Lunching at Malmaison

It is now midnight as I write this and I am still full. There used to be this commercial that ran on American TV for Alka-Seltzer, the tagline was, “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing”. Despite the fact we didn’t “eat the whole thing”  as a matter of fact, we both took doggy bags home, we did stuff ourselves silly. We had 4 courses, which is not unreasonable, but there were some generous portions at the Brasserie of Malmaison. Malmaison is a boutique luxury hotel smack dab in the middle of Clerkenwell and their brasserie serves up tasty local produce all presented quite beautifully. The main draw for me and the reason I was there, were the bespoke wine flights that the restaurant sommelier, Stuart Fife matches with your dining choices. Stuart is new to Malmaison but he comes from Hotel du Vin in Glasgow and his matches were very well done indeed. While I was waiting for my lunching partner, Vintage Macaroon to arrive, I had a browse round the wine cellar and found some familiar labels, Spy Valley, Springfield Estate, Dinastia Vivanco, d’Arenberg Stump Jump, and Chapel Down, to name a few.  As I suspected, Bibendum Wines is the main supplier for Malmaison and they had some of their best on the list. We left ourselves in Stuart’s capable hands and didn’t regret it one bit. I had a very elderflowery, light and refreshing 2007 Bacchus from Chapel Down. I often find English wines to be a bit thin but Chapel Down make an excellent bacchus and it had enough body and elderflower/citrus flavours to match the trio of smoked blinis (haddock, salmon and mackerel pate) I had to start. The smoked fish was very tasty but I thought the blinis were a bit too soft for me, maybe blinis made of buckwheat would be better? I like the slight chewiness of them. I almost forgot to mention the pre-entree amuse bouche of intensely flavoured crab bisque, which would have...

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Some Young Punks hanging around Imbibe

I love kitsch. I should have been a teenager in the 1950’s, although then it would have been high culture. I would have been an avid reader of anything pulp fiction. “Spicy Adventure Stories”,  “Unwilling Sinner”, “Sin on Wheels”, I would have collected them all! So when I spotted Passion has Red Lips by Some Young Punks, South Australian winemakers, at the Imbibe show recently, I had to stop. Like a moth drawn to a flame, I couldn’t stop myself from trying the wine. I know I shouldn’t have been suckered in by the label but I was…. So what are Some Young Punks up to? A trio of winemakers causing havoc in South Australia, the grapes come from Clare Valley, Langhorne Creek, the Barrosa, Adelaide Hills and any other appellation I may have missed from that part of the world. The punks credo is to make “charismatic wines that are true to what we think ‘wine’ should be about. If someone doesn’t like the way we do it then they had better put the bottle down because there’s already not enough to go around.” Although they may seem like they’re kidding around, these winemakers, Col McBryde, Jen Gardner and Nic Bourke make some serious wine. These wines are seriously Australian as well. There is no mistaking the ethnicity of these wines. Heaps of fruit, full on, in your face, don’t mess with me reds. Subtle is not a word often heard around these wines. The 2009 Passion has Red Lips certainly lives up to it’s name. A blend of McLaren Vale cabernet and Clare Valley shiraz, passionately berry, extremely perfumed, I took a step back after taking a sip. Juicy plums, blackberries, blackcurrants and a smoky edge to it all on a lush, full body. Phew! I still don’t get the name of the next wine, The Squid’s Fist 2009. Do squids even have hands? No? How do they have fists then? Anyway, I suppose that’s something to ponder while you down this...

