Lunch partners Bruno and Joel (Paillard and Robuchon)


luncheon partners

Picture it – 10:20 Monday morning, just sitting down to the laptop, still in my jammies with a nice big pot of coffee by my side, thinking of heading over to the California wine trade tasting later that afternoon.

(Riiiiing, riiiiing) “Hullo?”

“Denise? Hi, it’s Dan from Bibendum. Listen I’m very sorry to bother you. Are you busy today? ”

“Just the California show today. Why? Are you going?”

“I know this is really short notice and I do apologise but do you think you’d be available to hop on down to Covent Garden for a champagne tasting and lunch? I’m really sorry for such short notice. It’s Bruno Paillard Champagne at Joel Robuchon’s L’Atelier in Covent Garden and …um, someone dropped out and we have an extra space and…um… it would be great if you could make it by 11:30.”


It takes at least 45 minutes to get to Central London from my house but I wasn’t going to miss this lunch. California would be there til 5:30 and Hell, I’m from there! I promised I’d be at L’Atelier as close to noon as possible. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten ready so quick and I made it with seconds to spare.


Bruno Paillard

The luncheon was hosted by Bruno Paillard himself and Willie Lebus, one of  the Directors of Bibendum Wines. We started off with a tasting of Bruno’s Old Disgorgements Collection which was the occasion we were commemorating. The collections consisted of 5 bottles that had been disgorged at various intervals from 6 months to 12 years in order to appreciate the evolution of the champagne. As Bruno explained, after disgorgement, (basically removing the dead yeast cells after the second fermentation), the wine really comes into it’s own, aging throughout the years, passing through 5 or 6 distinct stages ranging from fruit dominated flavours and aromas all the way to the candied fruits and aged roasted notes of mature champagne.


just a taste

What can I say about the wines. Bruno Paillard is one of my favourites and I’ve written about his champagnes previously. I just love his style of champagnes, full and rich, loads of bready yeasty notes on the younger ones, nutty and dried fruits on the older ones. Some people might prefer light and fruity but when it comes to champagne, I prefer a bit of voluptuosness, a bit of  junk in the trunk, if you know what I mean.  Kind of like the Winesleuth, herself.

Here are the champagnes we tasted along with the disgorgement date and my brief notes:

Bruno Paillard Brut Première Cuvée, Disgorged July 2008: i.e. 8 months – disgorged 6 months+

light, crisp, lovely apple flavours and aromas, nice bubbles

Bruno Paillard Brut Première Cuvée, Disgorged July 2005: i.e. 44 months – disgorged 3 years+

much more bready, yeasty, palate of yeasty goodness, baked apples, brioche

Bruno Paillard Brut Première Cuvée, Disgorged July 2002: i.e. 80 months – disgorged 6 years+

lovely golden much more roasted hazelnut, candied fruits, a bit of fresh croissants

Bruno Paillard Première Cuvée, Disgorged May 1999:i.e. May 1999: i.e. 118 months, disgorged 9 years+

complex aromas fresh nose but still fantastic combo of candied fruits, orange peel, lovely finish, persistent bubbles

Bruno Paillard Première Cuvée, Disgorged February 1997: i.e. 145 months, disgorged 12 years+

the first bottle was corked, the second had a maderized nose, sherry quality, candied fruits, I preferred the previous one


what do you think, Alice?

After the tasting came lunch prepared for us especially by Joel Robuchon, who came over from Paris for the luncheon. He and Bruno are dear old friends and it was his pleasure to prepare lunch that day. We bloggers had our own table and had the lovely company of Bruno’s daughter Alice who works with the family company as the Area Export Manager.


my bouche was amused

Lunch was even more fantastic with each course paired with one of Bruno’s champagnes. I’m not a food writer so all I can say was that the meal was to scrumpdeliumptious! Starting off with an amuse bouche of salty sweet lemon flavoured jelly paired with Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Reserve Brut. The champagne just washed over the  palate in a wave of fruity bubbles. Foie gras shavings with truffle marinated potato and the Brut Millesime Assemblage 1999 up next, which I’d previously tasted at the Bluebird Wine Cellar.


Bikini Bottom re-imagined?

Steamed crayfish in a wonderful seafood sauce, I think the champagne was already making me a bit giggly because the first thing that popped into my head when this dish came out was, SpongeBob Squarepants, there was just something about it, might have been the bright yellow sauce and the crayfish head staring at me. The Brut Millesime Blanc de blancs 1995 washing down SpongeBob (see the video for our reactions).


The main event

The main was sea bass cooked with spiced honey, ginger and leeks, paired with the Nec Plus Ultra 1995 which I’ve reviewed previously. The sea bass was served alongside the most silky smooth puree I’ve ever had. I think it was 5 parts butter, one part potato – utterly decadent!


Bubbles you can drink AND eat

Dessert was literally served in a bubble. A Yuzu sugar bubble encasing fresh sorbet on a bed of raspberry coulis and a ring of chou pastry. Bruno had chosen his Brut Rosè to complement the dessert. We had two rosè’s, one slightly chilled and another a bit more chilled. Bruno was of the opinion that the colder rosè better gelled with the dessert but I preferred it with a slight chill only, the wine was just not as aggressive, it seemed friendlier when it wasn’t as chilled out. Crisp and dry, sweeping away the sweet fruit with  pleasing bubbles, preparing me for the next mouthful.


after lunch, happy campers- Bibendum Dan, The Winesleuth and Eatlikeagirl

We finished off in the upstairs bar with caramel cookies, caramel popcorn and strong espresso, which was a good thing because I still had the California wine trade show to go to, so I dragged Eatlikeagirl off with me to SW1 for part two of the days’ events.

Video of the lunch click here


  1. Jealous jealous jealous!!!

  2. Kathryn /

    maybe i should stop screening those calls i get while have coffee in my jammies?? sounds like you had a brill day!

    • Yeah, Kathryn, you never know who might be inviting you out to lunch! Another lesson is- I guess I should also be out of my jammies by 10:30 in the morning!

  3. lucky ol’ you; another advantage of not living in the country I guess!

    Do you know I don’t think I’ve tried any of those wines…

    • Well, we’ll have to remedy that ASAP! I’ve always liked Bruno Paillard’s champagnes, often those smaller houses are far better then the big ones.

    • Hey Andrew – so sorry you couldn’t make it. Definitely next time. Let me know if you’d like to taste some Bruno Paillard – will happily open a couple of bottles for you.

      Great write-up Denise. Thanks for making me sound like a bumbling Hugh Grant on the phone!

  4. Great write up! Bikini bottom was delish 🙂 Poor ole Patrick but he was mighty tasty. Life’s better with some junk in the trunk, Denise. We’d have no fun otherwise! Calorie counting? Pah!

    • Thanks, Niamh! Calories, schmalories, you only get to go round once, might as well have some fun. Nobody ever said “I shouldn’t have eaten that last creampuff” on their deathbed have they? or at least I wouldn’t. That’d probably be my last request! 😉


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