Published 21 November 2011
Now that I have a family and live in the middle of nowhere, I don’t get as many opportunities to go out for dinner. But, when I do, I want it to be an exceptional experience. I don’t want to settle for sub-standard wine but, in the “age of austerity”, I also don’t want to have to remortgage the house to finance the outing.
So, this blog is a two-parter that covers my favourite trends at the moment.
The Enomatic machine – Coq d’Argent
“If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.” This rule seems to be true unless Tom Harrow is organising a wine bloggers’ dinner at London’s Coq d’Argent restaurant.
I’ve been to “The Coq” quite a few times. It was where we used to let the banks take us in the old days. You know, the days when they had big, fat expense accounts that they needed to blow on lavish lunches. Yes, I suppose I have to live with the fact that I had a part to play in the sorry state of the economy due to the banks’ over-spending, but, we had some fantastic lunches.
If you’ve not been to the Coq d’Argent, you should go. Ideally, go on a lovely summer’s afternoon because they have an impressive garden. Being situated on the top of No. 1 Poultry, it is at the epicentre of the UK’s financial district (it looks out over the Bank of England). Taking advantage of this position, the large roof garden’s two glass walkways give you a fascinating view over the hustle and bustle going on below. And, if the evening gets a bit chilly, you can move to either the heated terrace or patio areas. All in all, it’s a fantastic setting.
So when an invite to a wine bloggers’ dinner popped into my inbox – dinner at the Coq d’Argent where the sommelier, Olivier Marie, would match wines from their Enomatic machine to a special menu – it took all of ten seconds to accept. (If you don’t know what an Enomatic machine is, it basically keeps an open bottle of wine drinkable by protecting it from oxygen. For more info, check out my blog from February).
A week later, I’m sitting at a table of seven when Tom, dressed in his trademark claret velvet suit, introduces Olivier and explains that the Coq is keen to blow its own trumpet, having just won the Louis Roederer Wine List of the Year. They also want to let everyone know that they have an Enomatic machine so customers can match each course with a different wine without it breaking the bank. Eight wines come in measures of 25ml, 100ml, 125ml or 175ml from as little as £2.95. In fact, you can now sample four whites and four reds (including Chateau d’Yquem) for a total of £29.75. They also offer a number of interesting flights where customers can compare two 50ml measures (for example, a Sauvignon Blanc from the Old World versus on from the New World, and Syrah versus Shiraz) for £10 per flight. All of these are fantastic ideas.
I won’t go into the details of the wines and menu, but I can confirm that the Coq d’Argent has not lost any of its appeal: the food was incredible and the wines were beautifully paired. But, you’d expect nothing less from a sommelier who has worked for Gordon Ramsay and Marcus Wareing, and been with the Coq d’Argent (or its sister restaurants) for 14 years. And, although it’s not cheap, it is very good value when you consider the quality of the food, wine, service and style. You’re looking about £50 per head for a three course a la carte menu without wine (there is also a seven course degustation menu for £48 and set lunch menus), with the wine list starting at £20. I’ve been told that the restaurant has pulled back the top end of the wine list, but there are still some impressive bottles for those with cash to splash (I quite fancy the Petrus ’95 if anyone’s offering!).
In short, the Coq is certainly back on my list of dinner venues.
Bring Your Own Bottle – Mien Tay
I first went to Mien Tay about a year ago and was instantly impressed. Any restaurant that has a BYOB policy (i.e. doesn’t charge corkage) immediately has me on their side. But it has to be supported by good food and good service, and Mien Tay didn’t let me down on either. The food was superb (for example, the spicy soft shell crab) and the service was fast.
So I was concerned when I heard that Mien Tay had obtained an alcohol licence. Was this the end of BYOB at Mien Tay? Fortunately, I have it on good authority from Donald Edwards (aka @donalde), that the BYOB is still in effect.
My dinner companions at Coq d’Argent were some of the country’s finest wine/food bloggers. Please check out their blogs too:
- Tom Harrow (aka @winechapUK): see his blog at winechap.com
- Simon Burnton (aka @cellarfella): see his blog at cellarfella.com.
- Tara Devon O’Leary (aka @tara_devon): see her blog at winepassionista.com.
- Adam Hyman (aka AdamHyman29): see his blog at restaurantgossip.wordpress.com.
- Denise Medrano (aka @thewinesleuth): see her blog at winesleuth.com.
- Zeren Wilson (aka @bittenwritten): see his blog at bittenandwritten.com