As the old saying goes, it’s a small world. I was already booked in for a Pegasus Bay wine dinner in London when I ran into their winemakers, Matt Donaldson and Lynette Hudson last week on my trip to Oregon - not once but twice. So they felt like old friends by the time I caught up with them again at Providores where chef Christian Hossack (Peter Gordon was away) came up with some really well thought out pairings.
We kicked off with pan-fried scallops with orange braised chicory, celeriac remoulade and lotus crisps (in rather blurry iphone photo, right) a challenging combination that I would have thought would have defeated the elegant 2008 Sauvignon-Semillon that was partnered with it. Quite the reverse - the bitter orange note seem to lift the citrus and passion flavours in the wine (which, Donaldson says, also ages really well)
The same happened at the next course - my star pairing of the dinner - a very smoky laksa with the 2008 Pegasus Bay ‘Bel Canto’, a lovely opulent, limey Riesling that I feared would be obliterated by such a pungently aromatic dish. Far from it. The smokiness of the laksa (apparently the chicken bones that were used to make the stock were smoked) emphasised the complexity of the wine, picking up on its classic lime and kerosene character. Just sensational.
Next a more conventional pairing (for Providores): Label Anglais chicken with tagliatelle, miso beurre blanc, bok choy and crispy curry leaves with the 2006 ‘Virtuouso’ Chardonnay, a combination you might think would be derailed by its more exotic ingredients but beurre blanc and Chardonnay are always a surefire match. I think the curry leaves also freshened the Chardonnay which had lost a touch of acidity.
I was hoping for a chance to retry the Prima Donna Pinot Noir I tasted in Oregon but instead the restaurant chose to show Pegasus’ 2006 ‘Maestro’ Merlot-Malbec for the perfectly good reason that it was a great match for a dish of rare New Zealand venison and English cherry compote. I just don’t think Bordeaux varietals are what Canterbury does best - it was a touch over-oaked to my palate. Interestingly the chef had also partnered it with leeks and tarragon - a herb I’d have never thought of putting with venison. It worked really well.
The only pairing I didn’t think quite came off was the dessert - a ‘Seven Tiki’ rum baba with caramelised pineapple and crème fraiche sorbet which was paired with Pegasus' 2007 ‘Finale’ Noble Semillon. Although the rum was quite light and the Semillon opulent it did steamroller it a bit - I think it would have shown better with a sharper tropical fruit dessert or - even better - with blue cheese.
On the whole though the pairings showed great understanding of the wines which isn’t as common as you’d think in wine dinners where sometimes the chef can’t resist the opportunity to show off at the expense of the wines.
Providores has similar events with New Zealand winemakers throughout the year (it’s a Kiwi-owned restaurant) The next is on September 13th with Man’o’War.
I attended the dinner as a guest of Providores