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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 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 ( £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.


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

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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My quest to find the perfect Rosé

Upd 14Aug13: In a desperate attempt to be accepted by my fellow wine bloggers, I’d like to re-submit this post that I wrote back in June for the 80th  Wine Blogging Wednesday, the subject being ‘Dry Rosé’. I’ll admit, this is cheating somewhat but after some grovelling, @winecast has humoured me and allowed this as a super-early (21 days earlier than the challenge was even set) submission. Check out twitter #wbw80 and here for more excellent entries.

Some love it, some hate it. I am in the former camp and LOVE a glass of Rosé on a sunny afternoon. I like to think that my husband and I were the sole initiators of the rosé revolution in the UK after being introduced to its merits on a holiday to St Tropez back in 2003. Prior to then, I’d tasted very little and if my memory serves me correctly, anything other than Mateus was rare to be seen on a pink wine list in the UK.

Just like I wouldn’t order just ‘a glass of white wine’ in a pub, I wouldn’t order just any old rosé. I’ve been caught out in the past by the sweet, heavy, dark, cheap rosés that many pubs serve and have been known before now to demand to see the bottle before ordering only to opt for a pint of lager instead. I am always astounded by the looks of astonishment by bar staff across the country – surely rosé is rosé? Not at all and I seriously suspect that the rosé haters amongst you simply haven’t found the right one for you yet! Rosé for me has to be dry, lightish in colour and acidic with an almost sherberty finish and I neither mind whether it’s strawberries or peaches and cream. Needless to say – it must be COLD. Continue reading


Filed under Eating/ Drinking In, English Wine, France, Seasonal, South Africa, Uncategorized

Cheers to English Wine Week!

A selection of English Sparkling for an upcoming tasting in May.

Hoorah to English Wine Week!

Just a quicky as I have a small person pestering me to set up a treasure hunt. It’s a Bank Holiday weekend here in the UK, as I believe it is too in the states. It is also World Sherry Day and, more to the point, we’re in the midst of English Wine Week.

I ran an English Wine tasting a couple of week’s ago and the general consensus from a group of happy tasters, was that the English wine was excellent. Since then, I also attended a trade show where I tried even more!

In summary;

we can grow some fabulous Bacchus – a lighter version of Sauvignon Blanc. The Pheasants Ridge Bacchus Dry from near Henley-on-Thames was a delight and the generous Michael Gilbey gave us (The Wine Team) a bottle to try. (£75 for 6 bottles) I would like to try their Sparkling Brut now.

Expect to see some Chardonnay emerging  Give the Gusbourne Estate Chardonnay (still, not sparkling – well, try that too!) a go!

Age it! – We tried a vertical tasting of Stanlake Park‘s Kings Fume (a 2006 and a 2010) (£10.99 from the vineyard) blend of Ortega, Regner, Scheurebe and Bacchus. Both tasty with the eldest being a lot creamier and softer – the jury was out as to which was preferred.

 the reds are coming along – until this particular tasting, I was yet to taste a decent English red. The 2 Pinot Noirs from Bolney Estate (£15.99) and a’Becketts (£15) however were light and fruity, with the former hinting at some good Burgundy-esque flavours and body.

don’t rule out rosé either – the Oaken Grove Benham Blush  (Waitrose, £10.99) was just how I like my rosé – light, acidic and fruity (think Provencal) [Also featured in My quest to find the perfect rosé]

….drum roll…and the sparkling……! – Becoming increasingly competitive in price and quality with Champagne and other sparkling wine, it really feels like English Sparkling is carving out its own little niche within the market, and I’m yet to try a nasty one. It’s also switching me towards pink sparkling – The Balfour Brut Rosé (£35.99, Waitrose) is a force to be reckoned with. As for the whites, you could pick up the Sainsbury’s English Sparkling Wine, a 2007 vintage from Denbies  for around £15 in their 25% off deal at the moment – a billion-times better investment than a cheap bottle of NV Champers in my opinion, and worth every penny at full price £19.99. Another that I had the pleasure of tasting this week was the award-winning Bluebell Vineyard Estates Hindleap Blanc de Blancs (£23.99). These guys were lovely to meet and all 3 of their sparklings were yummy.

