The word Dinner comes from 13th century French word for breakfast, but in Britain it has always been used for the main meal of the day. In medieval times, this meal occurred in the middle of the day and was followed by a much lighter supper before bedtime. Over the centuries, it has got later and later and now means the evening meal. Although in some parts of Britain it still means Lunch! (From the menu wrapper at Dinner)
Well, those of you walking the streets of London, or the ones who visited by chance, my Facebook pages, have already noticed the amazing gesture the Lord Mayor of London Boris Johnson, prepared for me. Banners Celebrating 60 : 1953-2013 have been spread all over town commemorating my 60th birthday which I celebrated a few days ago (on June 11th).I must admit, I was taken by surprise; the city of London “enlisted” all its resources for such a personal occasion (as big as it may be…). Still I can’t really complain and push this show of recognition aside. After all ,I have a few minor contribution throughout the years for this great city of London with: endless paid parking tickets, direct and indirect taxes, reducing CO2 emission to name but a few), still I must admit it caught me by unprepared… Thank you, the Right Honourable Boris Johnson.
My daughter Daphne honoured me even more by getting us tickets for Mark Knopfler Gig (Privateering 2013 Tour) at the Royal Albert Hall on June 1st (The Hall was booked in advance for the 11th) and so, to make a complete celebration of the day I booked Lunch @ Dinner by Heston Blumenthal (Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, 66 Knightsbridge, London SW1), present were people I love friends and family, Daphne & Udi, Lisa & Spike and moi your humble WINEGUIDE.
Now… one of my most exciting and fun visits, to a restaurant in the last 2 years was without a doubt, my lunch with Spike at Heston Blumenthal’s the FAT DUCK (as written in my Post: https://wine4soul.com/2012/05/27/lunch-at-the-fat-duck/ ) so we came with some anticipation…
My guests: Spike Denton apart from being amongst my best friends him and I have been going to Restaurants of sorts for ages now so he is an obvious guest,
my dear friend Lisa Galton one of the most acute tasters I know, a real connoisseur of wine and food, (with a wine collection at her dads house with gems of unsurpassed rarity) a lady of quality, a delight to sit to a meal with, in short my kind of lass.
We’re off to the Restaurant that is right there on the first page of The World’s 50 best Restaurants list for 2013, in fact at number seven of the lot… (http://www.theworlds50best.com/list/1-50-winners/ )
Conceived by Heston Blumenthal and his right-hand man Ashley Palmer-Watts, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal excavated ancient recipes that go as far back as the 14th century to the beginning of the 20th century and reintroduces them using contemporary cooking techniques. (we’ll talk about it later…) They say: “Dinner” is not about delicate combinations or table theatrics, but gutsy dishes that will remain at the forefront of your memory bank for years to come.”
As we sat down HRH the queen herself joined the birthday celebration gestures, by sening her cavalry to salute us, sitting at the window looking over the Royal park (Hyde )…
raising our glass of Champagne, I chose the: Paul Dethune, Brut Grand Cru, Ambonnay, NV Champagne, a small grower’s champagne from the Grand Cru village of Ambonnay, we set down to order our starters:
Daphne the pescetarian round our table, goes for the Roast scallops (c.1830) Cucumber ketchup, roast cucumber, bergamot & borage. This roast scallop dish is deconstruction of the elements in the recipe published in the 1826 book The Cook and Housewife’s Manual Mistress by Meg Dodds. Now this is the second time this week cucumber stars as a suitable supporting act to a dish of sweet succulent scallops and it works fine (especially here in England, where green veggies are so prominent (compared to coloured vegetables you can find in hotter countries) I must admit it does work well and the green scent of cucumbers compliment the dish well. Add to that Bergamot or wild bergamot, which is of the mint family and Borage (Borago officinalis), also known as a starflower, with edible leaves this annual herb though a native to the Mediterranean region it has naturalized in many other parts of Europe, which grows well in gardens in the UK.
Udi the Vegetarian, had the Nettle Porridge (c.1660), smoked beetroot garlic parsley & Fennel, a delightful dish even if just to look at…recipe from William Rabisha, The whole Body of Cookery Dissected (1682) . This book was written after the restoration of King Charles II in 1660. William Rabisha was ‘Master Cook’ to many honourable Families and left this important text, a remarkable statement of the art of cookery as it was in the 1660, and was surprisingly influential over a very long period. The books full name says it all: The Whole Body of Cookery Dissected, Taught, and Fully Manifested … Whereunto is Annexed a Second Part of Rare Receipts of Cookery … With a Book of Preserving, Conserving and Candying … by Will. Rabisha
Spike had the Meat Fruit (c.1550) Mandarin, chicken Liver & Foie gras parfait, grilled bread. A real treat to look at and a fine liver parfait filling in a casing of jellied mandarin colour and shape coat, including the fruit’s skin perforated outline and real leaves, they go into all the trouble of giving it the correct shape, cool it to set, freeze it to gel the mandarin peel coatings, so much trouble and than you miss on the mandarin flavour? (that’s smell and taste) isn’t that a pity, yet it is an alluring piece of prepped dish as you can see from the photos.
