The first time was due to combined efforts of owner Will, the kitchen staff and expert service and welcome from James, the second time the former and latter are taking a back seat for the proceedings. On this occasion, the purpose of the evening was to experience a Rioja pairing with some of the best bits from the Monro’s menu, the wines were supplied by C.V.N.E. (Compania Vinicola del Norte de Espana [http://www.cvne.com/en/]) and Hatch Mansfield’s (also responsible for Errazuriz, Villa Maria and Louis Jadot) Sandy Greetham and C.V.N.E’s Carlos Delage, the latter of whom provided some guidance on the wines that were paired with the food.
A feast for both the eyes and for other senses, this combination of earth, meaty and fresh crisp flavours is an inviting herald for a spring menu. The flavours married excellently with the wine pairing addition of an acidic but balanced white Rioja. Sweet notes from the pea bruleé and the golden raisins set the dish up to deliver plenty of satisfaction through contrast with the intense savoury of the black pudding and fragrant scallops, solid and in no way jarring. The presentation was also rather inviting, scattered and ornamental elements not out of place and the bruleé was particularly impressive.
The white Rioja, made with 100% Viura grapes brought a lot of fresh acidity and light fruitiness to the table, with the American oak aging affording a finish which is soft, cream-biscuity and lightly vanilla touches. Definitely a complimentary pairing on this occasion, with no distracting contrasts. Very well paired.
Stone bass, chorizo, potato chowder and samphire (paired with Contino Rioja Reserva)
This was another well-presented dish, balancing delicate white fish with the more rough-and-ready elements of chorizo with a buffer of potato and cream to produce something that was rather surprisingly robust enough to stand up to a superficially unlikely pairing. By virtue of the chorizo, the strength and nature of the wine was tempered rather excellently, allowing yet more competent cooking to shine through and the flavours on offer to do their thing without interruption from a tannin-overload. The only longing I experienced with this dish was a slightly more forgiving texture from the potato; perhaps the elasticity of gnocchi would have sated this, but I am splitting hairs and I am a sucker for good gnocchi.
The Contino Reserva benefits from aging in both French and American oak over two years before it is bottled, a vibrantly deep red wine is the result along with notes of berry fruit, especially blackberries and redcurrant along with some more tart edges to the finish. Thick, rounded and full-bodied, this actually worked supremely well with the dairy, chorizo and bass.
Fillet of beef, fondant potato and truffled wild mushrooms (paired with Viña Real Rioja Gran Reserva)
The fillet was quite exceptional; often the cut can be wonderfully textured and beautifully succulent, but often lacking in flavour. The textures were all there, along with perfect timing on the cooking, but there was plenty of flavour to bounce off the pairing set with this dish, completed with the ballast of a fondant potato and rich medley of wild mushrooms, looking like they had been foraged that same day.
The Gran Reserva was an excellent example of how well Spanish reds can perform with food and why they should never be discounted again their French and Italian cousins for food pairing. This blend of Graciano and Tempranillo grapes presents some full on youthful fruitiness along with the depth of some older dried fruit tangled up with elements of tobacco, leather and spice. A pretty powerful, deceptively coloured and complex wine, which paired as ever, particularly well with the kitchen’s output.
Vanilla Panacotta and raspberry espuma
The dessert was reminiscent of my last blog visit to the Monro, but it was as every bit as pleasing as the first time. The balance of acidic and sweet raspberry along with the creamy pannacotta provided a simple and effective punctuation to the evening; an additional surprise was how well the Gran Reserva continued to work alongside this dish. More contrast than compliment, but nevertheless, it worked.
The standard on display from this showing definitely builds on the menu revamp from last year and I was informed by the staff that the kitchen staff driving the event were the more junior members of staff; if this was the case, then the support available to the kitchen looks incredibly assured.
Disclaimer: This meal was offered to ElectroKemist Cuisine in return for feedback following an invite to review this restaurant, however, the review above remains an honest opinion of the experience.
92 Duke Street
Tel: 0151 707 9933
Hatch Mansfield WinesNew Bank House
1 Brockenhurst Road
Berkshire SL5 9DJ