Monthly Archives: June 2012

Bollinger at Yauatcha, London – June 2012

It was a sign of the times, twofold.

Not only did a Champagne house host a lunch in Yauatcha – one of London’s best Asian restaurants – but the meal focussed nearly entirely on rosé.

The wine trade seems to have woken up to Asian cuisine recently, and Bollinger, whose lunch this was, has a fast-track appreciation of this cuisine thanks to its managing director Jérôme Philipon’s previous 12 years of residing in Asia.

But it’s not just Jérôme’s penchant for fine Asian cuisine that brought about this choice of venue. It was more about showing off rosé Champagne’s effortless ability to partner well with food, and Asian food especially.

There’s something about the perky dry spice of rosé Champagne that lends itself to the subtle heat of chili, not to mention this wine style’s light fruitiness, which has a natural affinity with the gentle fruitiness of seafoods such as prawn and lobster. And then of course there’s Champagne’s natural high acidity, which is great for cutting through the fattiness of fried food, such as soft shell crab.

So here’s how the lunch and pairings went on the day:

Bollinger La Grande Année Rosé 1995 (in magnum), with…
Chinese and chive prawn dumpling
Crystal dumpling wrap
Scallop Shui Mai

A developed wine (understandably) that at its peak – accorinding to Bollinger’s chef du cave Mathieu Kauffman – was a sumptuous, succuclent mouthful of red fruits. Bubbles did vary according to glass (mine: fairly flat, my neighbour’s: fairly fizzy), but the flavours easily set this apart from the other rosés we tasted. It was unapologetically buxom and so it was especially good, and seemed even more generous in fruit, with the pumpkin stuffing inside the Crystal Dumpling.

Bollinger La Grande Année Rosé 2002, with…
Soft shell crab
Venison puff
Lobster dumpling

The freshness, vivacity and youth screamed out of this glass when compared to the previous wine. Yes – youth. This 2002 showed an astonishing level of fresh red fruit/strawberry flavours, making it a winner with the lobster above everything else. The 2002 struggled to stand up to the chili in the soft shell crab with almonds, but going back to the 1995 and the richness of fruit here married incredibly well with the heat from the chili.

Bollinger La Grande Année Rosé 2004 & Côte aux Enfants 2004, with…
Steamed wild prawn
Baked chicken with aubergine
Egg fried rice with long bean

As you might expect, there was quite a contrast between these two wines, and how they subsequently paired with the food.
Côte aux Enfants 2004: 100% Pinot Noir and a developed, baked raspberry aromas with voluptuous fruit, delicately soft tannins, but still with a broad generous mouthfeel, I thought this worked best with the baked chicken.
La Grande Année Rosé 2004: While this had a lovely balance, generous fruit and a degree of tannin too, this wine has a distinct orange element to the flavours which lent itself more towards the plump prawns.

Bollinger Côtes aux Enfants 2009, with…
Mongolian style venison
Hand-pulled noodle
Claypot with shrimp and romaine heart

Going on sale for the first time ever, this wine showed remarkable concentration of red fruit for a wine from this relatively cool region of France. It was almost crunchy, and struck a balance between a Loire Cabernet Franc, with its upfront herbal aromas and flavours, and a more robust Beaujolais like a Morgon. Either way, it was a very sumptuous and satisfying wine, and it was a surprisingly good match with the hand-pulled noodle, although the venison was where it really held its own.

Bollinger Rosé, with
Strawberry Yuzu

Even though I’m not much of a pudding person, but this was a fine and elegant display of soft strawberry layers and creaminess, showing exactly why a frivolously fizzy and fruity dry rosé Champagne should be given more credit, and exposure, as a perfect match with light and/or creamy red fruit-based puddings.

Yauatcha, 15 Broadwick Street London, W1F 0DL
Reservations: 020 7494 8888

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Tea.L.C

When you’re a bit of a flavour junkie, it’s always exciting to have that goosebump-enducing fresh hit from a new taste experience, and that’s just what happened to me last week.

I went to a tea tasting.

