Angel & Crown, good pub grub (and wine, too!)

Jan 23, 12 Angel & Crown, good pub grub (and wine, too!)

Posted by in Food and Wine, restaurants

The Angel &  Crown is a new gastropub just re-opened in St. Martin’s Lane. A stones throw from Covent Garden, Trafalgar Square, ENO and numerous West End theatres, it’s in a great location and not only pulls a good pint, they have also redesigned the pub so that the upstairs is now a snappy dining room. The pub was taken over by The ETM Group and has been transformed from an old fashioned boozer into a cozy gastropub. The upstairs dining room is compact but not crowded and has a small bar to cater to diners. The menu is full of British seasonal foods and specialities. I was invited to dine by ETM and they had devised a menu to show off the cuisine. While we were waiting for everyone to show up we had pork crackling, black pudding Scotch egg and devilled whitebait to nibble on, all available as bar snacks and ranging in price form £3 – £6.50. I loved the Scotch egg, black pudding is one of my favourites and wrapped around the egg, was delicious. We had London Bellinis (pressed apple and elderflower topped with Prosecco) to sip on while waiting, a bit on the sweet side for me, I asked for extra Prosecco! One of the things they aim to do is to bring the wine list out of it’s ghettoized existence and actually have wines that you’d be happy to drink, not just watery pinot grigio or a fruit bomb of a cabernet. The first wine we had was surprisingly, a German riesling. Riesling gets a bad rap but the Dr. Burklin Wolf trocken 201o is as dry as they come. A delightful nose of orange blossom, beeswax and white flowers with a bit of passion fruit, on the palate it’s dry but fruity, candied lemon, passionfruit and lime leaf finishing it off. A fantastic match with the potted smoked mackerel and dill, the wine cut right through the mackerel and left me wanting more of both but...

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Chateau Musar – red and white wines of Lebanon

Nov 06, 11 Chateau Musar – red and white wines of Lebanon

Posted by in Lebanon

Imagine a winemaker who’s wine has to age for a minimum of 7 years before it’s released to the public. Madness you might think in this day and age where to hold even a year’s vintage  would be considered economic suicide – unless of course, one was a Port or Champagne producer. That is however, exactly what Chateau Musar does. They age all of their wines both red and white for a minimum of 7 years and sometimes even longer. If they could, they’d hold them even longer but as Ralph Hochar, son of one of the owners explained during a recent winetasting in London, they just don’t have the room in the cellar to hold anymore. The UK is the biggest market for Chateau Musar because it was where they first started exporting their wines back in the 1970’s. They started by importing their wines to the UK and are still their own importers, which is one reason why their wines are very competitively priced. They are unique in the wine business as they have no public relations machinery, having developed their market through a grassroots campaign which meant plenty of wine dinners, tastings and lots of one to one schmoozing. Chateau Musar was founded in the Bakaa Valley, Lebanon in 1930 by Gaston Hochar and has always been a family run business. Ralph is part of the current generation although his Bordeaux trained uncle Serge is head of the house and head winemaker. Serge has been the winemaker since 1959 and over the past 50 years he has trialed various vineyard and winemaking aspects but has always remained true to the wine, striving to make the best wines from the land and remaining true to his ‘natural’ winemaking philosophy. I found myself at the recently renovated Grosvenor Hotel in Victoria for the tasting. On show, we were able to try various vintages from the most recent 2003 Ch. Musar red back to the 1991 Chateau Musar white. Chateau Musar produce Bordeaux like...

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Talking and walking with a Lebanese winemaker

“Punctuality is the virtue of the bored.” Evelyn Waugh I can’t say that the Winesleuth is ever bored and so I was running to meet the Lebanese winemaker, Habib Karam at a winetasting in West London, late as always. I don’t know how it happens, time just seems to creep up on me and before I know it, I’m late. Habib, however, being of Mediterranean stock, much like the Winesleuth, was not too concerned with my timekeeping as I found him sampling various wines at the tasting where I was meeting him. “Come, you must try this one” and he dragged me by the hand to try this “amazing” white from southern France or his favourite red Burgundy or “this minerally Alsatian”. After about 2o minutes my head was spinning and not from the wine. Have you ever had a winemaker take you around a tasting where none of his wines are on display that day? It was a fun experience to hear his critiques of the other winemakers. “Too much oak…. unbalanced…. green….” were just some of his findings. He did however also find wines he considered sublime and I was also treated to his exposition on them and their composition. Since I had gotten there so late in the day ( a fact of which was not entirely my fault as Habib had called me right before I was to meet him to change our meeting place), the tasting was ending and I still hadn’t had a chance to ask Habib any questions. “No problem. We walk now and you ask me your questions. ” I knew I was going to be late for dinner but Habib was such an engaging character that I found myself trailing in his wake down Holland Park Rd. Habib has a day job. He’s not a full time winemaker as I soon discovered jogging to keep up with his long strides. His day job is as a pilot for a Middle Eastern airline but his true...

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