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Palo Alto rose in the park

I like my rosés dry. I know some people like them on the sweet side but for me nothing beats a crisp, dry rosé. Full of bright redcurrant and ripe strawberry, the 2008 Palo Alto shiraz rosé is a great summer quaffer. I’m sitting in the park on a lovely summers eve, just watching the ducks stroll by, sipping on my rosé. It ticks all the boxes and it’s good by itself or with a nice little picnic lunch. Palo Alto is named after the tall lone trees that dot the hillsides of the Maule Valley in Central Chile. According to the website, the trees thrive in dry, rocky, infertile soils so if you see the Palo Alto, it’s a safe bet you’ll find vines growing nearby. the Palo Alto winery only does 3 wines, a red reserve which is a blend of cabernet, carmenere and syrah, a sauvignon blanc and a shiraz rosé. I was sent all three to try out and the rosé was by far my favourite. The Reserve ’08 was pleasant with plenty of blackcurrant and blackberry, nice and soft, a very easy going wine, again probably would be fine on a picnic.  The ’08 sauvignon blanc was another quaffer but I wish it had a bit more substantiality to it. It started off promisingly enough with heady gooseberry and grapefruit on the nose but disappeared fairly quickly off the palate. As I said earlier, the rosé was my favourite and one I would buy if I saw it in the shops. All the wines retail for £7.99 and are available in most of the big supermarkets. And just to make you feel good about buying the wine, Palo Alto has an independent charity linked to the wine to tackle global warming. It’s called Trees for Cities and is a project aimed at supporting tree-planting projects in the UK and around the world. A worthy cause, we can always use more trees. Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInPocketRedditGoogleTumblrEmailPrintPinterestLike this:Like...

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John Duval and Ventisquero wines

John Duval’s last vintage at Penfold’s was the Grange 2002 but like most winemakers, he couldn’t bring himself to retire and when Ventisquero heard he was leaving Penfold’s they snapped him up to be a consultant, as they were just beginning to launch their syrah making venture in Chile. John has produced two wines, we tried the ’05 vintages of the Pangea which is 100% syrah and the Vertice, which is a blend of syrah and carmenere. We had the pleasure of tasting his wines  along with Ventisquero’s Grey range matched with some very delicious food at Apsleysin the Lanesborough Hotel. John made the ’05 Pangea using grapes from the Apalta vineyards in the Colchagua Valley. Apalta being the heart of Ventisquero’s premium wine growing region, produces wines that are elegant yet fresh and lively due to the higher elevation of the vineyards. Made up of 100% syrah and aged in 50% new French oak (John likes his oak) aged 18 months and then let to rest for one year in bottle,  there were floral notes on the nose as well as full on berry fruits emanating from the glass. A full bodied red with a hit of pepper on it and of course very nicely integrated oak notes. Soft, round, supple – plush! would be a good way to describe this wine. The ’05 Vertice was a pleasing, lighter wine, a blend of syrah and carmenere also from the Apalta vineyards, this wine was lighter in character and had a smooth chocolaty character to it with some nice spice and red chili pepper coming out. Again having those nice round tannins which make this such a mouthfilling wine.  Having said that though, both wines are quite big and powerful, neither being a shrinking violet. Both wines were paired with roasted pigeon royal with a pearl onion and mustard seed sauce with a special surprise of a hunk of foie gras hidden beneath the breast. What a fantastic surprise! I love foie and with...

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SAAM 2006 Koopmanskraal Shiraz and roast loin of venison

Bisol prosecco and Eatlikeagirl ran a competition not long ago to find the best prosecco and food pairing. I entered but sadly didn’t even make the final (hey, I’m a wine blogger not a chef). Food Urchin won with his dish of Warm Winter Salad with Pheasant. Now, you’re probably wondering why I’m writing about a competition that I didn’t even make into the Final Five. Well, early one Monday morning I got a DM on Twitter, “Fancy being my plus 1 for dinner tonite, Art can’t make it.” Turns out Eatlikeagirl’s BF had to bail at the last minute so I was called to fill in at the winner’s dinner. Lucky me! Niamh was there as Bisol’s representative and I got to tag along. The prize was an 8 course meal with wine pairings at the Chef’s Table at Trinity Restaurant in Clapham Common. One of the wines paired with our main of Roast Loin of Venison with red wine braised shallot, figs and pistacio was the Saam Mountain “Kooopmanskrail” Shiraz, Paarl, 2006. I’m not usually a big fan of South African wine but this shiraz was  a delightful companion. A savoury, bacon nose with hints of spices peeking through. A deep almost inky colour, on the palate it was all soft and silky round tannins, black pepper and sweet, ripe black  fruits rolling around. I thought the wine was a nice partner to the venison, a lovely dark fruitiness mingling with the venison and a chocolaty finish that seemed to last until the next bite. I could write about the entire meal but I won’t bore you with the details. Suffice it to say, the other 7 courses were also excellently paired by Trinity’s sommelier, Rupert Taylor. SAAM Mountain is one delicious South African wine that retails for about £11 online from Bibendum-wine.co.uk Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInPocketRedditGoogleTumblrEmailPrintPinterestLike this:Like...

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