7.16pm, Sunday 3rd March, London Bridge Hotel, south end of London Bridge, London, England
Evening folks, just writing up all the events that we’ve done this week, and I wanted to do justice to the seriously memorable food and wine matching session that we did with the sommeliers and chefs at Bread Street Kitchen – which is the temple of ‘salvaged stuff’ and excellent eatery in the shadow of St Paul’s Cathedral right in the business end of London Central. Now by ‘salvaged stuff’, I mean that the restaurant space is a Mecca for collectors … of industrial furniture like the laboratory high stools at the bar (complete with two old microscopes actually) , of 1970s really comfortable leather arm chairs like the quiet casual low tables at one end of the restaurant, like the old mesh-covered lockers used for high end spirit storage above the bar, like the banks of old wooden apothecary drawers used for condiment storage in the bar, like the old butcher shop ceramic tiles used on several of the walls, like the old wooden crates used for vegetable and fruit storage on the open kitchen benches, like the bundy clock we used to have to punch our cards in and out of back in early factory days holding up the reception counter, like the old water pipes and fixtures used on the doors … I could go on, but then you wouldn’t have to go yourself!
Here’s the bar:
And the Bundy clock:
Now the personnel. The wine team at Bread Street Cafe call themselves ‘Sommeliers Without Borders’ because they’re from – left to right – Claudio from Italy, Ram from Nepal, Gergely from Hungary, and Leo from France. Between them, they pretty much have the complete wine world well covered – in considerable depth.
The plan was to bring in a set of our wines – varietals and blends, middleweights and heavyweights – that we thought might work with some of the dishes on the Bread Street Cafe menu. The acid test with wine and food matching is to literally mix and match various wines with the different food flavours and textures – some things will clash, some will work, and some will fit like a hand in a glove. The idea is always- don’t clash! Everything else qualifies, and with the number of food shows, magazines and classes around these days in all sorts of shapes and sizes – it’s good form for us to know exactly what our wines can do in this particular arena. That’s how we found ourselves on the receiving end of rock star treatment last Wednesday at Bread Street. And why I want to let you know how it all went.
It really was an eye opener. I learned a great deal and was pleasantly surprised by some combinations that I didn’t automatically see coming. I tried to get the wine and food combo photos right, and got a lot of the secret ingredient details as well. But you just don’t get an opportunity like this, where the kitchen sent out ‘mini’ tasting plate versions of each menu dish, so we took it with both hands thanks, and here is what we came up with …
***I should mention at this point that ‘the kitchen’ is in the hands of the head chef Erion Karaj, who is a native Albanian, and completely delightful. He came and had a chat with us, even though they were about to charge into a busy lunchtime service. He sticks with the best seasonal produce he can find, and the sauces and glazes, folks, tell the story of how good this boy is.
‘Potted Salt Brisket with Grain Mustard, Piccalilli, and Buckwheat Crackers’
Now let’s be clear, the meat was like the best corned beef Mum ever made, shredded with a fork, mixed with some mustard egg mayonnaise, with home made cauliflower pickles on the side. Best match – without doubt the 2011 Bush Vine Grenache with the slight raspberry fruit sweetness over the rosemary softness doing the job.
Forgot to start with the seafood. We had two of the starter dishes to work with:
‘Salmon Ceviche, Ruby Grapefruit, Jalapeño, Lime and Coriander’ and the ‘Baked Scallops with Carrot Purée, Treacle Bacon, and Celery Cress’
Our initial thoughts were the 2010 FDW7C Wild Ferment Chardonnay for the salmon and the 2010 Eden Valley Viognier for the scallops. Whilst they both did the job well, with the Viognier cooling down the chilli, the superstar ‘hand in the glove’ wine match was actually the citrus layer lime lemon snap palate of the 2012 Pewsey Vale Riesling! True story. The Riesling is ‘bone dry’ being less than 1.5 g/ l residual sugar – but there’s a fruit softness on the palate that stays in the citrussy vein that seems a touch sweet and wraps up the salmon that’s ‘cooking’ in the juices, the slight sting of the jalapeño, and the tang of the grapefruit. Lovely stuff.
The Salmon Ceviche was light, slippery, salty , citrus and special! You’ll just have to get there to see what’s coming out of this kitchen – left, right and centre – they’re hot! And I don’t just mean the Josper charcoal smoke grill!
Before we move on to the red meats, there’s just a tangy chicken thing that loved the 2010 Eden Valley Viognier – ‘Tamarind Spiced Chicken Wings, Spring Onions and Coriander’. The tamarind glaze is shellac thin but makes sure the chicken on the bone’s still tender … and it’s the Viognier that wins the day. Spice and spice, and Viognier likes coriander … a lot.
