So many eminent restaurant critics have already pronounced on Heston Blumenthal’s new restaurant Dinner that I’m sure you don’t need another review from me. Suffice it to say it lives up to the hype. It’s the most wondrous food - clever, playful, provocative, delicious - I would move heaven and earth to get a table. For that credit should be given equally to Heston’s right hand man Ashley Palmer-Watts who is actually in charge of the kitchen.
But what on earth do you drink with such spectacular food. I was slightly disappointed at first, I must admit, to be handed a conventional winelist. I was hoping to be offered some amazing Hestonesque brew from the 14th century infused with sweet woodruff or somesuch. Or at the very least a glass of mead. But I’m sure that will come. (I’ve been told beers, ciders and perrys will be introduced as soon as they get through the first hectic opening weeks and that they will be doing cocktails to go with the food.)
In the meantime we took the easy (though not inexpensive) option of placing ourselves i the hands of Dinner’s Portuguese sommelier Joo Pires who selected wines to match each dish. (Yes we did have two starters each, I confess. I was eating with a chef and they like to try everything. Or at least that’s my excuse). Here’s what he came up with:
Meat fruit with 2004 Pacherenc du Vic Bilh ‘Larmes Clestes’, Brumont
Meat fruit (above) has already become the signature dish of the restaurant in the short time it has been open. It’s a smooth foie gras-like chicken parfait inside a mandarin-shaped orange jelly served with grilled bread. The exotic sweet Pacherenc was the perfect match. 10/10.
Salamugundy with 2008 Meursault Domaine Henri Germain
An umami-bomb of a dish of chicken oysters, bone marrow and horseradish cream (which wasn’t too horseradishy). The Meursault was a great choice, though could possibly have done with being a couple of years older to bring out its own umami flavours. Vintage champagne would have been good too.
Rice and flesh with a 2009 Condrieu from Pierre Gaillard
An amazing saffron-rich risotto with what tasted like chorizo but turned out to be calf’s tail. Slightly tough on the rich, peachy Condrieu which was really stellar. It just about held its own and I can’t think of many whites that would. Thinking about it the next day I’m wondering if something like a Palo Cortado wouldn’t go with this dish. Or a tempranillo-based red.
Hay smoked mackerel with lemon salad, Gentleman’s relish and olive oil with 2007 Riesling Spatlese Trocken from August Ziegler in the Pfalz
The only match that really struggled. Again difficult flavours of smokey oily fish and intense lemon zest to contend with. Possibly a drier riesling? Or a fino sherry?
Beef Royal (slow cooked short rib of Angus with smoked anchovy and onion puree and ox tongue) with 2005 Nuits-St-Georges Vieilles Vignes, Daniel Rion
A lovely, lovely wine. Just slightly overwhelmed by the smokey, intensely savoury flavours of the dish. I keep thinking about sherry (palo cortado this time) but suspect an Italian red (Barbaresco?) would be more to most people’s tastes. Or - eureka moment - a Bandol. Mourvdre would be great.
Spiced pigeon, ale and artichokes with 2009 Tributo by Rui Reguinga, Tejo, Portugal
Joo couldn’t resist slipping in a wine from his homeland and what a great choice it was with this really amazing dish. (Globe artichokes and beef is a brilliant combination) Lovely bright but not too jammy fruit (Syrah, Grenache, Viognier and a smidge of an indigenous variety I believe but I can’t find out much about it online) and a delicate silky texture that was great with the rare pigeon. Burgundy wouldn’t have been better (and wasn’t. I took a sip of the Nuits St Georges with it). I’m thinking Cte Rotie too.
Tipsy cake with spiced roast pineapple and 2006 Tokaji Aszu 4 Puttonyos, Diznoko
Good call from Joao again. A lighter, fresher than usual Tokaji was just perfect with this really, really delicious dessert (I’m running out of superlatives). There was some gorgeous gooey sauce under the sponge that I seem to remember had some alcoholic component though my notes get a bit scrappy here. Unsurprisingly.
Taffety tart with Fritz Haag’s Riesling Auslese Gold B.J.S. 2005, Mosel
About as difficult a dessert as you can imagine laced with rose and fennel (it tasted of Indian sweets) with an intensely flavoured blackcurrant sorbet. What wine to drink with blackcurant? Haag’s heavenly sweet riesling hit the spot perfectly.
I have to say that this was one of the most intriguing food and wine pairing experiences I’ve had. I’m sure you won’t want to try as many wines as we did but if you’re buying a single bottle bear in mind there’s a lot of umami in Heston’s food. Go for older vintages if you can afford them. Avoid high alcohol and bright new world fruit. Try sherry if you’re ordering by the glass. And roll on the beer and cocktails. I can’t wait to see what they come up with.
I ate at Dinner as a guest of the restaurant.