438 Kings Road

London, SW10 0LJ 


The Food:

Canapés – Aged Comté gougères

Cauliflower velouté with roast Orkney scallop, ras el hanout and toasted almonds

Red onion and goats cheese mousse tartlet with hazelnuts, mint and coriander pesto and tooth chicory

Boudin of corn-fed chicken with Crêpes Parmentier, leeks, pancetta, celeriac purée and chestnuts

Cheese course

Warm chocolate mousse and salted caramel tartlet with milk ice cream and candied pecans

The Wines:

1982 Charles Heidseck Brut Millésime Champagne Charlie 95
NV Henriot Cuve 38 96
1969 Maison Leroy Meursault Perrières 1er Cru 87
2005 Domaine François Raveneau Chablis Les Clos Grand Cru 92
1999 Domaine Leflaive Bienvenue-Bâtard-Montrachet Grand Cru 91?
2014 Domaine Arnaud Ente Meursault Clos des Ambres 95
1964 Paul Jaboulet Aîné Hermitage La Chapelle 97
1964 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Richebourg Grand Cru 98
1961 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Romanée-Conti Grand Cru 90?
1995 Pape-Clément 89
2016 Domaine J.L. Chave L’Hermitage 97
2010 Domaine J.L. Chave L’Hermitage 98
1999 Domaine J.L. Chave L’Hermitage 95
2003 E. Guigal Côte-Rôtie La Turque 91
2007 Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Frühlingsplätzchen Riesling Auslese 92
1959 Schloss Reinhartshausen Hattenheimer Wisselbrunnen Beerenauslese      95

I’ve never been particularly fond of Chelsea. I’m talking about the London borough, not the Big Apple’s. Maybe it is because of my Essex roots. The butt of jokes since time immemorial, no wonder we developed an inferiority complex. Perhaps it is this West Ham supporter’s aversion to Chelsea F.C.? Maybe it is the risible “Made In Chelsea” docu-soap? Or spending many years living in scuzzy South London and looking enviously across the Thames towards the posh streets of SW3? But whenever walking down Sloane Street, I feel that the denizens of Chelsea are looking down their noses at this interloper. They can sniff out somebody that does not live in a swanky Chelsea townhouse with ongoing basement extension, two 4x4 Range Rovers parked outside and infants at some highly-reputed boarding school already networking with future captains of industry.

Cauliflower velouté with roast Orkney scallop, ras el hanout and toasted almonds

On the other hand, Chelsea has always had Medlar, one of the capital’s finest restaurants. I must have entered its doors soon after it opened in 2011. They always operated a flexible BYO policy, ergo it rapidly became a venue for many off-line dinners. Then in 2015, it attracted the wrong headlines when it lost its Michelin-star, a demotion many felt was harsh. It did not deter locals and today, unlike many restaurants, Medlar is still packed with contented diners enjoying chef Joe Mercer’s take on British and European cuisine. In my opinion, their standard of cooking is better than ever: unpretentious yet with just the right amount of flair and with greater execution than in the past. A good friend was visiting from the United States recently and hosted a splendid dinner in its upstairs dining room. Let’s just say, we ate and drank well.

We began with (contentious statement ahoy) the best gougères in London. I’ve devoured these puffballs of deliciousness a few times, and Medlar’s just have the warmth and gooeyness that makes them irresistible.

Red onion and goats cheese mousse tartlet with hazelnuts, mint and coriander pesto and tooth chicory

Next, cauliflower velouté with roast Orkney scallop, ras el hanout and toasted almonds. This was supremely well executed, perfectly seasoned and balanced, the scallop flawless in consistency and exquisitely offset by the bitterness lent by the almonds and spiciness of the ras el hanout.

The red onion and goats cheese mousse tartlet with hazelnuts, mint and coriander pesto and tooth chicory was an excellent follow-up, a classic dish perfected in the kitchen. The upright chicory did look a bit odd, but again, everything was beautifully balanced, simple but delivered with style and panache.

Boudin of corn-fed chicken with Crêpes Parmentier, leeks, pancetta, celeriac purée and chestnuts

My main course, a boudin of corn-fed chicken with Crêpes Parmentier, leeks, pancetta, celeriac purée and chestnuts had a festive feel about it, which I forgive given the tenderness and succulence of the bird. There was something comforting about this dish, which could have easily been over-seasoned or excessively rich.

