Wine of choice: 21st Century Bridget Jones

1009-bridgetAfter reading The One Handed Cook’s blog post today celebrating the return of Bridget Jones, 17 years after Helen Fielding’s first book ‘Bridget Jones’ Diary’ was published, it got me thinking, what would Jones be drinking these days? Continue reading

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Saturday night at Chateau Marmot

No, it’s not a typo. I haven’t been living it up in L.A. at the iconic Chateau Marmont with Harry Styles and RPatz (think very exclusive, no way would they let me in anyway, celeb hang out). In fact, I haven’t even left the home counties to experience the next best thing for a respectable mother in her mid-thirties; a pop-up restaurant. photo 1 For 2 nights only, Chateau Marmot brought fine dining to the contemporary River and Rowing Museum in Henley-on-Thames, just up the road (lucky us!!). I’m guessing the smart yet informal venue overlooking the River Thames was a big attraction for the Marmot to swing by Henley, that and the abundance of local produce (which they’re big on) and affluent social-media using commuters (after all, the 0744 First Great Western service from Henley to London Paddington is the most crowded train in the UK). I emphasise ‘social-media using’, as it was on Twitter that I found out about Ch. Marmot, and the majority of the people around our table of 10 had also learned of its presence via social media in some context or other (2 independently from the muddystilettos.co.uk blog. If this is the sort of thing that its author, Hero, is blogging about, I’m signing up! Hero’s Ch. Marmot review here).

As my first pop-up, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, but I had high hopes and wasn’t disappointed. Chateau Marmot, like its close namesake, oozes exclusivity and quality, yet aims to remove all the pomp and circumstance that most fine dining delivers. Branded with a cute little marmot with keyboard skills to boot (I like that sort of thing), it’s a real all-hands-on-deck, family affair. From the husband and wife host and hostesses Theo and Danielle, to a front-of-house apron-clad sister-in-law, who may just have come from stirring the gravy out the back, to Theo’s mum (wine writer Ros Cooper) who helped with the wine matching.

We were welcomed warmly and were seated at our table of like-minded folk, all of us eager to get stuck in to both the wine flight (a glass to match each course) and the 5-course tasting menu. Perhaps not an event for the shy and retiring or a first date, the shared seating only lent itself to the fun (I’ve been using this word too much lately, as my mother might) and informal atmosphere. 

The Wine List and 5-Course Tasting Menu

The Wine List and 5-Course Tasting Menu

Then came the food, the quality, imagination and presentation, most of which, could easily rival the offerings of one or two local Michelin-starred gastropubs, although I wasn’t too keen on the fact that we were required to re-use our cutlery for each course (taking the ‘starch should be on potatoes, not table cloths’ ethos a little too far for my liking). The wine boffin in me however was chuffed to bits that all but the designated drivers seemed to choose the wine flight to accompany their meals, so here’s the low down;

Wine and food; course by course

  1. Aveleda Vinho Verde, Minho, Portugal  (Henley Vintners, £7.49) Fresh, very-light, off-dry with a slight effervescence and hints of pear – not entirely dissimilar to a White Wine Spritzer. Despite this, the acidity of the wine really enhanced the locally grown Heritage tomatoes with the charming tiny edible pansies, so although the wine was not to everyone’s taste round the table, it was a great match for the first course.
  2. Ca’ di Alte Pinot Nero, Veneto IGT, Italy (thedrinkshop.com £7.56) Another very light wine, this time red, with a delectable raspberry explosion and hence very easy to drink. Much like drinking fruit squash on its own, but with the pork, the absolutely rapturous belly pork, this wine was bang on the money. Pinot Noir, for me, is always the perfect match for pork belly and this was no exception. My favourite course and I wonder if I’ve ever had pork belly quite this scrumptious. The ‘chilli sambal’ was a bit much for the wine, but again and more to the point, complemented the pork superbly.
  3. Bodegas Borsao Macabeo, Campo de Borja, Aragon, Spain (Rannoch Scott £5.29) A third wine that didn’t do much for me on its own, but matched the food precisely. A medium bodied dry white with soft acidity that really softened the deliciously creamy mackerel dish. My tummy is rumbling with the memory.
  4. Juan Gil 4 Monastrell, Jumilla, Spain (Rannoch Scott £8.15) This big red was almost greeted with a cheer after the 3 previous lighter wines. Monastrell rarely fails me as red wines go (often blended in the Rhone, its french name being Mourdevre) and now I know where to get some, I plan to buy some of this particular wine to drink at home, it’s just a shame I won’t have these braised beef short ribs to accompany it. Bold and brash with welcome tannin and big blackberry fruit. Thank you Marmot for this one.
  5. Moscatel de Setubal, Adega del Palmeira, Portugal (Bela Portugal, £8.99 75cl) I’m a sucker for a Chocolate Ganache particularly when paired with an orangey Muscat – Terry’s eat your heart out. This course and wine match really ended the meal on a high, particularly with the cheeky addition of the popping candy. Another wine I would seek out again, especially at that price.
All gone!

All gone!

As you can see from the wine list, the wine was relatively inexpensive but was so well thought out that each glass really complemented the food – or perhaps the delicious food complemented the wine? Considering the abundance of excellent local wine producers near to Henley, the wine list could have benefited from a local English wine. However, I love a wine flight as it makes wine drinkers try new wines that they haven’t tasted before, something that I particularly recommend to those of you who never venture from New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

All in all, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and I feel rather privileged to have been able to nab a couple of seats. If every pop-up restaurant is this good, I will definitely be on the look out for more and  if Chateau Marmot choose to pop-up anywhere near you any time soon, I’d definitely recommend booking early to guarantee your seat, not only for the glorious food  but the convivial experience overall.