Lisa and I went for the Frumentry (c.1390) Grilled octopus, smoked sea broth, pickeled dulse & Lovage. Throughout the centuries Palmaria palmata called dulse, dillisk or dilsk, sea lettuce flakes a red algae that grows on the northern coasts of the Atlantic Ocean, and has always been an important source of fiber in the British Isles and northern Europe.
I love well prepared octopus in any form of cooking, either rock beaten and grilled over charcoal on a Greek island beach, or my most memorable one at Osteria “LA RISACCA 6” in Milano, Via Marcona, 6 Tel. 02 55181658 – 02 5468041 (over 20 years ago), a simple but delicious perfect octopus cut to about 1 inch pieces, cold peeled tomatoes, exquisite olive oil and a touch of herbs– perfection! , so I went for the Octopus dish, as it turned out Lisa ordered octopus as well and we both did not realize this was the most ancient of recipes on our menu 1390 AD from the Forme of Cury (methods of cooking) by The Master Cook of King Richard II, a most becoming dish for Lisa who was raised at Hampton Court Palace, Yes!!! She might not be Royalty but she is Regal a real queen. (Hampton Court Palace as you all know is the Palace of the Tudor Kings and queens, Built to House and feed the kings of England from around 1529-1760 including of course the Court of King Henry the 8th, who used to have up to 600 people for lunch, and not only once, poor kitchen stuff I’m not kidding Ya).
Lisa and I, both loved every moment of our octopus which was perfect to the book a real delight, it was succulent – tender, juicy, and tasty (oxford dictionary)., swimming in a lightly smoked broth with touches of red and green algae and the “leaves in fashion” – Lovage, Its flavor and smell is somewhat similar to celery and top chefs use it lately for all their sea fruit dishes. (too much???)
The Paul Dethune, Brut Grand Cru, Ambonnay, NV Champagne is a grower’s champagne from the Grand Cru village of Ambonnay, Champagne, one of only 17 villages in Champagne with Grand Cru status. I love Ambonnay champagnes. The village’s vineyards are located in the Montagne de Reims region of Champagne, and are all classified as Grand Cru in the Champagne vineyard classification (A Clos-type vineyard in the village is the single vineyard source of Krug’s Clos d’Ambonnay). For map: http://www.libation-unlimited.com/dr-2-champagne-in-ambonnay.aspx . This wine has 70% Pinot Noir and 30%, made by the Dethune family who own 7ha of vineyards in Ambonnay. Though boutique style and fairly unknown this is a wonderfully balanced and rich champagne of outstanding quality The Brut NV is mineral extremely rich yet fresh, with a fine mousse very good length and finesse with aromas of strawberry butter brioche. It has great length and elegance, just what I needed for this celebration.
We sank slowly into our private get together with great wine, wonderful view of the park and our very own company reunion, digging in and sampling each other’s dishes between seeps of this fine champagne. Are we having one of the best meals in the world? after all it is quantified and qualified as the 7th best in the world, and first courses are the best platform for a chef/kitchen to show off their ability and imagination, but we are here not to judge but to enjoy, and we are having fun from the company, wine, and the food and thus everything else re: minute details are secondary.
Next post… our main dishes the wine we had, the wines we brought each other, the presents and the wine that rouse the sommelier’s envy yet did not succumb to “restaurant policy”…
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
66 Knightsbridge, London, SW1X 7LA
(to be continued…)
A wine cellar is a storage room for bottled or barreled wine, in which some important factors for wine keeping such as temperature and humidity are maintained either naturally (underground) or by a climate control system.
Wine cellars protect wine bottles from potentially harmful external influences such as light, heat,dryness. Since wine is a beverage that can ultimately spoil, proper storage of wines, protects their quality and with certain wines will even improve their maturing stage adding tertiary aromas, flavors, and complexity as they continuously mature in the bottle.
Most wine bottles are tinted green because direct sunlight can react with the phenolic compounds (polyphenols) in wine and create “wine faults” mainly to color stability and in lowering their anti-oxidizing qualities.
Most underground European Wine Cellars keep temperature of between 7–14 °C with variations developing gradually during the hotter months. Lower Temperature will slow down the evolving / aging process of the wine, it keeps wines fresher and fruitier for a longer time. French wine caves and English wine cellars naturally maintain 60-70% relative humidity. Low humidity can be a problem because it may cause organic corks to dry prematurely causing either seepage from the bottle through the cork or oxidation due to lack of tight seal.
So if you are about to build yourself a wine cellar it must be DARK, COLD & HUMID (basically a dungeon).
If you follow these rules most wine cellars will look the same. Some wine cellars are more impressive than others, the kind that get stuck in your mind for a very long time, for ever!
