Thursday, 15 June 2017

MACON POP-UP AT CAROUSEL LONDON

Wine-tasting events always seem to me like a very grown-up thing to do, and in pursuit of educating myself on the finer things in life I recently attended the Mâcon pop-up at Carousel.
The event was hosted by Master Sommelier Xavier Rousset, that featured red and white wines from the Mâconnais section of Burgundy, France
Arriving fashionably early before the crowd, I was brought up to the tasting room where bottles of wine were numbered and laid out in rows. I was given a book titled 'The Bourgogne Secret South' which was like a guide book for the evening - a much more inviting read than the BNF at work. Not quite feeling in my element, I was glad that I was not the first to arrive and attempted to observe the mannerisms of other guests. I have been to wine events in the past, but this was my first solo endeavour as I spotted not a familiar face in sight ...
"I can do this", I told myself, as I moved around with feigned confidence.
There was the graceful swirl around the glass, 'The Look' (some more pensive than others ...), the smell, the swooshing around the mouth, where I tried my best to look classy as opposed to me when I rinse my mouth of toothpaste ...

All the above steps seemed quite easy to mimic, but then there was 'The Spit' ...
I was aware of this ritual, but have somehow never quite INDULGED in it personally.
Everyone else seemed to be spitting rather freely into the provided spit buckets, which was obviously very normal. I decided to hold back on this occasion - until the next time when I have gained some 'spitting confidence' ...
"MUST avoid eye contact to avoid small talk where I would be questioned about what I think about the wine (!)", I thought to myself, as I scribbled common words like 'fruity' and 'smooth' in my notebook - almost quite repetitively as I flipped each page. 
I was always fascinated on how the descriptions that people write about wines. Surely with my wild imagination I too could create my own taste-bud journey experience: "It started off with the feeling of rolling around in a silk robe, on a bed of fresh rose petals, and then suddenly falling off a cliff and plunging into the ocean in the middle of a storm, tossed around like a ragged doll before being pulled to shore on the glistening back of a whale - the same one that swallowed Pinocchio, probably ..." 
Fantasy time, over. I will clearly never have a courier in writing.
I did remember to 'star' a few wines that I particularly liked:
Mâcon-la Roche-Vineuse and Mâcon-Pierreclos amongst the few - not just because they have fancy-sounding names, I swear.
Thankfully with minimal sips and no spits, I managed to get through all 32 bottles. Despite my taste-buds feeling slightly jaded, I felt like I was on the right path to becoming a Mâcon wine connoisseur ... or maybe not (!) 





At the end of the tasting session, we were served a couple of canapes: a spoonful of cured sea trout with horseradish vinaigrette, and a seaweed tart with goat's curd - both of which were very appetizing but I failed to photograph in my state of hunger ... the foodblogger in me was disappointed in myself. Empty glasses around the room were filled with the selected paired wines, Mâcon-Chardonnay 2015 and Mâcon-Lugny 2015.

My excitement began to build up as we finally made our way downstairs to the dining room - food is after all my 'comfort zone'.
The food was prepared by guest chef, Avinash Shashidhara, from River Cafe, who had prepared a tantalizing menu of Indian dishes to be enjoyed alongside the wines.
We started with a light and refreshing salad of cucumber with Datterini tomatoes and split mung beans, paired with not one, but three (!) wines:
Mâcon-Fuisse 2015, Mâcon-Ige 2015, and Mâcon-La Roche-Vineuse 2015

This was followed by my favourite dish of the evening, a creamy and aromatic South Indian fish stew with langoustine and scallop. There was a nice balance of sweetness and a hint of spiciness, and the fermented rice cake on the side was perfect to dip and wipe the plate clean after. The langoustine flesh was fresh and springy, and I made sure that I had picked out all the meat from the tiny claws - finger bowls were gratefully received after. If I wasn't sat so far away from the kitchen counter I may have walked up with my empty plate and given my best interpretation of Oliver Twist's, 'Please Sir, I want some more".
Empty glasses were refilled, this this time with Mâcon-Aze 2015, Mâcon-Charnay-Les-Mâcon 2015, and Mâcon-Peronne 2015.

The last course was chargrilled pigeon marinated in stone flower, ginger and lemon juice, served with braised golden and pink beetroot and wood sorrel. I love game meat and the pigeon was pink and juicy when cut through. The marinade was interesting in a pleasant way and I nibbled every last bit off the bone, which is always a sign of a good dish.
We had now moved on to a couple of reds: Mâcon-Serrieres 2015 and Mâcon-La Roche-Vineuse 2015, described to be marked with pleasant, silky tannins, and a hint of spice. 
2015 appears to have been a good year for Mâcon wines.











