Perfect match: gourmet Champagne dinner at Umu

Trying to find a single wine that works well with lots of dishes is the ultimate restaurant challenge, and that is exactly what Square Meal set out to do, working with foodie Champagne Laurent-Perrier and an extraordinary selection of Japanese dishes from Umu, the renowned Michelin-starred restaurant in Mayfair. The wine that was picked was Ultra Brut from Laurent-Perrier’s range of seven champagnes. But why? For David Hesketh MW, managing director of Laurent-Perrier UK, it is the obvious choice: ‘We see it as our most flexible and food-friendly cuvée,’ he says. ‘It is the ultimate expression of lightness, freshness and elegance.’

For the menu, Umu executive chef Yoshinori Ishii put together a selection of eight dishes – some from the regular menu, others slight adaptations – to be sampled by a panel of wine-trade experts. The idea was to showcase Ultra Brut’s flexibility, adaptability and appropriateness as a wine for Umu’s innovative and exciting style of Japanese food, and to select the most successful matches.

Now that the judges have approved the matches, it’s your turn to enjoy them. From 1-31 May, Square Meal readers will be able to sample the same dishes as part of an exquisite five-course menu, all designed to match Laurent-Perrier Ultra Brut.

The five-course menu at Umu is as follows:

  • Cured and seared red mullet with white asparagus and bottarga
  • Seared scallop with crispy apple compote
  • Three-piece modern sushi selection: foie gras and lily root purée; brown crab courgette; eel with Oscietra caviar
  • Grade 6 Wagyu beef hoba-yaki
  • Umu charimisu

The dinner costs £250 for two people, including a bottle of Laurent-Perrier Ultra Brut. To book tickets, call Umu on 020 7499 8881.

FULLER EXPLANATION OF MATCHES:

The food and wine matching kicked off with cured and seared red mullet with white asparagus and bottarga. It is often the sauce or the most powerful ingredient in any dish which makes or mars any effective combination and here, both the fish and dried fish roe had strong flavours. However there was no doubting the Laurent-Perrier Ultra Brut rose admirably to the challenge and the match worked really well.

Seared scallop with crispy apple compote was, predictably, a success - the flavour combinations, contrasting textures and interchange of sweetness and acidity all playing on the wine’s strengths and giving it a silky finish. The three pieces of beautifully presented sushi threw down some real challenges, but the Champagne acquitted itself with distinction. The foie gras and lily-root purée (served warm) was arguably the match of the day, while the brown-crab courgette was perhaps the least successful, but still made an interesting pairing. While the caviar component of the eel with Oscietra caviar was a terrific match, the saltiness going brilliantly with the Champagne.

The only meat and Champagne combination we tried was the dramatically presented grade 6 Wagyu beef hoba-yaki, and however unlikely, this was a pairing that worked beautifully. We finished with a not overly sweet pudding, Umu charimisu, a humorous Japanese nod to tiramisu that few expected to work, but again it passed with flying colours, drawing a previously unseen creaminess out of the wine. The lesson we learned? There are no rules in food and Champagne matching – but if you are looking for the very best in Japanese food and wine pairing, Umu and Ultra Brut are certainly a match made in heaven!