Not my most scientific post this one, but wanted to share while the sun still shines and the long weekend is still in full swing. Please do share any you’ve tried and where you bought it. Happy Bank Holiday and Happy English Wine Week!


Filed under Eating/ Drinking In, English Wine, Sparkling, Uncategorized, Wine Tasting

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

Flash Recommendation: Fairtrade Organic Chardonnay, Santa Florentina, Argentina

What:  Fairtrade Organic Unwooded Chardonnay, Santa Florentina, Famatina Valley, Argentina 12.5%,
Where Out: Bel and The Dragon, Cookham, Berkshire £5.00 175ml glass/  £21 a bottle
Where In: Corney and Barrow, online, £8.50
Who: A date (A.K.A. my husband – someone I hadn’t spoken to for a number of weeks a) in a civilised setting b) using eye contact due to some kind of multi-tasking activity e.g. wiping tomato sauce from a small person’s face c) without referring to him directly but via one of the same small people as ‘Daddy’).
Last minute flogging of Kaiser Chief’s tickets, in favour of a quiet, local, Friday night out, drinking wine and eating curry (without regret – boring, I know, but soooo much easier).
Food match: Had I been eating and not heading down the road to the Spice Merchant Cookham Tandoori, the mussels would’ve gone down a treat.
Conclusion: A dry and soapy, citrus wine with a perfect acidity softened by the buttery creaminess reminiscent of popcorn flavoured Jelly Belly jelly beans. Bel and The Dragon doesn’t have the cheapest wine list in the vicinity but it’s very comprehensive and I look forward to heading back to trying more. Plus, if this wine was anything to go by, the quality of wine seems to fairly reflect the price (I tested some of their competitors just to be on the safe side).
Bonus point: For an ‘everyday’ drinker to take home or for any of your wine buying needs, pop next door to the lovely Old Butcher’s Wine Cellar  (website currently under development) for a bottle of Paul Mas Chardonnay.

Links: Why Chardonnay is back in fashion, Dynamic Domaines Mas

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Filed under Eating/ Drinking Out, Flash Recommendation, Grape Varieties, South America, Uncategorized, Wine and Food Pairing

You win some, you lose some.

In a moment of madness, having been alerted to the sale of some vintage wine in the monthly  Bourne End Auction, in Buckinghamshire, I placed a blind bid on a lot of wine from the 1970’s.

A wine lottery it seemed, but in my excitement at the mystery and owning my very own wine from my decade of birth, I swiftly submitted my bid. In my haste, foolishly, I hadn’t even bothered to look up the Chateau Laniote to see if it was ever any good, let alone when it’s 40 years old nor did I have any idea as to the history of the actual wine or any clue as to what the other 4 bottles were. Not my wisest move ever, but such fun!


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Filed under Eating/ Drinking In, France, Uncategorized, Wine Tasting

Rugby, stout and Spanish wine

England v Scotland line up 02-02-13. Go England!

England v Scotland line up 02-02-13. Go England!

A dull January turned into an exciting February with the start of the Six Nations rugby last weekend. As luck would have it, a couple of tickets to the England v Scotland game came our way via a good friend, and the in-laws were kind enough to have the kids, so off we went for a jolly day out to Twickenham to watch England retain the Calcutta Cup.

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Filed under Eating/ Drinking In, Spain, Uncategorized, Wine and Food Pairing

Detoxing on Baked Beans and Grenache

mince pies

Mince pie overload…

To make up for our excesses over the festive period, my other half has declared January as ‘The month of Austerity’. This means that we have been plunged into a boring few weeks of eating baked beans on toast or leftovers out of the freezer. Most boring of all though, he’s not drinking alcohol. On the upside, it turns out that he doesn’t mean for the whole month, just until Burns Night apparently, but this leaves one wine blogger a little lonesome on the wine drinking front for the next 22 days.

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Wine for a fiver

So, there I was, buying a couple of those buckets of mini cakes in M&S for my colleagues and I spied a ‘Two for a tenner’ Spanish wine promotion by the checkout. Intrigued, the labels informed me that both the Las Falleras Blanco y Tinto were made from local Spanish grape varieties, and on a whim, proceeded to buy them.

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