Burgundy night at The Ritz

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Almost immediately after we returned from our first wine tasting and food pairing night at The Ritz, La Mer sent us an email to ask if we would be coming to the next one in a couple of weeks' time. After the fantastic night we'd had, the answer was a resounding "errr, hell yes!".

We couldn't wait to get back there to see what Chef de Cuisine, William Khala and the Sommeliers had in store.

Dinner without wine is like a day without sunshine

This time around, the team at La Mer had gone the extra mile. In honour of the last tasting session of the year, they had closed down the main restaurant for our group, set up a long dining table in the centre of the room, and dressed the it with their best silverware. The result was something a little bit Christmassy and magical.

We had all been asked to 'dress to impress', and everyone was looking incredibly sharp in dinner jackets and cocktail dresses. Not least the gorgeous Jemma who had joined us for the evening.

My man was looking pretty suave in his Kooples suit too.

Once everybody was seated, the Laurent Perrier came out.

Does everybody have a glass? Good, then let us begin.

The first dish was a very unusual Salmon Tartare, with salmon eggs, sourdough toast and a teeny scoop of sourdough ice cream. By this point, I was starting to get the impression that Chef enjoyed his rather unusual cold creations, and after our Fois Gras ice cream experience last time, I was a little bolder in diving in to try this one. And it was nothing short of perfection. Perfectly malty and smooth, contrasting with the salty salmon and sharp champagne.

A Chablis was poured next, and it was so crisp and delicious that I only had a dribble left by the time the next dish came out - Octopus Terrine with citrus Quinoa. Now, I am not a big fan of Octopus at the best of times but this one was in such a jelly-like terrine that I couldn't quite fight off the feeling that I was eating a rather decadent form of cat food. Rich and Jem sheepishly agreed. That wine though...

As always, in between dishes, Chef Khala came in to discuss the plate of food in front of us, and to get some feedback on the last (I kept quiet about my cat food comment!).

And while we waited for each course to be brought out, we also got the opportunity to catch up with some of the lovely people we had met last time around.

Including my favourite Sommelier, Gerryd, whose enthusiasm and passion for wine is somewhat contagious.

A poached, crispy egg on a bed of Asparagus was brought to the table next to complement a light, rose. Rich took one look at the dish in front of him, and said, "Yum, a posh Scotch Egg!", and the name kind of stuck (for those non-Brits amongst you, the Scotch Egg is a famous Scottish snack with a hard boiled egg in the centre, which is covered in ham and breadcrumbs. A picnic basket in the UK is rarely seen without them).

This was no ordinary Scotch Egg however, because when you cut into it, the gooey yolk broke all over the bottom of your bowl, acting as a sauce for the crisp vegetables. Too delicious for words.

When we had finished scraping our plates, the famous long-necked decanter made its rounds again, and I knew this next wine was going to be good.

I guessed right. It was a creamy and vanillary Chatauneuf Du Pape which was divine, especially when paired with the medium rare Venison and Celariac Puree covered in Pepper Foam and Chocolate Gel. This might sound like a strange combination of flavours, but all together it was near perfection.

At this point, Jem and I erupted into a fit of giggles, and couldn't stop until the course was finished, and we were called to attention by one of the Sommeliers. 

We were asked to stand up, and move into the room next door where our final course and a little surprise was waiting. Intrigued, we all piled through, picking up a spoon and a fork en route...

And entered the room to the most beautiful spectacle laid out on a long trestle table in front of us. Our desert was nothing short of a piece of art!

We all crowded round for photos, and I was reminded of one of Heston Blumenthal's shows 'Feasts', where he created crazy concoctions in ludicrous ways to wow his dinner guests. 

On the word of Chef, we were all given permission to tuck in. And he didn't have to ask twice.

We leant over the table, and smashed into the perfectly round chocolate domes, revealing Meringue and mini Caramel Parfaits. Combined with the lemon, chocolate and raspberry swirls of sauce surrounding it on the table, it was delicious.

So delicious in fact, that Jemma and Rich couldn't resist stretching across the table to a dome which was juuuust in reach. It would be a travesty to leave any of this good stuff behind.

Liberated somewhat by the fact we were eating directly off the table in a rather animalistic fashion, some of us went the extra mile to reach that last little chocolatey dome.

An athletic feat...

But so worth it.

The cat that got the cream.

Jem and I finished our last glasses of wine standing next to the remains. By this point, I don't think anyone had any idea what they were drinking.

But that was OK. We'd all had another very fun and extremely different night.

Now, where do we sign up for next year?

The next wine and food pairing evening will be in the new year. If you are interested in taking part then please contact La Mer at The Ritz Carlton, Doha for details.