Whilst we’re on Viognier, it also cuts through fat beautifully, and another surprise was how well it wrapped around the pork belly dish – where at first we were only going to try the middleweight reds with the ‘Slow Roasted Dingly Dell Pork Belly and Spiced Apple Sauce’.
Let’s set up the picture first.
The pork belly had a perfect layer of bubbled tasty brittle break apart crackling, peel apart no grease fibres of pork meat, and the green apple sauce was laced with cinnamon. And there were two wines that held hands perfectly with the pork – the 2010 Eden Valley Viognier and the 2011 The Strapper Grenache Shiraz Mataro. The Strapper was like an extension of the sauce really, from apple to apple, plum (Shiraz) raspberry (Grenache) and quince rhubarb (Mataro). It was just right.
**Our sommelier Gergely joined in with a Hungarian homeland option for the Pork Belly tasting, and opened a dry tokay – something I’d never seen. It was the 2011 MA’D Tokaj 13.5% v/v and was absolutely right, for all the same reasons as the Eden Valley Viognier. Lovely stuff.
On to the red meats, with the middle and heavyweight reds.
First up, the ‘Fennel Sausages, Savoy Cabbage, Braised Castelluccio Lentils, Borlotti Beans’.
No ordinary sausages found here! This was solid chewy meat and proper fennel seeds, and all that slow cooked beans in a red wine reduction almost to a paste consistency was not just a taste good thing … it’s really good for you! And folks, it’s a dead heat between The Strapper again, along with the cassis blackcurrant, slight mint eucalypt and shitake mushroom of the 2010 The Cigar 100% Coonawarra Cabernet. You have to love it when England turns out ‘Bangers and Beans’ of this calibre!
Oh … I nearly forgot the beets! The ‘Warm Beetroot Tart with Toasted Pine Nuts and Organic Goat’s Curd’ to be exact. Think a razor thin flaky pastry base topped with equally skinny layers of gold and purple cured beets, and the goats curd is laced with sticky sherry vinegar. Sorry to be boring, but The Strapper Grenache Shiraz Mataro did it again! That usually chewy tannic Mataro is softened by the juicy fruit velvety Shiraz, and with the raspberry spice of the Grenache over the top. It’s a natural.
Into the serious red meats now, starting with the ‘Bread Street Kitchen Short Rib Beef Burger with Monterey Jack Cheese and Smoked Tomato Ketchup’.
It doesn’t say so on the menu, but throw in house cured pickles, shredded cabbage slaw, a soft melt in your mouth bread bun, and the smoke from the charcoal grill – and you’re getting close to the perfect burger. I wouldn’t normally do medium rare, but in this case, it’s really the only way to go. With the smoke sweet berry fruit, French oak spice, Cabernet cassis, dark fruit lush Shiraz combination of 2010 The Scribbler – if you have to go back to work after lunch – or the extra depth one step further of brand new release 2008 The Signature if you don’t- these are the two wines for this meat treat … no risk.
And then the lamb. ‘Braised Mutton Shoulder and Potato Hot Pot with Toasted Garlic Brioche Crumbs’, which was served up as a cottage pie in an iron pot.
Wow! I love pies, and this had dissolving lamb bits in this one. I almost didn’t want to break that picture perfect fluffy whipped potato with a brioche cheese dust crust, which tasted as good as it looked. I’m running out of adjectives really. You’ll just have to trust me on this – the 2010 Scribble Cabernet Shiraz and/or the 2010 The Cigar Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon. Definitely.
We didn’t even think about the big red meat from the Josper Charcoal Grill – ’28 Day Aged Beef Sirloin 10 oz’, ‘English Rose Veal Chop’, ‘Aberdeen Angus Rib Eye 12 oz’ and ‘T Bone Steak 22oz’. That’s going to be serious 2008 The Signature and 2006 The Octavius territory for another day. Or night really. With preferably no plans for an early start the next morning . I’ll let you know when that happens – hopefully later this trip, with any luck.
And last but definitely not least … dessert!
I’m going to make it very simple – a picture is worth a thousand words – with the ‘Chocolate, Honeycomb, Salted Caramel Ice Cream’ – our sweet sticky fortified maple syrup honey raisin thing … the Museum Muscat.
That folks, is the ultimate sweet kiss to finish it all … and on that note … I’m calling it a night.
Thanks a huge amount to Ram, Gergely, Claudio, Leo – the Somms Without Boundaries (SWB) – super chef Erion, and all the great folks on the floor, in the bar, on the front desk……the whole Bread Street Kitchen troupe – we had an unforgettable time, and very much love your work!