Last week, we took over Le Gavroche with a Rathfinny dinner. Yes, you read that correctly. An English wine event at Le Gavroche, London’s bastion of French cuisine, with celebrated super-chef Michel Roux Jr at the helm. We were the first English winery to do it, apparently, a fact that only enhanced the magic of the evening.
It was a ticketed event, with 80 guests who had come from far and wide to witness the collaboration between their favourite Masterchef host and Rathfinny, with our full range of wines and spirits on offer. What a fantastic event it was, with Michel announcing in his Q&A at the end that, “The future of sparkling wine is in the UK. It is very, very good”. We’ll take it!
Given the four-course dish format of the evening, the food and wine pairing aspect was key, particularly with the precision and sublime reputation of Le Gavroche’s celebrated dishes. No pressure then! It was Millie’s and my job to make sure we got this bang on, so we took one for the team and trekked to the restaurant a few weeks prior the event, to trial the dishes against our wines. A tough job.
Once Millie and I had descended the stairs into the hallowed dining hall, we were ushered to the private room, or Chef’s Library. What proceeded to happen, I can only liken to the most extreme ‘pinch me’ moment a foodie could ever hope to have; Michel Roux Jr personally talked us through the dish options for each course he had prepared, as if we were in some sort of a reverse Masterchef dream sequence. It was heaven. The dishes we ended up creating together, I flatter myself to even suggest we in any way helped create them, I will remember for a long time.
Flash forward to the evening itself, we kicked off with a cocktail which Rémi Cousin, Head Sommelier extraordinaire, had put together with his team. It employed both our Seven Sisters Gin and Vermouth, with the addition of Pink Grapefruit and a fresh quince foam. We named it ‘the Spirit of Sussex’, and I’m delighted to hear it is staying on the drinks’ list for the long haul.
Having sat down and had the pleasure of Mark Driver’s introduction to welcome the guests, the dinner began with Juniper Smoked Salmon and Smoked Eel, Dill, Rye and Caviar, matched to our brand-new vintage Cradle Valley Pinot Blanc/Pinot Gris ’18. The light smoke of the salmon and the tender eel were complemented beautifully by the peachy weight of the white, and the pinpoint precision of the saline caviar, which cleverly punctuated the dish, meshed well with Cradle Valley’s gentle minerality.
Time for the second course, and out came the most intensely buttery seafood dish you can imagine; Scottish Langoustines in a Light Butter Sauce with Celeriac and Carrots. Forget the ‘light’ in the title, it was buttery heaven, and then some. That said, it felt soufflé-light without any hint of heaviness, rich, but with a lightness of touch I couldn’t fathom. This was matched with our Blanc de Blancs ’14, released last year, which you almost can’t find anywhere else on the planet at this point. I had forgotten what a mind-blowingly elegant wine this is, with ramped-up richness due to its additional bottle ageing. With peach and lemon-posset finesse that goes on for days, the vibrant acidity of this bubbly danced the Foxtrot with the dish, figuratively speaking, proving one of my highlights of the evening.
You could tell by this point, everyone’s taste-buds were in a spin, in a good way, so when the third course came, the tempo began to change. Dry Aged Duck Supreme, Figs, Black Cabbage and Port Jus accompanied expertly by our blushing Blanc de Noirs ’15. The brooding game notes, rich jus and sweet-savoury trimmings of the dish couldn’t have been better looked after than by the heady red-fruit notes of one of our leading sparkling wines. Aged for three years on its lees, our Blanc de Noirs ’15 has a playful intensity, and a vinousity that makes it a particularly terrific food-matcher. Duck and Blanc de Noirs, a natural combo if you think about the leading Pinot Noir element of the wine’s blend, although so rarely seen in restaurants. It was a tour de force, the red-fruit notes in the fizz hugging the rare piece of duck, and the vivacious length sticking around long afterwards.
Lastly, the dessert made its way in front of us, from hands so nimble we barely noticed the changeover. Three members of or Tasting Room team had been kindly invited to join the Gavroche team for the evening, two on the floor and one in the kitchen, which was an experience in a lifetime for us all. Dessert was Apple Tartlet with Glazed Apple Rose and Vanilla Ice Cream, which Millie and I had picked as a comforting finale to what had been an extraordinary winter dinner. This could only have been paired to our Rosé ’16, a wine with such expressive red fruit notes, they all but jump out of the glass, onto the plate and eat the dish for you. The red apple tartlet was a triumph with the rhubarb and Cox’s apple skin notes of the sparkling, and truly demonstrated the breath-taking versatility of our wines.
As you can probably sense, wine and sparkling matching is something we believe in very passionately at Rathfinny, and we couldn’t have asked for a better showcase than at Le Gavroche last week. We left, misty eyed, partly due to the significance of the event and partly due to wine consumption. What is certain, is that we will all remember this event for a very long time to come.