Complimented with some fine company around the table, my evening ended on a much more relaxed and enjoyable note, perhaps also aided by the multiple glasses of wine that I had consumed ...
The smoothness of the wines with their fruit and floral notes have coaxed my taste-buds to want more now (I have been seduced by wine!), and I shall be on the lookout for more Mâcon wine encounters on my future restaurant visits.

And if you would like to find out more information about these wines which would contain much more information than my endless ramblings (hurray for the internet!) ...
www.vins-macon.com 
www.bourgogne-wines.com

The Cheekster, signing out x


I was invited to review, but views remain my own.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

CAFE ROUGE SPRING MENU

The weather outside may seem quite wet and gloomy, but the fresh new menu at Cafe Rouge is sure to put a spring back into your step. 
I revisited one of my favourite Cafe Rouge branches at Hays Galleria last weekend to try their Spring Menu, when the weather was much more pleasant, to enjoy lunch on their outdoor terrace. 
A combination of French classics with a British twist, the new menu is inspired by this season's flavours and tastes, as well as their Executive Chef Bruno Balle travels across France, from Calais to Corsica. Sourcing the best ingredients and suppliers, the new dishes are a culmination of traditional recipes and techniques, and welcomes families and friends to embrance the French way of life, and enjoy good French food and drink.

The drinks menu consisted of a list of refreshing Gin Blooms, Cocktails and fruity Mocktails - I started with a bubbly Kir Rouge followed by a much more innocent Peach Iced Tea.




For starters, we ordered the Tian of Crab and Avocado which was seasoned nicely with a touch of coriander mayonnaise, and the Mackerel Rillettes, a rich yet light mackerel pate with creme fraiche and horseradish, served with dill-pickled cucumber and chargrilled rye & caraway bread. 

The two mains that followed were just as vibrant and flavourful. I really enjoyed the Lamb Cassoulet, inspired by the traditional Southern French cassoulet originating from the province of Languedoc. The rump of lamb was really tender, and served pink on a rich cassoulet of haricot beans, bacon lardons, spinach, carrots, celery and onions. A hearty and comforting dish that I would be tempted to order again on my next visit.
I love a good tart, and the Tarte de Printemps had a nice, buttery pastry filled with confit shallots, Emmental cheese, goat's cheese, sundried tomatoes, baby watercress, and served with a colourful house salad.

And finally for dessert, we decided on the Torte au Chocolat that was highly recommended by the lovely manager - a French chocolate torte that was really rich and indulgent, with a smooth, gooey texture in the centre. The strawberry & black pepper sorbet that we had was also intriguing and perfect for a sunny day.









Alongside their extensive main a la carte menu, Cafe Rouge also currently offer a Spring Set Menu everyday from 12noon onwards, where you can enjoy two courses for a bargain price of £12.95 (with and additional £3.00 to include dessert). 
You can have a further browse of their tantalizing menu here, and find your closest cafe Rouge by clicking on this link.

The Cheekster, signing out x

The meal was complimentary, but views remain my own. 
Café Rouge Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

OBICA SOUTH KENSINGTON: NEW BRUNCH MENU!

It feels like weeks since I had a proper weekend brunch, although I should probably confirm this by referring to my Instagram feed ...
This was thankfully rectified last weekend, when I had the pleasure of trying out the new weekend brunch menu at Obica South Kensington that showcases their signature Mozzarella di Bufala DOP with a food to share menu that celebrates their passion for authentic Italian cuisine.

 Designed to encompass the Italian spirit of conviviality with a selection of traditional Italian dishes for sharing amongst friends, their a la carte menu also offers guests the option of two set brunch menus: Classic (£22) and Premium (£29).
We ordered the Premium brunch which includes a choice of main dish, 'Insalata Piccola' (small salad), 'Fritelle' Italian doughnuts, unlimited filter coffee or tea, and a choice of signature Italian-inspired cocktails and fruit-based mocktails. 




We started off with some Bellinis, one of my brunch cocktail favourites - other options included the classic Bloody Mary, Prosecco Argeo, and a couple of fruity mocktails. 
My main was a hearty portion of the Prosciutto Cotto Arrosto: a crunchy crostini topped with generous portions of roasted ham, stracciatella di burrata and roasted marinated artichokes - I also added on some black truffle for extra measure ...
 The smoked salmon was equally as indulgent, served with mozzarella di bufala, avocado, and herb ricotta. 
Poached eggs were en pointe with their oozy runny centres, that would be worthy of the #yolkporn hashtag ...