Caves or winery cellars Like the Ruinart famous deep chalk cellars (called the crayeres) which were excavated by the Romans around 50BC, (considered a French archeological monument), or some of the old “Grandes Maisons de Champagne” with kilometers upon kilometers of chalk cave/cellars at a constant 11º C, serve their purpose by providing the best conditions for wine making and winery storage during production and maturation, these are not the wine cellars our post is concerned with (yet a virtual tour of the Ruinart cellars is on their internet site is a “must visit: http://www.ruinart.com, check it out (there’s also a wonderful free, I pad app version).
My three most impressive wine cellars contain wines from many different makers and wine regions, they are in fact Grand Libraries of the great wines of the world (some more than others).
My choice of wine cellars, of those I have personally visited or was guided through with the owner or Chef de cave are:
La Tour D’argent cellar at the basement of the restaurant in 15 Quai de la Tournelle Paris, France, the Berry Bros. cellar, in 3 St. James’s street London and across the Ocean in the “Americas” The Graycliff Hotel, & Restaurant wine cellar in Nassau, Bahamas. These belong to large or well established groups or companies. All of these on the next “Post”, For now I prefer to start with two, more private cellars:
My own cellar, between us, I have a wine room (it used to be our bomb shelter which is obligatory to every house in Israel) but by definition because it is A. Underground and B. has more than 500 bottles it satisfies the wine cellar “definition”.
It had, has and will have GEMS of it’s own I know you like names so I will tell you what I do not have. You will not find a Petrus or any DRC’s, but you will find Great Bordeaux’s from amazing Vintage years 1970,79,82,83,85,86,88,90, and on… some single bottles cause I drink my wines, some full or half cases, Lovely Sauterns, spanning over almost 45 years (Yes I have D’yquem’s), but mainly Rieussec, and Suduiraut from the 70’s onwards, Excellent Vintage Ports from 1937 onwards (mainly super Vintages), some great Vouvrey, Vintage Champagnes from 1979 onwards, White and Red Bourgognes etc. It is a live cellar wines flow in and out and it is always a great pleasure to open a great wine with a good company for a meal. Lets say my Cellar Book is much larger then the wines I have at any given moment, I have no regrets ONLY great memories!
The private cellar at the Galton House, just across the wall from Hampton Court Palace. The Palace of the Tudor Kings and queens, Built to House and feed the kings of England from around 1529-1760 including the Court of King Henry the 8th, with kitchens expected to provide meals for up to 600 people twice a day.
I had the privilege to visit my friend Lisa Galton at her dad’s house, her dad is by the way the legendry Ray Galton, scriptwriter and author (in collaboration with Alan Simpson) of Radio and TV shows such as Hancock’s Half Hour, (without a doubt amongst the finest examples of British comedy). But never mind that, for quite some time I have heard this guy, Ray, is into wine and has some fine collection of wines in his cellar. So when I finally got to visit them (with a very modest “offering” of the best available Israeli dessert wine).
I asked to see the wine cellar if possible, “be my guest, which cellar would you like to see?” D’you have more than one? Yes one for whites and one for reds! Well I said: Both I guess… “Choose any bottle you like and let’s drink it…” I was lead down the stairs to a cellar quite large with 2 doors. One for the whites and then the Reds as you might have guessed, there was a musty smell in the air, the shelves around the walls were not full and in the center of the room a large heap of some wooden but mainly cardboard wine cases, partially rotting, hence the smell. Wines kept “pouring” in on a yearly basis, from the merchants but there was no one to keep the order and spread them around in their rightful place, and so they were heaped in the center of the room. The lucky bottles on top were drunk occasionally, which left the older vintages right at the bottom. In the “white room” although most wines were from Bourgogne Premier and Grand Cru lots some have gone over their prime like the 1975 Bienvenue-Batard-Montrachet JJ Vincent, I have chosen out of curiosity although I knew it was going to be problematic, from a mediocre vintage but a Grand Cru lot which usually transcends the general quality of the Vintage Year.
The Batard-Montrachet portion of the wine’s name is a reference to the illegitimate (bastard) son of a local lord Chevalier-Montrachet the lot’s owner. Bienvenue means ‘welcome’ as the site is a direct entry point to the Grand Cru vineyards from Puligny village The wine has mineral qualities, With the limestone reflecting heat and light back up to the vine the grapes reach optimal phenolic ripeness, making it the white wine with Red wine qualities making for slightly heavier, richer wines. It is lacking the more elegant fine qualities of wines from the Great Le Montrachet. It was slightly over oxidized still with firm traces of minerality and black truffle aromas it was a perfect example to a wine that was great in it’s times and was fading away lacking the fruit and acidity leaving all the secondary and tertiary aromas locked in the bottle..
The Red room was at a better state since most wines came in wooden cases There you had some of the best of the rest from Bordeaux , the likes of Petrus Pavie etc. and some lesser known premier Crus reds from Bourgogne, all of which I yearned to taste but did not dare!
Now 10 years after I am told by Lisa: “We nearly finished all the whites, some good reds left..” I guess it’s time for a revisit…
You will be posted re: Galton House revisited in due course Till than