Salmon and Chardonnay and a Strange Welsh Brekkie

9.16am, Monday 20th September, London Bridge, London, England, UK

Roadtrip Stop 4 :  Swansea, Wales – ND John Wine Merchants Yalumba Dinner

Nick John and the lady Crowther

Out of Bristol and across the Severn Bridge into Wales, and we get to Swansea (called Abertawe in Welsh – ‘Abert’ ‘awe’ – meaning mouth of the Awe river – just for those interested in languages). Into the majestic old Morgans Hotel in the maritime quarter, and we’re on time to meet up with Nick John – principal of ND John Wine Merchants – and his clients for dinner.  Now before I go any further, I have to make sure that I make this point clearly. Nick John is  my favourite ‘Welsh Alpha Male who absolutely channels Tom Jones right down to the wicked look in the eye and timbre of the voice’. So we always look forward to doing these events with ND John – as the evenings are always long, a lot of fun, and I always end up learning at least one more helpful word in Welsh. On this night, all the folks attending are on-premise clients of Nick’s, so have their own hotels, restaurants, golf clubs or wine bars – with our wines on the list. With the broad accents in the room, it always takes me a bit to wrap my ears around the conversation, so you find yourself watching folks’ mouths – weird but true – and it makes them easier to understand!

Nick went for a short list of wines at dinner, and the Morgans kitchen outdid themselves with the food, and as expected, dinner just whipped by, and before we knew it, the clock was striking midnight. Even then no one wanted to go home. Wales is a bit like Ireland in that – if you can spin a decent yarn (translated – tell a decent story) – folks will stay, drink and listen till the cows come home. Lucky for us the wines were good in the glass, the company was excellent, and now to the food!

Salmon - just made for Wild Ferment Chardonnay

After starting off upstairs with Jansz NV bubbles,  we went down to Morgans’ private dining room, and I started with poached salmon because I had no doubt it would be the best thing to go with the 2008 Wild Ferment Chardonnay. And as you can see from the photo, it virtually just wants to fall apart – and yay! – Chardonnay does the trick because it’s just as aromatic as the food, and the length and elegance doesn’t dominate the delicate flavours of the dish.

Then we went looking for something to go with the 2008 Patchwork Shiraz – big, bouncy, velvety fruit and tannins laced in nicely – most of the boys went with beef, some with venison.

On to the dessert and with chilled Museum Muscat – layers of raisin fruit, honey, maple syrup, dried apricot and fig and clean cool spirit – I chose Eton Mess. This is a summertime dessert of meringue bits, fresh raspberries and  strawberries, and cream – all whizzed up together. Hence the name Eton ‘Mess’ and explained by the red and white striped stuff on the plate.

Now to my new Welsh word. It’s ‘cariad’ – say it ‘curry – yard’ – and it means ‘sweetheart’. I had several other words as well – courtesy of the charismatic young Martin from the Bar 22 Cocktail and Champagne bar in Swansea – but I lost those. Welsh is a difficult language to learn, but sounds fantastic when spoken. Especially by these boys with the Tom Jones voices.

So thanks Nick for looking after us so well in Wales, we’re in very safe and strong hands with this boy. Thanks also for having us at such excellent addresses up and down the ‘Mumbles & Gower’ coastline about Swansea. That would be for starters:

Cockles and laverbread

And just when you think it’s all over – it’s not! We made a very spooky foodie discovery next morning at breakfast. I had my favourite boiled egg with toast soldiers and a local sausage and bacon – magic! Nick went with the traditional Welsh ‘Cockles & Laverbread’ – which he challenged me to try. So I got brave – because let’s face it, it looks pretty ordinary in the photo – and tried both the cockles which were  little pippes steamed out of the shell, and laverbread. This green puree turns out to be the fibrous seaweed that grows on the underside of rocks and is harvested at low tide, then has the grit cleaned out (good move!) and is cooked down over 5 or 6 hours. The puree is eaten like that, or rolled in oats and fried. It’s a huge source of iron and iodine, so is very good for you. I have to admit that it’s not as bad as it looks, like salty stewed spinach – but I could give the cockles a miss. So Nick never has to worry about me stealing his brekky out from under him. I’m sticking with the egg!

OK – Chris has just turned up downstairs so we’re off to show our wines around London – see ya when it’s over this evening.

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