Category Archives: Wine and Food Pairing

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

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


Filed under Eating/ Drinking In, Flash Recommendation, Wine and Food Pairing

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

Summer Dining and Wine Series: Barbecues

Picture this; it’s been sunny since Wednesday and you’ve been cooped up in an air-conditioned office all week. The forecast for the weekend is STEAMY and you awaken to blue skies and glorious sunshine on Saturday morning. First thought? It’s time for a barbecue!

Proud husbandly photograph of 6 hour cooked dinner

Proud husbandly photograph of 6 hour cooked dinner

So, first thing…do we have any charcoal? Yes, I think there’s one last batch that’s been clogging up the shed all winter – just enough for one bbq. Second…food! Cue, a rummage in the freezer. Sausages – check. A couple of chicken thighs, perfect for skewers – check. This is where I, being female, would end, but this is a barbecue, 2 meats in one meal simply won’t suffice! Continue reading


Filed under Beer and Cider, Dorset, Eating/ Drinking In, Italy, Seasonal, South America, Wine and Food Pairing

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

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

Super Thursday Valentine’s

DSC00372This time 3 years ago, I was very heavily pregnant. I now therefore tend to associate Valentine’s Day, apart from the love and adoration of my husband of course (added in there – saved, phew!!), with being overdue, uncomfortable, and waiting. I remember being taken out for lunch by my brother and stepmum and how post-lunch, having some pre-baby maternity leave free time, my brother and I were stumped as to how we could spend a rainy February afternoon. Continue reading

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Filed under Eating/ Drinking In, Party Wine, Seasonal, South Africa, Spain, Sparkling, Wine and Food Pairing

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

Chin chin Scots-people

A rather dull, all work and no play January, has sadly meant little wine drinking or blogging for me since the new year. Any creative fancy of mine has been zapped by evening conference calls with our friends across the pond and the lure of spending the last 30 minutes of my day watching mind numbing telly, such as recordings of Miranda (every girl deserves a little Tom Ellis pick me up after a day’s slog).

I would now like to raise a virtual glass to my neighbourly Scotsmen/ women on this eve of an England v Scotland Six Nations nail biter since a fabulous Burns’ night supper of Cullen Skink and Haggis last Friday.

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Filed under Eating/ Drinking In, Party Wine, Seasonal, Sherry, South Africa, South America, Spain, Wine and Food Pairing