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Flash Recommendation: Deutz Brut Classic Champagne

Deutz Birthday Wine

What:  Deutz Brut Classic Champagne

Where OutThe Hind’s Head, Bray, Berkshire £12 125ml glass/ £51 a bottle
Where InAlfred the Grape, Marlow, Bucks, £35.99
Occasion: ‘Out’ for my birthday back in July, ‘In’ for Mr. PFW’s birthday last week.
Food match: Drank as an appetiser both times but it went very well with Monday’s poppadums!
Conclusion: A beautiful golden colour with a fresh dryness and crisp butteriness on the palate. An excellent non-vintage choice which made a nice change from the usual Moet or Perriet Jouet.
Bonus point: That The Hind’s Head really hasn’t changed much over the years since Heston Blumenthal has owned it. Unlike other local gastro pubs, you really can still pop in for a pint and not feel like you shouldn’t be there (I didn’t notice whether there were any crisps behind the bar). Plus my favourite Ribeye with bone marrow is still on the menu all this time on.

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Flash Recommendation: Sainte Marie, Estate Wine of Jersey, 2010

Jim Bergerac

Jim Bergerac

I’ll be honest here, my only knowledge of Jersey is that it’s near France, full of millionaires, they have cows and it looks pretty (from what I remember from ‘Bergerac‘). Although I don’t remember Jim (Bergerac of course), ever commenting on the local beverages, I can also add, that they can make rather tasty wine too.

jerseyThe Sainte Marie 2010 is produced by La Mare Wine Estate, a destination, event venue and local produce champion. Looking at their website, there’s little mention of the wine specifics, which is a shame, as this off-dry Seyval Blanc and Orion blend was delightful. Golden in colour and a peachy palate, the creaminess and acidity of this wine stood up proudly to the spiciness of a home-made curry made by a friend of mine, fresh back from her Jersey holiday. This was also perfectly drinkable with just the poppadums and I can also imagine it would be pretty mean with Jersey Oysters.

Bought from Waitrose in Jersey somewhere in the region of £10.85.

Additional links: Delicious Magazine Article – Jersey

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Nyetimber and The Vineyard at Stockcross

IMG_0698My very first interest in learning more about wine started during an English Wine Producers‘ tasting at the Great British Cheese Festival around 10 years ago. The realisation that there could be a future in producing wine made from grapes grown in this country, ignited a real excitement in me that wine had failed to do in the past and it’s what prompted me to apply to complete my WSET courses. A far from romantic affair, run in an old science lab at Bracknell and Wokingham College, both my Intermediate and Advanced courses delivered an anti-climatic one page, 10 minute passing over of wine from England and Wales amongst the intrigue of the rest of the world’s wines.

To distract me further, all thoughts of English wine were then buried under piles of laundry and dirty nappies. Until that is, my interest was reignited in the form of a bottle of Nyetimber Classic Cuvee produced to celebrate my birthday last summer.

Since then, my English wine nerdiness has spiralled, the pinnacle of which saw me presenting an English wine tasting, so, imagine my delight when an invitation to ‘An Evening with Nyetimber‘ came my way! Not just a Nyetimber tasting, but a wine and dinner pairing at the one and only The Vineyard at Stockcross, the 5-star boutique hotel, spa and restaurant between Hungerford and Newbury. Cue much jubilation and clicking of heels (if I could click my heels, but that’s a whole other story) and off I drove into the sunset last Sunday night with the wind in my hair and the promise of a first class dinner and watering . Continue reading

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Perfect Friday Wine-d Down

A while back, my husband and I started a little tradition where on a Friday, we’d go for a quick drink at the pub straight after work with the kids. They’d get to have a juice and some crisps, we’d get to have a swift pint or glass of wine to mark the beginning of the weekend. We can do this because our local pub, The Windsor Castle, is welcoming and child friendly and I like to think we don’t outstay our welcome. However, one night, it was too busy for us to easily blend into a corner! I’m not sure who was more upset, us or our 3 year old daughter, but let’s face it, standing at the bar with a buggy isn’t cool.

To calm the situation, we headed home, but it was OK, we had drinks and MONSTER MUNCH at home! From this event on, our pub tradition has been replaced (not every week mind) by ‘The All Saints Arms’, an imaginary pub named after the area we live in but in the comfort of our own kitchen.

Tonight’s All Saints Arms looked a little something like this…. Continue reading

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Festi-wine – no glass, quantity over quality: the time and place for a wine box.

I’ve just realised that we’re less than two weeks away from heading off to a UK music festival for 5 days. Whereas last year on the run up (I was on maternity leave) I started preparing months in advance, this year, I’ve only just started to think about what we need to take, particularly what food and drink we might take to keep the cost down when we’re there.

To be honest, I’m not in the habit of drinking wine at a festival. In fact, it’s no place for fine wine or taking along anything that needs to be kept cold – totally unnecessary, unless of course you either have a camper van and therefore a fridge to hand or are too important to erect your own tent (jealous of glampers? Me? Yeah, very much so 😉  ). Festivals are for drinking real ale, lager and cider. Oh, and you won’t hear me say this very often, but they are also the only acceptable time, along with making mulled wine, and place for a…wait for it…yes, a BOX of wine.

Continue reading

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