8 Dec 2007

From MacDonald’s to Michelin?

A FAIR PORTION of celebrities, food critics and wine writers are delighting in exploring a former ‘Macky D’s’ in a Bayswater shopping mall. Now Le Café Anglais, with patron Rowley Leigh (clubby Le Gavroche; bustling ideal local, Kensington Place) at the helm, hot chicken (rôtisserie-twirled) is all that remains in albeit lemon thyme and garlic brushed form of the previous incarnation’s menu. Such high definition of (imagine the headline) ‘Gastronomic Gentrificaiton’ lures…
My reconnaissance of the large, art deco, but leaded windowed arena, where a former cricket coach sat close to the ex-editor of The Mirror, occurred earlier in the week at a Sommeliers Lunch. In total six, seasoned, almost athletic consumers, we were able to bring our own bottles, although I did take-in a glass of ‘little rascal’ Arneis from the list (as aperitif/starting pistol).

Notably absent: signature dishes of Teal (which I am yet to try) and Pike Sausages (sorry, Boudin - read my thoughts on such things HERE). Suave Potted Rabbit Rillette and glossy Parmesan Custard were memorably present, however: tangible, clean, precise and feeling classic rather than conceited.

Our Stellar Cellar:

Chablis Grand Cru, Dauvissat Camus ’95: polished gold sovereign with a bracing nose of damp, green straw bale; a palate of waterfall minerality, honeysuckle and honeyed lemon with pith. Reaching its zenith.

Clos St. Urbain Zind-Humbrecht Tokay Pinot Gris ’02: from the eponymous friendly giant, M.W. and biodynamist, a confusingly titled wine (now Hungary is in the E.U., this is simplified as Pinot Gris) with a sweet nose of stone fruit and pear, but with a resistant, presently deaf palate. Like the wines of the sadly recently departed Austrain individualist, Alois Kracher, this would benefit from a long, steady relationship with the cellar.

Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru Les Cailles, Chevillon ’93 (“a vintage for purists”): from a family of Nuits specialists breathed a wine initially suggesting egg yolk instantaneously replaced by loganberry, alongside uncleansed quayle, but with a feisty palate of cloves, spices, leather, and actually, very little farmyard although my colleague did identify “biltong” (meant positively).

Vosne Romanée 1er Cru Les Beaux Monts, Grivot ’96: one of Burgundy’s best loved villages (think of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, 'D.R.C.') allowed insight into a sanguine, ‘incense-stous’ wine which appeared to be feeling its age, although fierce debate ensued on this point. Incidentally, Leigh, by now doing a sapid tour of his turf, agreed with me.

As daylight faded, Gevrey Chambertin 1er Cru Lavaux St. Jacques Denis Mortet ’05 arose – the last vintage on which Mortet worked - had a violet nose which was hard to access (not vivid at present).

By sharp contrast, N.Z. Central Otago 'superstar' producer, Felton Road's Block 5 '03 (so titled to determine a specific terroir, thus drawing in true wine afficionados) was oxymoronically handsomely-pretty. Buttermilk, herbs and blowsy plums on the nose and a powerful, but supple, even complex, competently oak-spiced, again herby palate (with slight sulphur at the start). A pleasure, especially considering L.C.A.'s list is resolutely European.

And so back to Europe, and Château Angelus Saint-Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé ’95 had scents of saddle in sunshine, with an exotic, sexy, pure plum perfumed richness (concentrated); blackberry on the palate with a sleek, yet soil evoking texture, like a happy, groomed pedigree donkey (fitted with the previously mentioned saddle). More gregarious than Cheval Blanc.

A formal, anise and dark cherry Brunello di Montalcino from ’99 followed, which combined well with eel (although my power of concentration, let alone ability to scribe, was by then waning). The Angelus, power of which took me aback, had also taken my breath away…

FURTHER LINK: Profile: Rowley Leigh (Toast)

Le Cafe Anglais on Urbanspoon