Friday, 1 April 2011

A lesson in fine wine and seasonal food.

When I mentioned to a friend that I was attending "a fine wine and seasonal food evening", I was not prepared for the reaction I received. He produced a sort of high pitched snort and muttered the words 'wanky' and 'asparagus'. I wish I'd kept my mouth shout.

I've never been to such an event before but some friends had been to one last year and said it was really enjoyable. Not one to shy away from food, particularly when I found out it involved 5 courses I knew I simply had to go. It was being held at The Prince Arthur near London Fields, so we could stuff our faces then waddle home. My kind of night!

I've never been to The Prince Arthur before, despite it being very near to where I live, but when I discovered it is part of the group that also owns The Empress of India in Victoria Park (great roast dinners) and 6 other pubs which I've heard very good things about (The Well, Clerkenwell, The Hat and Tun, Hatton Wall, The Gun, Docklands, The Botanist, Sloane Square, The Cadogan Arms, Kings Road and The White Swan on Fetter Lane, EC4), I knew it would be a good night. The outside of the pub really doesn't do justice to the inside which is very nicely decorated. My friend says she's a bit sick of stuffed animal heads on walls, and I am inclined to agree with her, but there are some beautiful old photographs of Prince Arthur (I presume) for those who have had enough of ratty old fox heads peering down at them while they eat.

For £38 per person you get 5 courses of seasonal food and 5 different recommended glasses of wines to accompany each course. The Wig and I are trying to lay off the grog a bit at the moment since we shall have to squeeze ourselves into some jaunty wedding attire soon, but this didn't really count as proper boozing since it was educational. Not only did you get a fairly detailed menu but there was also a French Sommelier on a mic explaining a bit about each wine. Even though the pub is quite small, it was a good job he had a microphone since there was an incredibly annoying foursome sitting behind me who seemed to be unable to shut the damn fuck up. Not even a steady stream of March Hare stink eye worked. I must be losing my touch. (Excuse my language but what's the point of going to something like this if you are not going to listen? These same idiot's ended up poncing growlers all night despite proclaiming "I LITERALLY don't smoke!". Idiots....).

First course was Freshwater Crayfish Beignets, Jersey Royal fondants and monks beard in a bisque dressing. Or crab cakes, tiny potatoes, some sort of salty grass in a brown juice. This was presented beautifully and served with a Riesling (Paul Zinck, Alsace, France 2009) which we had to drink after sucking on a lemon to balance the acidity. This is a very useful tip if you get bought a very acidic white wine. The lemon pretty much messes up your taste buds so you cant actually taste anything.

Second course, my favorite of the evening, was DELICIOUS. It was a pan fried fillet of Royal Bream, baby squid, spinach, broad beans, peas and a chevril butter. It also came with the most delicious wine of the evening too. A real triumph. It was a Viognier (Domaine Val Colombe, Vin de Pay, d'Oc, France 2009) which might be my new favorite drink if I was allowed to drink wine.

By the time the third course arrived I'd lost a bit of concentration and ate most of the food before I remembered I was intending to photograph it, so the picture below really does not do it justice. We had a roast rump of West Devon lamb, braised belly, wild garlic, spring greens and smoked aubergine puree. Who knew you could eat lamb's belly!  I didn't. I've never had it before so it was good to try something different. It was like a sort of slimy in a good way and the rump was cooked to perfection. We were onto the red wine now and were served a Chateau Beauejour, Fronsac, Bordeaux, France 2005.  I'm sure it was delightful but I'm not a fan of red wine. It makes my mouth go funny, like I've sucked on a cork. I said cork . . .

The penultimate course was cheese, pretty much one of my favorite types of food. We had Barkham blue, chicory, apple, walnuts and house made lovosh which is basically a very thin salty cracker.  I could have eaten everyone's portions of this and this came in a close second to the bream. This was served with Pinot Gris (Vavasour, marlborough, New Zealand 2009). My only critisism, NOT ENOUGH!!

Finally, dessert. I think this was the course that we were least excited about and unfortunately it didn't really stand up to the high standard of the previous courses. It was a white chocolate mousse with blueberry jam and a frangelico and lime granita. The granita had frozen the mousse which created a sort of chewy, clotted mass which was only able to be swallowed when washed down with the Elysium Black Muscat, Quady from California that accompanied it. As you can see from this picture Rosie, one of the people I went with was most perturbed by this dessert.

Now, I don't know Rosie very well but she is brilliant fun. I think she should have her own telly programme, I could watch her all day. And this is one of the great things about this evening. Sitting down and being slightly civilised made a welcome break from the pub and meant I got to know a few people a bit better. For instance, had I not attended this seasonal food and wine evening, I would never have known that Rosie's favourite food is faggots which she gets for 40p each form her faggot dealer in Walsal. I would also never have heard mussles being described as fishy pistachios.

Anyway, it was a really great evening and I would defintely be up for going to the next one. Great food, great wine, interesting, really friendly staff and a lovely location. Apparently they used to run this evening once a month but now its a bit sporadic so we'll have to keep our eyes peeled for the next one. I am going to rate the Prince Arthur's Seasonal Food evening a very high 8 grapes out of 10. It would have got more but I have had to knock points off for the chewy mousse.

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