The annual SquareMeal Tasting rolled into the Honourable Artillery Club last night (8 November). Hundreds of you came along to try some of the culinary fireworks that London’s thriving restaurant scene has to give, which were matched by a rich plethora of wines, spirits, beers and ciders from around the world.
Words: Mark de Wesselow
Highlights from the evening…
Once camera-toting guests had decided whether to Instagram the beautiful canapés or indulge in a selfie moment with celebrity chefs including José Pizarro, Francesco Mazzei and Jeff Galvin, they could get down to the real business of eating and drinking.
The first winemaker we saw was Matteo Ascheri, fresh in from Piemonte, to show off his classic Barolo, alongside other more everyday treats like a Dolcetto d’Alba and crisp, aromatic Gavi di Gavi. Catching the Tuscan plane was Castello Banfi whose Brunello di Montalcino was a punchbowl of nuanced headiness, while, from Sicily, Planeta showed off exactly why it is considered the blue riband producer from this sun-kissed island.
Many made a bee line for the Champagne, where Gosset vied with Devaux to be voted favourite fizz, and both showed off their versatility, as seen alongside Aqua Nueva’s octopus carpaccio or Fiume’s pizzetta fredda.
These days fizz doesn’t stop at just Champagne, and the room was well represented. The beautifully made offering from Trentino’s Ferrari was superb as a match for the supremely fresh mozzarella offerings of Obica, while Anna de Cordoniu’s Blanc de Noir was a revelation.
A sea bass ceviche from Sea Containers at Mondrian worked beautifully alongside the sweetness of top Lebanese producer Chateau Ksara’s Chardonnay. If you wanted something more unusual, Vina Leyda’s Single Vineyard Sauvignon Gris packed a foodie punch with a judiciously spiced chicken tikka from Cinnamon Kitchen – while its lamb was magic with Marques de Caceres’ textbook and deliciously fruity Rioja Crianza.
If you haven’t woken up to the fragrant delights of Spain’s Albarino grape, then, on the evidence of last night, you should. Its reputation with seafood is well-deserved, but its peachy, lime-inflected roundness goes well with spicy food too. Good examples on the night came from Uruguay’s Bodegas Garzon (which regularly wins gold medals for its South American version) and again from Marques de Caceres, which has vineyards in the grape’s homeland of Galicia in north-west Spain
We thought the best match for Bar Boulud’s fresh and sweet beetroot tartare with goat’s cheese was a contrasting Riesling – take your pick from Craggy Range’s Te Muna verion or a dry but classy exemplar from Germany’s Johannishof (a current on-board offering from event sponsor Lufthansa). While both Domaine Levin’s Madame L Gamay and a Pinot Noir from the Russian River MacMurray Estate felt velvety and refreshing alongside Bar Boulud’s charcuterie.
New restaurant Treves & Hyde brought its ingredients-led philosophy to the event and really smashed it with a gently smoked sheep ricotta date and apple dish, and a moreish beef tartare with burnt ketchup, which we washed down with an amazing Cabernet Sauvignon from the Chateau Changyu Moser XV from China and (perhaps more traditionally) a particularly good Nebbiolo from Matteo Asheri.
Oxo Tower showed off its much celebrated smoked salmon scotch egg which certainly hit the spot with the decadent but fresh Ksara Chardonnay. While Aqua Nueva vied for appreciative gasps with another fab, delicately smoky taster – their veal Cecina on toast.
Other highlights included…
Who could resist the truffled Brie de Meaux supplied and made famous by the Galvin Brothers, which was a creamy piece of wonder when melting on the mouth with a sip of Taylor’s 365th Limited Edition Reserve Tawny, and also worked with Umani Ronchi’s textured Riserva Plenio Verdicchio di Castelli di Jesi.
On the spirits front the gin revolution was in evidence with lifted, citrusy offerings from small-batch distillers like Portobello Road, Edinburgh and Conker. While for after-dinner choices, we loved comparing the rich sweetness of the Glengoyne 12yo from the Highlands with the sherry-oak inflected creaminess of the Speyside Macallan 12yo Double Cask. Others split off from our group to enjoy the Furmint delights of top class Hungarian Tokaji, Disznoko. For different reasons, all three were stunning with Jose Pizarro's deeply naughty chocolate pot.
San Pellegrino and Aqua Panna proved that water is about so much more than just hydration – it really is an enhancing foil for all manner of wines. And Grana Padano, the iconic slow-ripened, semi-fat cheese from Italy, was a constant source of sustenance whatever we were drinking.
The annual raffle was another cause for celebration for the lucky 40 who won. The top prize winner was a luxury trip to Munich including a couple of nights at the Maritim, donated courtesy of Lufthansa. Other prizes included meals out at top restaurants and top-of-the-range wines and spirits.
We finished up with a perfect cup of Lavazza coffee, chased down with a sweet and smooth Don Papa Rum, before catching the last train home.
Our thanks to all the wines, brands and restaurants that took part, and a special thank you to our main sponsor Lufthansa, and our unmissable motor partner Alfa Romeo. We look forward to seeing you all again next year!
This article was published 9 November 2017