Mint Leaf Lounge – winelist and a Conundrum
“I’ve seen it all, from Blue Nun to now.” So said my charming host, Gerrard McCann, GM of the Mint Leaf Lounge, situated smack in the heart of the City, referring to the changing wine tastes of British consumers.
Gerrard had invited me to check out Mint Leaf’s wine list and do a bit of food and wine matching. Gerrard’s philosophy regarding wine lists is to try and list wines that you won’t find on any other wine lists. To that end, Mint Leaf only sources their wines from small boutique distributors and look for rare and unusual wines to offer on the wine list. The list is divided (mostly) not by region or country but by the type or characteristics of the wine. Hence, they have headings such as “crisp, refreshing & fruity”, “full & creamy”, “fine wines & rarieties” (for the reds), “soft & fruity”, “round & spicy” and “curiosities & fine wines” (for the whites) as well as the more traditional Bordeaux and Burgundy, to help their guests choose the appropriate wine to enjoy with their meal.
I found an eclectic mix of wines on the list: Duck Pond Chardonnay from Washington state, Petit Mansang sec from France to a Fiano Mandrossa and everything in between. There was a smattering of Sancerres and Pouilly Fumes as well as white Burgundies to round out the list. A fine balance between Old World and New World, not too many choices but not too few, there seemed to be something for everyone. The reds were the same, with some fabulous choices, Amalaya Malbec by Colome, one you don’t see often on lists but such a winner, Joseph Phelps ’06 Le Mistral and a not too extensive collection of Grand Cru and 1er Cru classe Bordeaux. I could go on and on but if you really want to know more, have a look at the list here.
Since we were in the City, they also have an extensive selection of champagnes, from Jacquart to Krug and included some of my favourites, Gosset and Ruinart as well as the “showing off, look at me” Dom Perignon Oenotheque ’95 and Cristal 2000 for the City boys. Having said that though, the bar is spectacular. It dominates your entire vista when you walk in the door, stretching from bar level up to the top of the vault-like ceilings (the venue used to be a bank). At first glance, I thought it was some sort of tin metal walling but it is actually a very cleverly lit wall of pebbles embedded into the rear of the bar. Gorgeous!
This being Gerrard’s restaurant, I asked him to please choose the food and what he felt would be the most appropriate wine. I’m still a bit shaky when it comes to matching Indian food with wines! He chose the Caymus Conundrum ‘07. Perfect! A white wine from California. I have had the Conundrum in the past but only when I was living in the States so I thought it would be great to see how I feel about it now.
Needless to say, it’s a cracking wine. The winemakers have decided to keep the blend a secret so although the general components are known, we never know what exactly goes into the blend. We do know that it has, at the very least, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, viognier, and muscat canelli, sourced from throughout the state of CA but we never know what exactly the proportions are of each varietal. Suffice it to say, whatever they have put in there is fantastic! I love this wine. An amazingly floral nose, extremely aromatic, I felt as if I’d walked into a hothouse of white flowers, followed by subtle spicy notes of cinnamon and vanilla. Tasting it was like a tropical fruit bowl of flavours, along with honeysuckle and an edgy lime zest on the finish. A full bodied white, creamy and round it was, lolling around my tastebuds.
The chef of Mint Leaf, Dayalan Paul hails from India and while he gets most of his inspiration from North India, he also has spent time working and visiting Michelin starred restaurants which are clearly influential in his cooking. He strives to serve cuisine that combines classic Indian flavours with a contemporary style. The tandoori mackerel starter with yoghurt rice was pleasingly unfishy. I so dislike when all you can taste is the fish and the Conundrum took on a much more dried fruit character while still retaining it’s balance.
The main of Bengali Seafood broth was full of plump and juicy shrimp, tender pieces of white fish and perfect mussels. The sauce was lightly spiced and I detected a hint of lemon lurking in the background. Again the Conundrum was the perfect wine. Because it is quite rich, full bodied and full of tropical fruits while at the same time having a nicely balanced streak of acidity, it is the a great wine to have with spicy, flavourful food, integrating itself into the meal so well that it was hard to tell where the food ended and the wine began.
There was a dessert wine as well but I think I will save that for a separate post. I thoroughly enjoyed my food and wine matching exercise at Mint Leaf and look forward to visiting them again to see what changes occur on the wine list. They like to change the list 2 -3 times a year.
In the meantime, pop into Mint Leaf if you find yourself in the City and are looking for an evocative and/or exotic food and wine selection.