10.42pm, Monday 17th October, London Bridge, London, England, UK
Ok folks, still on the catchup trail, I’d like to take you to one of England’s prettier spots – Goring-on-Thames – just into Oxfordshire. Its ‘postcode’ is RG8 9AB – which is way out of the nearest big town, Reading. The first church in the area went up in 1788, so that gives you a bit of an idea of how old the stone buildings are. We were working with Ian Hewson from The Wine Man, who is our local Streatley-on-Thames retailer, which is just across the river and into Berkshire. We’ve worked with The Wine Man forever, and have done an annual event with the boys each time that we’ve come to England. They always find the best venues – a 13th century church hall with a homemade English stew smorgasboard dinner, a country table tennis club with a masterclass for 40 people, and this time – we scored the jackpot!
A little cafe restaurant right on the bridge that joins Goring and Streatley – both on the Thames – that specializes in a mountain of fresh cakes every day (but Monday – that’s their day off) and opens for breakfast, brunch and lunch Tuesday through Sunday. And their best bit? Proper afternoon tea with those excellent three-tiered cake plates that are so English – especially when they’re loaded with scones, clotted cream and homemade jams, cucumber or ham and mustard sandwiches with the crusts cut off. You know what I mean. The good stuff. It’s called ‘Pierreponts’ because its owned by Stuart and Caroline Pierrepont, and guess what? In French, their last name roughly translates into ‘stone bridges’. And that’s exactly where the restaurant sits – very sensible really. Caroline and Stuart opened especially for The Wine Man and put on a seasonal dinner menu matched to our wines, and we were thrilled to bits to have the whole cafe book out in 36 hours. Just goes to show you what can happen when you’re working with top local operators.
So here’s the lineup for the night.
We started with crockery jugs of warm cheese straws and Stuart’s Parmesan biscuits with our Jansz NV Rose. Now these aren’t just any old cheese biscuits, folks. They’re melting crumbly moments obviously held together by lashings of butter, laced with caraway seeds. The savory cheesy pastry moments were cleaned up beautifully by the crisp and creamy Pinot-driven Rose. With this start, we knew we were in for an excellent evening.
Next up we introduced a lot of people to something a bit new – our style of Eden Valley Riesling. Crisp, citrussy, snappy cold 2010 Riesling from our Pewsey Vale vineyard which sits right up top of the Barossa Ranges – tailor made for the cod ceviche and avocado salsa.
Then we ran out two of our ‘cruiserweight’ reds.
A bit more palate ‘oomph’ than middleweight, but not really the heavyweight big gun reds. We had two different expressions of our local Shiraz – 2008 Yalumba Barossa Patchwork and 2008 Eden Valley Shiraz Viognier.
The Patchwork is in the traditional ‘Christmas pudding’ style – lots of cloves, cinnamon, dried fruits and rich solid cakey middle palate.
The Shiraz Viognier blend benefits from the addition of 5% of the white grape at ferment. Besides fixing and deepening the colour, the Viognier ‘opens up’ the aromatics and gives the Shiraz a more floral rose petal sort of lift, and sorts out a softer velvety front palate.
With both wines coming from the red hot 2008 vintage, it’s not surprising that the double header course got a lot of oohs and ahs from the diners – especially as it was poured to go with Stuart’s rare roast venison loin. With Dauphinoise potato, braised red cabbage, root puree and redcurrant jus. How do vegetables that are so good for you taste that good as well? Top winter stuff, and sorry there’s no photo – I was deep into screwcap conversation with the boys on the corner table, so missed it.
But I got the cheese and dessert courses. Plus I gave the camera to Eilidh and she took the kitchen shots – Andy the chef and the egg custard tart, and the star dishy Linda.
Here’s the Old Winchester Cheese that was just tangy enough to stand up with our Yalumba 2008 FDR1A Cabernet Shiraz – a barrel selection from the Eden Valley vineyards that were earmarked for the 2008 Signature. Because the Eden Valley is a bit cooler than the Barossa floor, the wines are a touch leaner, higher acid and more delicate and floral comparatively speaking. This gives us a lovely elegant two-thirds Cabernet one-third Shiraz that’s really aromatic – perfect for this type of creamy, tangy, matured-for-a-while cheese.
And the dessert? Here’s the ‘before’ and ‘after’ shots for the egg custard tart with roasted local quinces.
The tart went out with frosty glasses of our Yalumba FSW (Fine Sweet White) Botrytis Viognier. Sometimes things just go together because they should, and this combo is one of those moments. The apricot, honey and marmaladey acid loved the roasted sweet-sour quince, and the egg custard slid across the lot in fine form.
Job done folks. Almost. We had such a great time that we had a bit of fun with it at the end. We bought four of Pierreponts’ fresh log cakes – Cherry, Chocolate, Almond and Empire Sponge – and had a lucky number draw. So somewhere the next day, morning tea would have been a bit of an event.
We just can’t thank The Wine Man and Pierreponts enough for giving us such an excellent Oxfordshire school night out – and I have a bit of a suspicion that we could be back in exactly the same spot next year when we visit in June. Then it will be a summer seasonal menu, and I’ll be able to wear short sleeves! Can’t wait!