The Editor and I travelled into The Big Smoke to meet Swedish wine writer Erica Landin in Hawksmoor Spitalfields earlier today. She seemed impressed by our capacity to eat, the general pricing policies of London and the specific pricing policy of Hawksmoor. Fair enough.
Erica’s experience of wine journalism in Sweden is somewhat different to that of mine in the UK and Europe. It seems less involved in getting riotously drunk and telling scandalously ribald anecdotes ‘off the record’ for a start. She seemed moderately impressed that we got through two bottles and a couple of cocktails for lunch; I’m told by the Editor that Swedes have unhealthy attitudes to drinking at lunchtime. Anyway, let’s have a quick look at the food.
Any reservations about the quality of the plum-pudding pig ribs I might have had on my last visit were utterly erased this time. They were absolutely cracking. The combination of melting soft meat and fat along with a richly spiced sauce is quite the winner and, like me, you should go for them every time.
Erica seemed a bit daunted by the towering nature of her burger, but said she liked it even if it did ultimately require utensils to get it into manageable-sized units. I would have been impressed by her asking if she could have both triple-cooked chips and a salad with her burger, but wasn’t because not many salads are worth getting impressed about. Salads are just so unhealthy – JUST SAY NO!
Editor Dani ordered a medium-rare ribeye, double fried eggs, roast bone marrow, macaroni and cheese and stilton hollandaise. So did I. Everything was at the ‘jester’s shoes’ end of the pleasure-spectrum. One forgets quite how good their steaks are, the bone marrow is brillo and served with style, their macaroni and cheese recipe is perfect and, though I don’t think quality meat needs much sauce, I like the hollandaise to add to the M&C for enhanced richness.
The only slight disappointment was the eggs. I know here in Hampshire we have been spoiled with amazing King’s Somborne eggs, but these really do seem to be lacking much in the way of flavour. When you shovel a big lump of animal flesh with a whole yolk on top into your mouth you want there to be serious yolk action coating your meat-filled hole; these did not deliver. More work needed on sourcing top quality ova, I think.
The cocktails were faultlessly perfect and I really felt in the mood to be witty, charming and able to listen to a new friend after knocking back my Fancy Gin Cocktail. This remains the single best martini I have ever consumed on multiple occasions. Sure, you can almost have stronger martinis, possibly, but drinking isn’t a meat-measuring exercise. These FGC’s remain quite heroic and definitely enabling/disabling enough without sacrificing anything in terms of being really nice drinks. Dani had something else, but I missed it because I was busy with my drink and being probed by Erica.
Cote-Rote ‘Les Grades Places’ 2004, Domaine Clusel-Roch
Clusel-Roch remain my favourite Cote-Rotie producer and one sniff of this demonstrated why that is so. No silliness with high alcohol here: this clocked in at 12%. No silliness with new oak either; nary a hint of it on the nose which was all about beautifully elegant and refined fruit, which a sophisticated earthy hint and real energy and life. This showed a lot of life and was not showing any signs of falling apart having been from a weaker vintage. A supremely engaging and attractive nose of minimalism and restraint; all about beauty and understated pleasure. I was a bit surprised that when we first opened it the palate seemed a touch tough, but a shake in the decanter and a swirl in the glass sorted that out. It then showed silky, polished tannins, a fine acidity that made it sparkle with life and refined but really deep and complex fruit. The depth of flavour, despite the small-scale of the palate, was amazing – the old vines character really shining through. It was very long, extremely sophisticated and highly pleasurable. The most enjoyable Cote-Rotie I’ve had since the last bottle of this.
Nuits-Saint-Georges Premier Cru la Richemone 2005, Domaine Alain Michelot
This was one of the most reduced red wines I have smelled in years. When it was first popped it honked of Hydrogen Sulphide and I was going to say we shouldn’t drink it. But I risked shaking it and vigorously decanting and it opened a little. But just a little, alas. It remained stinky and reductive, not much fun as far as fruit went at all. Strangely, the texture on the palate was quite nice, silky and reasonably seductive, but I couldn’t get over that nasty reductive character and surreptitiously ordered myself an extra cocktail as I went to ‘strain the vegetables’. I tell you, those Fancy Gin Cocktails would be all you need in the cocktail department if it were not for the rest of Hawksmoor’s brilliant list.
I’ve had a cold for the past week and this little jaunt into London was not only surprisingly manageable, both in terms of viral infection and London-related harassment, but quite a lot of fun as well. OK, I was let down by the Nuits, but the Cote-Rotie was wizard. Hawksmoor always deliver the goods and it was a real delight to meet Erica. I bet we got her more quaquaversal than the chap she was meeting next could manage.