On Thursday I was fortunate enough to attend The Boaters Inn’s latest wine and food matching event: a 5 course dinner accompanied by wines from Les Caves de Pyrene, who source natural wines, representative of their homeland, from all over the globe.
I’ve always loved The Boaters Inn since I fist met her last year on a lovely riverside stroll; she is ideally located on the banks of the Thames in Kingston and is a perfect spot for a drink whatever the season. Having only had snacks before, I was excited to try their proper food, as they’ve reinvigorated their menus and kitchen recently, and the results I’ve seen as others’ plates have looked sensational.
This dinner didn’t disappoint. The menu was a well-crafted and surprising journey, each course having a lot of thought and care put into it. The wines to accompany each dish were varied and were not all wines that I am naturally drawn to, so it was interesting to explore how they worked with each course.
To start, the Foie Gras Mousse and Blackberry Macaron was a stroke of genius. A delicate and gorgeously presented dish where the sharpness of the blackberry cut through the richness of the foie gras mousse – I think having a mousse here worked particularly well as it was not too heavy for the macaron’s delicate shell. On the side of the macaron was a dreamy mushroom noisette, its earthy tones shining through. To find a wine to completely match both these elements would be impossible as there are several competing flavours, so the wine was more of a match to the macaron than the mushroom noisette. The Vouvray Cuvee Des Fondraux from the Loire Valley had a gorgeous nose of honey and pear and was soft and lingering on the palate. A fine drop indeed.
“Steak Tartare” followed – it’s in inverted commas as it was not a traditionally raw steak tartare, and had in fact been sous vide for 2 hours at 58˚C. This process helped to release more flavour from the beef, and was absolutely exceptional. Accompanying this was a Chateau Cambon, Marie Lapierre Beaujolais. The nose of this wine reminded me of a farmyard (often the case with organic wines) and although was quite a pleasant wine, for my palate, did not have quite enough body to match the flavour of the Tartare.
The main event was a Monkfish Bouillabaisse. I don’t think I’d ever had monkfish before. It is not common in Australia and I always try to eat local produce, so I’m fairly sure it was my first tango… Big fan. Its flesh has heft and was succulent and mild. The saffron potatoes and rouille added a nice exotic note to the dish and the baby fennel brought a sweetness which worked beautifully. Funnily enough the wine paired with this, Bandol Rosé, Domaine La Sufrenne from Provence, is not usually a varietal I shout about. For me, rosés are always a third choice after white or red. This pairing, however, was extremely good. The rosé was full-bodied and worked a treat with the spice and red pepper in the dish.
Always a sucker for dessert, the dessert was sensational. Plump Armagnac-soaked prunes in a rich crème brûlée paired with a “stonking” (as my Partner In Crime would say) Cuvee Abbaye, Monbazilac. The structure of this wine was superb; not overly sweet and tons of backbone. I had to take a bottle home with me. For those that don’t like stickies, this is one to change your mind.
To finish a super creamy dose of Brillat-Savarin (triple cream brie) with apple and seeded crackers. Paired with a Pinot Noir, Chevassu, Jura, again the nose was funky on this one with burnt hair coming to mind – I shouted this out when asked what it smells like by the host, and received a few nods from around the room, so I was not alone in my thinking. Thankfully, the wine only smelled like burnt hair and tasted of ripe cherries. This worked well with the cheese and crackers, particularly when you got a burst of fennel seed.
An impressive menu indeed with an interesting wine journey to match. The beauty of these food and drink pairing evenings is that it gets you thinking. There is no right or wrong – all is completely subjective and it’s fun to delineate what you like or dislike about a certain pairing, and you always learn things. The next pairing event at The Boaters Inn will be a Burn’s Night whisky extravaganza which sounds like just my kind of dangerous.