The salads included Cavolo Riccio (curly kale, ricotta di bufala, pomegranate, toasted pine nuts, baked datterini tomatoes and crostini) and Quinoa (with lambs lettuce, mozzarella di bufala, avocado, baked datterini tomatoes and blueberries). Both of them were really light and refreshing - perfect for those warm summer days. You can order them either as a side or as a larger main portion.

If you're looking for something more indulgent, there is the Mozzarella in Carrozza which is a fried mozzarella sandwich with lambs lettuce and datterini tomatoes - the perfect fix if you've had a rough night before, apparently!

We finished off with the Degustazione which was a taster portion of the three varieties of fritelle (sweet homemade Italian doughnuts): creamy ricotta di bufala with mixed berries, chocolate and honey. I liked that they were sweet yet not too heavy, especially after all that food.










The venue is spacious and airy with a lovely casual ambience, and an outdoor terrace that would be ideal for the summer months (which should hopefully arrive soon!)

The new brunch menu is served every Saturday and Sunday from 11am until 3pm at Obica South Kensington, Charlotte Street, St Paul's and Poland Street.

The Cheekster, signing out x

The meal was complimentary, but views remain my own.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

BELGO & BLOOM, KINGS CROSS

Having been to Belgo several times in the past, all of which were enjoyable, I was looking forward to checking out their latest dual concept venture with the Bloomsbury Group in Kings Cross.
The two venues have been designed by London agency Superfutures and are located within the newly refurbished Crowne Plaza Hotel (formally Holiday Inn).

Inspired by a love of gin and passion for food, Bloom Kitchen and Bar pays homage to the locality, and the famous artistic set, The Bloomsbury Group, a collective of bohemian writers, poets and intellectuals, including Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell, that were renowned for their influential, private and exclusive rendezvous. 

We were welcomed by the manager, Joel, smartly dressed in a cravat and neck scarf featuring Bloomsbury prints, the type of clothing that reflect the members of the original Group.
The place looked chic and refined, yet exuded a warm and welcoming ambience, and we happened to pick the right day when there was live jazz playing the evening.
We started off at the bar with some drinks from their gin-inspired cocktail menu, already eyeing the relaxed lounge area at the other end for after-dinner drinks. 





We were then shown to our table for the evening within the swanky-looking Belgo Restaurant, famed for its fresh mussels which are rope grown, grit free and fully sustainable from the Shetland Islands. The 140-cover restaurant was adorned with quirky feature lighting, big banquette seating, reclaimed wood booths and eclectic artwork, with floor to ceiling stained glass screens that break up the restaurant into smaller intimate dining areas.



Whilst we sipped on our welcome cocktails (a sweet and refreshing strawberry mojito, if I recall correctly ... ), our waitress popped open a couple of bottles of Lindemans Faro from our ice bucket, to be paired with our starters - a dark, ruby-red Belgian beer that had a nice balance of sweetness and tartness. Our starters included deliciously crunchy and oozy Cheesy Croquettes, flavoursome King Prawns in Garlic Butter, and Belgo Potted Pate. 






We progressed on to the sharer mains of Sliced Sirloin, Double Cooked Frites, and of course their Famous Moules, served two ways: classic Moules Marinière ('traditionelle' with cream) and a fragrant Thai-inspired one that I really enjoyed.
This was paired with Delirium Tremens, an inviting golden liquid known for its sweetish palate with lots of warming alcohol, and was elected as the best beer in the world in 2008. It's ABV of 8.5% will surely have you seeing pink elephants if consumed in large quantities ...





And finally, we finished with a sweet dessert of homemade waffles topped with ice cream, paired with one of my favourite beers, Fruli, made from pure strawberries and high-quality Belgian white beer - a much sweeter and zesty beer that would appeal even to the non-beer lovers.
Yet another fine evening of plentiful food and quality Belgian beers - Belgo certainly always makes sure that we're well-fed (and watered!)







With our bellies filled and satisfied, we retired back to the lounge at the Bloom Bar to wind down with some cocktails and jazz. Not a bad way to spend a Thursday evening, or any other evening for that matter - I would definitely be tempted to return and relive the evening, and hopefully try out the artisan food menu from the Bloomsbury Kitchen as well.

Click HERE to download a 2-for-1 voucher, valid on all Blooming Gin Cocktails at Bloom!


The Cheekster, signing out x

 
The meal was complimentary, but views remain my own.