If I could have put that in Latin I would have.
Just back from an excellent if freezing trip to London. Elodie, Gaspard and the girls shopped (and also went to the British Museum, Harrry Potter and Madame Tussaud’s).
First off, on Thursday a reunion lunch with retrobate friends from university and beyond. We have all grown older, several have thinned hair and we have all spread out a little. A la mode, I had suggested Noble Rot in Bloomsbury’s man-retail-hotspot Lamb’s Conduit Street. A great wine list, elegant food and some fantastic reviews.
Raveneau oysters and Colchester natives started us off, with a couple of bottles of Barèche’s non-vintage brut reserve. As with all their cuvées it has mass and masculinity. Very much a product of the Marne Valley. I followed this up with Smoked Eel, Rhubarb and Soda Bread, followed by a light and airy Comté Tart with Chicory and walnuts. Light elegant and ever so reasonable.
We followed with lovely 2005 Lopez de Heredia Gravonia from Rioja. Rich, full with a firm defining edge. It was drinking well. A 2011 Saumur Motelles from Romain Guiberteau (see passim) was sadly corked, and was replaced by an Olga Raffault Chinon 2007 Picasses. To be honest, it was a little bit thin and too cold which only exaggerated its rather bare bones. As it warmed up a little it grew better, but alas the bottle was too quickly gone. Mark ordered a couple of bottles of red whose name escapes me…undoubtedly from the Languedoc with fruit, structure and a reasonable price tag. I was starting to lag a little; it was a lot of wine.
Noble Rot’s is a wine list for wine lovers and the initiated. It’s not necessarily cheap, but there are jewels to be had. It was a great lunch: great food, good wine; great company, many memories.
The pub was perhaps not necessary, but reason was never our by-word; that was always decadence and excess. Some things do not change.
Friday was a special day because Ned, my brother in law, and I had made a furtive booking at Otto’s. It was a kind of pre-emptive surrogate for L’Ami Louis, which still, after all these years we have never managed to get to. It will come, but this was memorable.
We had ordered out Canard Pressé ahead of time, and the beast – it was an impressive beast – was duly presented to us before meeting the pan. Otto’s Canard de Challans come from the same source as the Tour d’Argent in Paris and it was sacrificed for a feast en trois étapes.
With a glass of Ayala champagne we ate our starters as the duck was roasted. Ned’s”Raviolis d’Escargot, Beurre Maitre d’Hotel,Purée de Panais au Cerfeuil, Ecume à la Manzanilla” were delicious and my “Spaghettis de Betteraves, Céleri Rémoulade à la Truffes et Réduction de Jus d’Orange” was a lesson in elegance and restraint. Of course we had to save ourselves for the main event.
Firstly, we ate the liver, served on brioche grillée and cooked in a reduction of Grand Marnier, Cointreau and stock. As we delected that, the remains of the duck, without it’s “cuisses” were entered into the silver press and compressed. Out flowed the remaining blood, marrow and ever other liquid part of the poor beast into a bowl that Otto reduced and cooked over a flame table side, before carving the breast into slices and gently dousing them with the blood and marrow sauce.
It was rich, without being overpowering, and intensely satisfying. The final dish came from the kitchen with the thighs accompanied with more jus and skin. It was scrumptious, fell easily from the bone and I stripped it clean.
A bottle of 2010 Lacoste Borie was drinking well and the vintage has plenty of charm. It’s incredibly young but the tannins are soft and it is a fine, reasonably priced bottle of classic Pauillac..
After Crême Brûlée for me and Mousse au Chocolat for Ned, we finished ourselves off with a couple of Armagnacs.. It was a lovely leisurely lunch, in an old traditional style. But more of Otto’s anon.
Saturday was the big event. Pater Noster’s 80th birthday bash in Mayfair’s Murano restaurant. Murano is an Italian stilted restaurant run by Angela Hartnett, erstwhile acolyte of Gordon Ramsay, rejuvenator of the Connaught and here, Michelin starred in her own right.
Now you just have to love Mayfair. As neighbourhoods go, it’s full of elegance and luxury, but it’s very discreet. And so was Murano. The restaurant was full, not buzzing but oozing easy excellence and quiet enjoyment. The hor d’ouevres were fantastic and those parmesan tuiles just to die for.
My Venison Carpaccio was again light and balanced, and the Halibut, Octopus Carpaccio with Black Radish was refined and mouth filling.
After opening with cocktails of Campari anf Soda, Negronis and Aperol Spritz, we moved onto a couple of bottles of I Clivi’s Collio Malvasia (80 year old Vines), which was bone dry with a fantastic driving minerality and a bottle of Fontodi’s 2012 Chianti Classico. Sadly I only tasted that to check the bottle so have no larger view on it.
If I have two criticisms, it is the pricing of the wines there. They are fiendishly expensive and eaking out the bargains is a tough call. I know that it’s here they make their money, but when you know the price ex-domain, a 500% mark up can appear a bit steep. It is also slightly irritating having your glass filled up every time you take a sip, but that is just quibbling.
I demurred from dessert, indulging in a glass of Amarone grappa. It was a happy gathering, and at a couple of points an emotional moment. Eighty years on the earth is a long time, but I am sure the man in the driving seat will be with us for a long time yet. I certainly hope so.
Back in Highbury we joined up with his eight grandchildren for cake and a magnum of Moët’s Brut Impérial. As ever when you consider the volumes made, it’s great glass of champagne.