There’s some invitations that can’t be refused, and an opportunity to go to a 2 Michelin starred restaurant for a 5-course lunch that’s matched to a series of champagnes from a reputable champagne house is one. Added to this, there’s the preceding tasting of 5 disgorgements of champagne aged between 6 months and 12 years. The restaurant was L’atelier de Joel Robuchon and the champagnes Bruno Paillard.
Now, I’m a novice compared to the wine bloggers and wine writers, I know a bit but not alot, I can appreciate a good match between wine and food and am getting better at matching myself but I needed a mini tutorial when it came to appreciating the disgorgements, which was happily provided by Dan from Bibendum and Bruno’s daughter Alice.
So, what’s a disgorgement? Dan advised that it’s the process of removing the dead yeast cells after the second fermentation of the wine. I’ll borrow a little from Denise at The Wine Sleuth to explain further
the wine really comes into it’s own, aging throughout the years, passing through 5 or 6 distinct stages ranging from fruit dominated flavours and aromas all the way to the candied fruits and aged roasted notes of mature champagne (link)
The tasting was a lovely experience, the champagnes becoming progressively richer as they got older, it was interesting to note how the flavours developed. I do prefer the younger, lighter champagnes, but it was great to get a taste of the full gamut of flavours.
Joel and Bruno attended and described, in French with translation, their appreciation of each others craft, of the champagne’s and the food, how their ethics matched, always looking to achieve the best, an artisan product. Bruno was in attendance with his daughter Alice, a really friendly pair, always smiling and keen to help even the inexperienced like me.
The most exciting bit began next, our lunch, preceded by some delicious jamon. Now, this was good, rich and not too salty with bright and delicious fat. All the time, we could see the chefs in action in the open kitchen, moving with delicate precision, I couldn’t wait to tuck in.
We started with Fine jelly flavoured with lemon matched with a fruity Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Réserve Privé. This was a really delicious and spritely appetiser, the lemon jelly was topped with fennel cream, which was a lovely fresh and savoury contrast.
This was followed by New potatoes marinated with truffles with shavings of truffles and foie gras, this was exceptional, the textures and flavours of earthy sensual truffle flirting with the foie gras supported beautifully by the sweetness of the new potato, and matched with Brut Millesimé Assemblage 1999 which was bold and rich enough to play with it.
Steamed crayfish with spring vegetables cooked in Paillard’s Blanc de Blancs 1995, a very pretty dish, complete with Patrick from Sponge Bob Square Pants, or so Denise and I thought! It semed straight from a cartoon set in the kitchen, I half expected to hear Spongebob wail. Joking aside, this was a gorgeous dish, with tiny pearls of vegetables, crispy and sweet set in a decadent champagne broth that was slightly sour and had sweet crayfish floating within. It was a treat for the eyes and the taste buds. The champagne served was the same as that within the dish, another rich champagne and a lovely match once more.
Seabass cooked with spiced honey, ginger and baby leek, my favourite dish, the fish was perfect, light moist chunky flakes of fish, lightly scented with delicate aromas and topped with a perfect crispy fish skin. It was paired beautifully with a lovely fruity NPU (Nec-Plus-Ultra) 1995. It was also served with the famous Joel Robuchon mash, famed to contain more butter than potato, delicious, rich and creamy, it really reminded me of home.
Chou pastry with hazelnut praline and mandarin-flavoured Tahitan vanilla ice cream, a lovely nutty spongy and savoury dessert, fragrant with mandarin. Light and delicious and accompanied by a delicious Rosé Première Cuvée, one of my favourites of the day.
Our next dish was a visual delight, a delicious dessert of fruit and sorbet encased in a sugar sphere – A sugar sphere with Yuzu and an ‘effervescent’ sorbet – which we cracked open delcately with a spoon and delighted at the inertior before, with temporary regret, eating it. That regret quickly dissipated once I tasted the tart fruit and delicate sorbet, with shards of the lovely sugar sphere. This was served with the same fresh and fruity Rosé Première Cuvée.
Lastly, we ventured to the roof for coffees and some air on the terrace. A little rain too although, after such a lovely lunch, my spirits couldn’t be dampened. The coffees were served with a very decadent side, resplendent with popcorn and gold leaf, an unusual combination, very decadent and humble at once.
A wonderful lunch, and a fabulous tasting experience, thanks to Bruno, Alice, Joel & his myriad of chefs and Willie & Dan from Bibendum.