How to host a wine dinner
Ollie Couillaud’s inaugural wine dinner at The Lawn Bistro in Wimbledon, west London yesterday was a masterclass in how to get it right.
First of all he only had four courses. Too many wine dinners these days have multiple small courses, challenging for the kitchen and sommelier, wearying and unsatisfying for the customer (particularly male customers, it has to be said) who want a ‘proper’ meal - and are entitled to have one for the money they’re paying.
Two wines (all burgundies) were served with every course - except the aperitif and the dessert. That gave the presenter, Master Sommelier Gearoid Devaney of Flint Wines something interesting to talk about and the attendees a chance to learn more about this complex and confusing region. They were also from different producers and vintages.
The menu was well chosen. That should go without saying but sometimes the chef’s ego gets in the way of showcasing the wines to best effect.
We kicked off with some clever ‘amuses’ including the most wicked, silky-textured chicken liver parfait I’ve ever eaten which were served with a glass of 2009 Domaine Ballot Millot Bourgogne Blanc from vineyards which border Meursault, showing how impressive basic burgundy can be in the hands of a good producer.
Next a sound choice of seared scallops and black pudding with Granny Smith apple purée and lentil and hazelnut vinaigrette - a great foil for two lovely white burgundies, a 2009 St Aubin 1er Cru Charmois from Domaine Paul Pillot and a 2010 Chassagne-Montrachet from Domaine Moreau. The Moreau was still incredibly young but opened up beautifully in the glass.
The main course of roast squab pigeon with foie gras, Jerusalem artichoke purée, fondant potato and port and orange sauce looked challenging on paper but worked amazingly well with both the 2005 Aloxe-Corton Domaine Lebreuil and 2008 Beaune 1er Cru Les Sizies Domaine Guiton that were served with it, the lighter, more elegant Beaune, surprisingly, having the edge over the richer, earthier Aloxe-Corton.
And the dessert was served simply on its own - a croustade of caramelised apples with vanilla ice cream with a show-stopping crisp pastry cone which covered it like a witch’s hat as it was brought to the table. No accompanying wine as burgundy doesn’t do sweet wines. We didn’t miss it.
The numbers were kept low (25) to give the kitchen a chance to adjust to serving banqueting style rather than the normal restaurant service and the price was a fair £95 for the quality and amount of food and drink that was served.
The guests went away asking when the next dinner would take place. Couillaud clearly has a ready-made fan base for future events.
I attended the dinner as a guest of The Lawn Bistro.
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