with reality.

C.tiggisJuly 29th 2009.

Gordo...I was at the brass last sunday and very much enjoyed my meal. You talk about VFM a lot in you review, did you not see the three course lunch menu priced at £29.50. This price incidentally included half a bottle of wine or a glass of champagne and coffee. I ate Chicken Liver Parfait to start, Roast Rib of Welsh Beef with market vegetables and Yorkshire pudding for my main course and Crème Caramel for my dessert. The food was lovely and the service was proffesional and friendly. I opted for the champagne and my partner for the wine. As BBQing is off the menu with the weather this was a Sunday lunch well spent.

AnonymousJuly 29th 2009.

Jim - My understanding was not that Gordo didn't look at the prices because he cared not for the cost but because he (wrongly) thought he could gauge the necessary without looking at the menu.

johnthebriefJuly 29th 2009.

My Dad has a bottle of 1912 that he's going to drink on his birthday in 2012. I've told him if I miss out it'll be patricide

C.tiggisJuly 29th 2009.

Just because I liked my sunday lunch now i'm an a *****r. Seems you cannot put forward anything positive!

GordoJuly 29th 2009.

I think it was me that was being called a ****er by someone, the ****er...

Dave JonesJuly 29th 2009.

"Anonymous" Says it all

ShooJuly 29th 2009.

Re the mark up... Surely the mark-up and the margin are two very different things...Mark up: The difference between the cost to the supplier and the costs to the consumer, expressed as a percentage fo the cost to the supplier... in this case 287%Profit margin: the difference between the cost to the consumer and cost to the supplier (i.e. the same number as before) expressed as a percentage of the price to the seller, i.e. what proportion of the price is profit... in this case 74%.

RayJuly 29th 2009.

66 ducru? A lovely old wine. I had a bottle in March this year, and it's singing. Crayeres is a lovely place in an old fashioned way, and the champagne list is unsurprisingly brilliant. Funnily enough, no Chilean merlot on the list!

Dave JonesJuly 29th 2009.

Gordo your maths does not add up at all.The Mark up on the wine is 75% give or take. You take cost of 2.39 divide by selling price of 9.25 and times by 100. this gives you 25.84 which is the cost of that sale so the GP (Gross Profit) is 74.16%. You CANNOT mark up wine by 387% as this is ridiculous. You have just taken a calculator and the cost price and multiplied by 387%. The same applies with the food. This is not the mark up. With the restaurant trade suffering so much at the moment I do not think that sensationalising profit margins is the way forward.

Jerzy (George) W. J. BergierJuly 29th 2009.

Simon... Gordo clearly pointed out that the red wine was Chateau du Grand Pierre, Premieres Cotes de Blaye and NOT Chateau Saint-Pierre, and it does not deserve a price of £9.25 for a large glass. Cotes de Blaye IS fifth division Bordeaux and the wine Gordo was drinking is in no way, even in the region of de Blaye, in the group of outstanding, excellent, very good, good or average wines. Yes, in order to have an appelation of Premieres Cotes de Blaye you must have your property in the best vineyard areas, but the above DOES NOT fall into this category. For your information, the outstanding property in the region is Chateau Passion du Prieure- Malesan, owned by Bernard Magrez, and there are further five in the category of excellent. Even at its best, the wines of the region, are vastly satisfying in rather a low-key manner and do not demand the price Gordo paid. Chairman - Guild of Sommeliers Manchester

emma graceJuly 29th 2009.

I have a real gripe with the whole "side order" issue. It's such a blatent way of ripping customers off. If they know your meal won't be complete without the side orders, why not just include it in the price of the meal? Really, it's like taking a whole meal, splitting it 2 or 3 ways, and charging you for the convenience of putting it all together again. Mind you, if you've got money to burn..............

GordoJuly 29th 2009.

Blimey Ray, Les Crayers was the first Michelin three star restaurant I ever visited, twenty six very long years ago. Gerard Boyer and his wife, who could give Carla Bruni a ten-break, were absolutely charming, Boyer cooked crepes at the table as a special treat for my daughter Georgina, who was six at the time and wasn't allowing me to break my promise of having crepes when she got to France for the first time. Forty-odd diners watched this in complete astonishment. Needless to say Georgina has been a pain in the ass ever since. My main course was lamb with tarragon in a salt pastry crust, with a bottle of Ducru Beaucaillou, '66. Jeesus, what a memory! Yet, I still left my wallet at my girlfriends house this morning. Oh well.

Dave JonesJuly 29th 2009.

Robert Preston... this seems to be the case!

George HendertramJuly 29th 2009.

Who is Robert Preston? Woof

SimonJuly 29th 2009.

Weird isn't it that lunch at some of London's top restaurants are cheaper than experiences such as this. Also, not sure what you mean by 5th division Bordeaux. St Pierre in St Julien is a 4th growth, but that's a different wine, like getting Dandy Nichols confused with Harvey Nichols

GordoJuly 29th 2009.

Anon, the lead was from Ray, and I quote "Gordo - Fine & Rare Wines (no connection to them; just passing on the info) sell it at £107 ex VAT for a bottle; £1,273 + VAT for a case (which is about £125 / bottle all in). 1989 Bordeauxs are voluptuous wines!”

AnonymousJuly 29th 2009.

Yeah, you're right, but the time they'd dusted off the old abacus, must have taken all of about 2.3 seconds.

GKWJuly 29th 2009.

Gordo, when the case arrives let me know and I'll have a bring your own at my place, Cognac on me !

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