Category Archives: Eating/ Drinking Out

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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Filed under Eating/ Drinking Out, Home Counties, Uncategorized, Wine and Food Pairing

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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Filed under Eating/ Drinking In, Eating/ Drinking Out, Flash Recommendation, France, Sparkling

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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Filed under Eating/ Drinking Out, English Wine, Wine and Food Pairing, Wine Tasting

Henley Regatta Perfect Wine Pairing

ImageIt would be an understatement for me to say that I like Henley Regatta. I love Henley Regatta, even more so when the sun is shining. I have a lot of great memories from over the years, from the times I’ve camped with good friends, having left work in time to pitch up and catch the last couple of races over a Pimms or two, to the few times I’ve been lucky enough to get my hands on a pass to Stewards’ Enclosure. I also rowed myself for a few years at Maidenhead, so not only can I appreciate a nice stroke action, the stress of a racing start and the pain of a 40 strokes per minute rating, I’ve also been part of the rowing community so tend to know a few friendly faces around and about. All in all it’s a brilliant few days and if you like sitting by the river with a drink, people watching, I can imagine you’d enjoy it too.

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Filed under Dorset, Eating/ Drinking Out, English Wine, Party Wine, Seasonal, Spain, Sparkling

Jolly Rosé Holidays

The 89 BMW pictured at Sandbanks, UK  - our mode of holiday transport is not such fun these days!

The ’89 BMW. Our mode of holiday transport is not such fun these days!

The last time I went to the Cote d’Azur and Provence, was 10 years ago to the month. We (my husband and I, in the early days) spent 3 days under canvas on the beach at Port Grimaud as part of a 2 week tour of France, living out the back of my 1989 BMW E30 convertible. This time, we’ll be in a much more sensible diesel estate (stationwagon, for my American readers), accompanied by our 2 kids (20 months and 3 years) and staying in a ‘Tiki Hut‘ (a.k.a a thatched mobile home) – oh, how times change.

What will not be changing however, is the delight of buying inexpensive local rosé wine by the refillable carton from the local marché. It was on our previous trip, sat in a bar watching how the other half live on St. Tropez harbour, that we discovered the delights of Provençal rosé. From that moment on, we have continued to quaff the stuff every summer and share the love with whoever will listen – we even chose a cheap and cheerful rosé as an alternative to white wine for our guests to wash down the barbecue at our wedding.

Something else that has changed since my last trip, is that I now know a little more about wine, so I will be branching out beyond just the entry level to try and find the perfect rosé –  I’m not expecting that I’ll have too venture far.

Port Grimaud is just outside of St. Tropez and then we’re staying on a vineyard just to the east of Orange. Do you have any recommendations of vineyards to visit or specific wine producers to keep an eye out for? Please do comment!

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Filed under Eating/ Drinking In, Eating/ Drinking Out, France, Seasonal

Flash Recommendation: Kleine Zalze Pinotage, Stellenbosch, South Africa

H&FZalzeWhat:  Kleine Zalze Pinotage, Stellenbosch, South Africa 14.5%
Where Out: Hand and Flowers, Maidenhead, Berkshire £4.85 175ml glass/  £19 a bottle
Where In: Templar Wines, online, £7.99 (as part of a case of 12)
Occasion: Long overdue, Yummy Mummy mid-week catch up over pizza and wine
Food match: This fruity, medium bodied Pinotage stands up well to the SCRUMMY Taco Beef Pizza.
Conclusion: A warm and well rounded wine with good oak and pleasing chewy blackcurrant. Much better in comparision to anything that used to be on the wine list here before the previous owners took over. Back to being the best pub in town by far.
Bonus point: At last, the grown ups of Maidenhead have somewhere nice to go for a drink and a decent bite to eat in the centre of town! Not to be confused with the magnificent Marlow eatery of Tom Kerridge fame just up the road, but a lovely local all the same, and you’re more likely to get a table.

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Filed under Eating/ Drinking In, Eating/ Drinking Out, Flash Recommendation, South Africa, Uncategorized, Wine and Food Pairing

Summer Dining and Wine Series; Picnics

Surely this year, here in the UK we deserve a good summer? The jet stream owes us more than just a few random non-rainy days and in anticipation of a heat wave or two, in my next couple of posts, I will share my idea of summer wine choices whilst dining al fresco.

Part One: Picnics

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Filed under Eating/ Drinking Out, English Wine, France, Party Wine, Seasonal, South America, Sparkling, Wine and Food Pairing