Blog: UK Amateur Sommelier of the Year visits Texture

As part of her prize for winning this year’s UK Amateur Sommelier of the Year, Catherine Ward-Brown visits the Michelin-starred Texture in London. Here’s what she thought…

HAVING worked together at Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons, Agnar Sverrisson and Xavier Rousset established Texture in 2007. I’ve dined at Le Manoir a couple of times and I see the same attention to detail, the same dedication to superb customer service and the same passion for letting great ingredients shine. Not to mention a truly outstanding wine list with, unusually, a good and interesting selection of wines by the glass.

Modern decor in a large open space with beautiful original covings, cleverly divided into a bar area, restaurant and the pass of the kitchen – I do love restaurants that give you a peek into the world of the professional kitchen. All create an ambience that is refined, softly lit but buzzing. I loved the bar tables with an ice-filled wine cooler built-in – I definitely want one at home.

We were handsomely looked after for the evening by Erica, our Sommelier, and Sylvan, in the dining room. We were offered the Tasting Menu which comprised seven courses of beautifully presented, wonderfully fresh tasting modern cuisine.

We started with Native Lobster with a bonito stock and ginger accompanied by an Italian Arneis – Cristina Ascheri 2007 from Piedmont, northern Italy. Bursting with apple and pear flavours, lime citrus notes with a hint of spice. Surprisingly full bodied, creamy and rich with a long clean finish – a great example of an indigenous variety not widely available. It’s a tricky grape to grow but in the home of Nebbiolo they are obviously used to working with fussy varieties.

Next were Heirloom Tomatoes with mozzarella and basil, an olive biscuit, parmesan snow and tomato essence. Yellow, red and sun dried tomatoes with a kick of flavour from the parmesan snow and meltingly soft mozzarella went very well with the Arneis.

Anjou Quail chargrilled with sweetcorn, bacon popcorn and red wine essence was accompanied by a lightly chilled Gamay from Touraine. Domaine de la Charmoise 2000 offered lots of red berry flavours – fat red cherries and raspberries. Light to medium bodied with smooth modest tannins. With the meaty quail, bacon popcorn and red wine essence the wine developed slightly darker fruit flavours, moving towards red plums and dark cherries. I confess to being one of those customers who probably wouldn’t order a Beaujolais style wine. This proved that I shouldn’t make sweeping generalisations. I stand corrected.

Icelandic lightly salted cod, squid, avocado puree, tomatoes and chorizo. A blind tasting next, said Erica. Honey on the nose, powerful and spicy in the mouth, lots of fruit, good acidity and a long finish. Riesling I said. No, a Grenache Gris from the South Pyrenees in France, the steep terraces of Roussillon. Collioure ‘Folio’ Coume del Mas 2009 is a great example of a terroir driven wine. Having visited the vineyard, Erica highly recommended this and I agree it’s a terrific wine; our favourite of the night. It complemented this dish wonderfully and cut through the avocado without being quashed by the chorizo. Great choice and something of a revelation.

Next was grain fed beef, rib eye, chargrilled with ox cheek, horseradish sauce and olive oil béarnaise. The beef melted in the mouth and was accompanied by Castro Ventosa’s “El Castro de Valtuille” 2007 from north western Spain. Castro Ventosa is owned by the Perez family in the Bierzo appellation, one of the top producers of the Mercia varietal. Indigenous to the region, some suspect it may be an ancient clone of Cabernet Franc and has similar characteristics to Syrah. Rich ruby colour with dark cherries and wild herbs on the nose, smooth juicy black fruit flavours and a peppery spicy finish – I can see why. Well structured with rich fine tannins it really was delicious and perfect with the beef. Definitely one to look out for.

The dessert wine was a South African noble rot Sauvignon Blanc – Mulderbosch Noble Late Sauvignon 2007. Rich, unctuous and packed with flavours of tropical fruits with notes of orange zest and honey. Plenty of acidity to balance a satisfyingly sweet mouthful that perfectly matched the next two courses.

First was the pre-dessert, a sorrel granita which was surprising and utterly delicious. Followed by passion fruit, white peach soup with a basil sorbet and ginger. The use of herbs in sweet dishes at Texture was a welcome change of pace to the usual dessert menus.

Coffee was served with home made petit fours on a bowl of coloured sugar crystals. Madeleines with herb filling – was it tarragon? Macaroons, chocolate truffles and a small mint meringue on a stick – fondly dubbed the fisherman’s friend.

Well, I am certainly a friend of Texture restaurant and would highly recommend it to anyone – for any reason. We’ve already agreed to make it an annual event – sooner if at all possible. My thanks to Xavier Rousset for his support of the Amateur Sommelier competition and to the whole team at Texture for a truly wonderful evening.

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