I have just had the pleasure of hosting a wine dinner at a gem of a restaurant in Deal. Being the rump end of Kent (and just a stones skip from France), it seemed apt that it was to be an evening of French food, wine and music. Yes, this would be the first time that I would have a musical accompaniment to my one-man show. The venue was the welcoming 81 Beach Street restaurant www.81beachstreet.co.uk and as can be deduced from its name, it commands a prime position on the seafront.
Deal is just round the corner from Dover and yet it has the slight air of being undiscovered and off the beaten track. I am reliably informed by the locals, that the fact that all of its beach is pebbled, means that the town does not get too over run with 'sun seekers' and therefore has a lovely relaxed and non-crowded feel to it in the summer and is definitely worth a visit should you have some time to spare.
However, I digress. Guests were treated to a taste-bud activating glass of Crémant de Limoux on arrival, which was as well received as ever. After a delightful amuse-bouche of French Fish Provençale with Aioli & Garlic Crouton, there was a choice of two starters. Both the Chicken Liver & Cognac Parfait and the Onion, Thyme and Goat's Cheese Tartlet were well matched with our Gamay de l'Ardèche. This classic Gamay was showing plenty of juicy, berry flavours and the tannins were soft and supple. Its Rhône origin gave it enough structure and backbone to stand up to the chicken liver and ample freshness to cut through the goat's cheese.
Main courses were as classic as you can get. Bouillabaisse, Beef Bourguignon and Cassoulet meant that I had to select two wines to offer the best match. A safe starting point, when putting together food and wine matching ideas, is to try wines that originate from the same area as the food. The locals always know best... well, it's a good place to start anyway.
For a Provençal Bouillabaisse, I opted for the excellent Château des Gavelles Rosé. It had plenty of ripe red berry flavours to celebrate our (now long forgotten) Indian summer but it still has enough acidity for a dry finish to combine well with the fish. Our 'star wine of the year', the juicy, forward drinking, Côtes de Thongue Tradition was the perfect partner to the Cassoulet, its regional cohort. The 50% Merlot blend also leant enough soft, fruity, elegance to draw out the Bourguignon's rich, meaty flavours.
Desserts of Tart Normandé and Crêpe Suzette were served with the divinely honeyed Monbazillac from Domaine de l'Ancienne Cure. The mouth filling sweetness of the desserts and the wine was kept refreshing and zesty with the beautifully balanced acidity of the wine's finish. Sweet but not cloying is the name of the game when it comes to dessert wines and I was not let down by this Yapp favourite.
The whole evening was great fun and we all left fully sated. The Gypsy Jazz band added to the convivial atmosphere of the evening and I am now insisting that Yapp Brothers provide a house band to share the billing with me at all my future wine events. My thanks are extended to 81 Beach Street's manager, Rebecca and all of her team for helping to make a great night. This was their first time in running such an event and I am pleased that we have already spoken about putting some future dates in the diary.
Deal is only 25 miles from France (which can be seen on a clear day), but why risk the choppiness of the channel or the train travelling tediousness of the tunnel when 81 Beach Street offers you a little bit of France right here in dear old Blighty?