It was my very first one and a specialised one at that, as I only had three glasses lined up in front of me.

Riedel glasses to be precise, because London tea trading company Lalani & Co is so focussed on provenance and quality, they believe you need the perfect kind of drinking vessel to get the best out of the tea, and to them glasses made by Riedel fit the bill.

In fact, a bespoke Lalani/Riedel glass project is already underway I’m told. But until that time comes, Lalani uses the already-available Riedel O glasses (the stemless ones).

Summer Reserve LaKyrsiew & teapot

My dapper tea tasting host from Lalani & Co, Jameel Lalani, pointed out a few basics for me, the tea tasting novice.

Firstly, the tea/glass guidelines that works best for them…

Black tea: Riedel O Riesling/Sauvignon Blanc glass
Green tea: Riedel O Pinot/Nebbiolo glass
White tea: Riedel O oaked Chardonnay glass

Secondly, because boiling water burns tea leaves, a useful temperature guideline is as follows…

Black tea: 95C
Green tea: 75-85C
White tea: 65-70C

Thirdly, the steeping time, during which point I made a bit of a rookie error – I let the leaves steep for too long.

“I’ll take the hit on this,” Jameel kindly said as he swapped our individual teapots and glasses. I’d been nattering away to the potter and teapot creator Billy Lloyd (yes, Lalani is having bespoke teapots made too – see above photo) for so long at the tasting, my steeping time had overrun.

‘Course I could have still drunk it, but for Jameel the tea was already past its delicate best. I know such attention to detail will cause a bit of eye-rolling for some, but as a wine lover who has no qualms about speaking up if I think a wine’s temperature will affect the enjoyment of it, I totally got where Jameel was coming from.

To taste (again following Jameel’s example), I sat each O glass in the full palm of my hand and swirled the tea around in slow circular motions before taking a deep sniff. Now I was back in familiar territory. But the similarities between top tea and wine don’t end with sniffing.

Also of serious importance are: the terroir and altitude of tea gardens, the picking date within each of the year’s five harvests, not to mention the more revered reputation of boutique producers. And then on the tasting front, it was mind-blowing to see just how much flavour and diversity the teas had – even just among these three teas – as well as seeing just how much they changed as the temperature changed.

First Flush Wonder Darjeeling Gopaldhara & teapot

The tasting

Summer Reserve, LaKyrsiew Tea Garden 2011 (from Meghakaya, India)
Apparently this is one of the finest black teas available, and here the summer provides the best leaves. As someone who doesn’t ’do’ black tea, I was stunned – and chuffed – at how little tannin this tea had. Instead it had a smooth, almost creamy texture, with a light nutty and caramel aroma which developed into an intense cocoa flavour as it opened up. This was described to me as more of an ‘aperitif’ tea.

First Flush ‘Wonder’, Godpaldhara Garden 2012 (from Darjeeling, India)
I was told this is Gopaldhara’s premier first flush (picking) which comes from the highest elevations in the garden. Light on tannin again but this one had a toally different flavour profile. This tea had more purity of fruit, tropical, exotic fruit to be precise, so papaya and pineapple ruled the day. But not in your fruit tea-sense but in a delicate, weirdly more authentic and genteel way. This was a real winner with my smoked salmon sandwich.

Himalayan Jade, Jun Chiyabari Garden 2012 (from Hile, Nepal)
Described as Nepal’s “foremost boutique family run garden”, this was a fascinating end to the tasting, because this tea had a savoury, damp, moss-like smell. It was far less intense in fruit at first, as the earthy aromas dominated but as the temperature dropped there was a subtle hint of peach and apricot to it. The most tannic of the three teas, I found this a very happy match with the lemon cupcake. I’m not sure if you’d call that a classic match, but it certainly worked for me…

Want to do it yourself?
Head down to London’s Brown’s Hotel next month where its Seasonal Tea Library with three Lalani & Co teas will be available for £7.50 per person.

Whether you’re into tea or just new flavour experiences in general, I definitely reckon it’s worth a visit there this summer.

J

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