2.12pm, Saturday 12th November, London Bridge, London, England
I’ve made it to the end of the English and Scottish tour folks – with the one-day side trip to Cornwall – more or less in one piece. And it’s been so flat out – which is a really good problem to have! – that I have a stack of top moments that need catching up, so here’s a quick rewind to Wednesday this week 9/11/2011
HOWZAT! Has no direct translation into Mandarin, so I’ve chosen “you must leave” as the equivalent phrase to translate for “I believe you’re out as a result of my bowling – go back to the dressing shed” or the more modern “howzat!” so this is the closest Mandarin I can come up with to catch the spirit of that particular classic cricket moment.
Why am I putting cricket and Mandarin in the same sentence? Because The Chinese Cricket Club is a restaurant in London at The Crowne Plaza (The City) and has a stack of our wines on their list. Pewsey Vale Riesling, Yalumba Bush Vine Grenache, Menzies Coonawarra Cabernet, Octavius Old Vine Barossa Shiraz and Virgilius Viognier. This is where local foodie and wine journalist – and recent successful finisher of the Master of Wine epic course – Natasha Hughes and I had a look at three of our wines with some of the CCC (that will be the Chinese Cricket Club from here on) Sichuan (or Szechuan) fusion food.
Now let’s just fill you in firstly on why the CCC is called the CCC!
In China, cricket is called “Shen shi yun dong” or “The Noble Game”. Historically, the game has been played by the Shanghai Cricket Club since 1858 – regularly hosting visiting sides from all over the world – but “the crack of willow on leather” has had a serious rise in profile in that country over the past few years. China was granted affiliate membership of the ICC – the game’s world governing body – in 2004, and in 2007 the “Laws of Cricket” were translated into Mandarin by the Asian Cricket Council. In 2009 the first national Peoples Republic of China cricket team had their first international outing in the ACC Trophy Challenge, and now the Chinese Cricket Association has conducted a massive series of coaching clinics throughout the country’s schools. End result – have set themselves some pretty lofty goals: to qualify for the Cricket World Cup in 2019 and to gain test cricket status in 2020.
So when the restaurant opened in 2009, the whole focus being on Sichuan-based fusion food, the CCC decided to celebrate the whole cricket officially landing in China – hence The Chinese Cricket Club at Blackfriars … London.
And that, folks, brings us to the tasting, which was organized in the front window corner of the restaurant – thanks very much Tony Chan the man in charge. We chose dishes from the ‘small plate’, ‘dim sum’, and ‘from the wok’ sections of what is a really long list menu. Be prepared to read carefully on arrival, as there’s a lot of aromatic and textural ground that they cover. The tasting pretty well tracked like this:
2011 Yalumba Y Vermentino was chilled frosty in my hotel fridge and wrapped in layers of newspaper to hold the cold during the trip to the job, and it was spot on temperature for the dishes we chose – soft shell crab & chilli mayonnaise and prawns with chilli & Sichuan pepper. OK, the Vermentino, which is off some younger vines, did us a major favor and bounced up out of the glass with citrus tropical lift, very snappy acid through a mid length palate, and made a bit of a pincer movement sliding neatly around the the heat and spice of the prawns, and over and under the chilli mayonnaise. Vermentino does a good job of holding its acid and aromatics in warmer winegrowing regions, and performances like this are going to win it a lot of hearts and palates – sooner rather than later. Good start! Here’s the crab followed by the prawns.
2010 Yalumba The Strapper Grenache (38%) Shiraz (32%) & Mataro (30%) blend with the Hunan lamb with scallions and dry sautéed green beans.
2006 Yalumba Hand Picked Shiraz Viognier with the beef tenderloin with black pepper and the Singapore Cricket Club noodles.