Warm chocolate mousse and salted caramel tartlet with milk ice cream and candied pecans

I skipped the fromage due to my dietary regimen, though that went to pot when I dived into a warm chocolate mousse and salted caramel tartlet with milk ice cream and candied pecans. I sliced it in half to control my calorie intake, then of course, just ate both halves. I tried. I failed. Tant pis. 

Now, on to the fermented grape juice. The bottles proffered by guests this evening were predictably spectacular. This was a mouth-watering array of fascinating, thought-provoking, mature wines befitting the occasion, many in magnums bought upon release.

We commenced with two magnums of champagne. The 1982 Brut Millésime “Champagne Charlie” from Charles Heidseck is a rare sparkler that deserves explanation. This special cuvée, honouring Heidseck’s nickname, was made in only five vintages: 1979, 1981 1982, 1983 and 1985. In 1978, cellar-master Daniel Thibault decided to blend an exceptional cuvée predesigned to be an exaggerated version of the regular release. It was discontinued when the company was bought out. The 1982 is a blend of 53% Pinot Noir and 47% Chardonnay and spent 15 years ageing on the lees. Deep straw in colour, it has a mercurial nose that is slightly oxidative at first, scents of grilled hazelnuts and lanolin. It magically gains freshness in the glass, so that after one hour it seems to clarify, lose that oxidative touch and develop Clementine and mandarin aromas. The palate is slightly oily in texture, very concentrated with fine acidity, just a little pétillance remaining. There is real weight and density, touch of spice, almond and dried fig towards the finish that fans out wonderfully. Fabulous. The Non-Vintage Cuve 38 from Henriot is another exceptionally rare champagne. Released only in magnum, it was tricky trying to check the disgorgement date, but the cork was branded “0616” inferring June 2016. This réserve perpetuelle, which is to say that it is constantly topped up like a solera, comes from fruit originating from Avize, Le Mesnil-Sur-Oger, Oger and Chouilly. It is named, perhaps a tad unimaginatively, after the tank in which it ages and limited to 1,000 magnums. Very fresh and energetic on the nose, there are hints of citrus lemon and petrichor - vibrant and penetrating. The palate is likewise surfeit with energy and tension, perfect acidity with a very harmonious and slightly minty, spicy finish. Surprisingly youthful, you would not guess that it is a blend of mature reserves.

The first white was a 1969 Meursault Perrières from Maison Leroy. I have to say, I was not taken with this bottle. Yes, the nose is interesting with dried honey and beeswax scents, yet bereft the mineralité of a great Perrières. The palate I found simple and rather innocuous. Nothing bad, impressive in terms of its age, though I have much fonder memories of the ’71 Vosne-Romanée drunk just before Xmas at Tristan (Vinous Table coming up.)

Three magnums were lined up for the next flight. The 2005 Chablis Les Clos Grand Cru from Domaine François Raveneau offers a focused, shucked oyster-shell nose that is uncompromising and hardly aged given that it is now 17-years-old…or young. The palate is focused with a subtle marine, shucked oyster shell influence, lightly spiced with veins of white chocolate and grilled almond. To be honest, I found it impressive more than enjoyable at this stage, but maybe the larger format has hindered its development? I might have given this a three-hour decant. The 1999 Bienvenue-Bâtard-Montrachet Grand Cru from Domaine Leflaive is astonishingly reductive on the nose. You might yell “Coche”, but frankly, the nose must articulate the place where it comes from and here, well, it is rendered a generic reduced nose. That is a shame because its quality shines through on the palate: tight and saline with vivid malic notes, it gains plenty of weight on the finish. The reduction does ebb a little after an hour but it detracts from an otherwise very fine Grand Cru. Finally, the 2014 Meursault Clos des Ambres from Domaine Arnaud Ente, a wine that I have had a couple of times previously in bottle rather than magnum format. It is very convincing on the nose with citrus peel, crushed stone and light grilled walnut aromas. It’s quite dazzling considering it is a Village Cru. The palate is not amazingly complex yet very well balanced, touches of bitter lemon, lemon thyme and ginger, quite edgy on the finish. With time it revealed astonishing tension and mineralité.

The next flight was a mouth-watering line-up.

First, a magnum of 1964 Hermitage La Chapelle from Paul Jaboulet Aîné. Lucid in hue, it sports modest bricking on the rim. Its initial tightness on the nose soon disappears to reveal layers of melted red berries, allspice and touches of wild mint, hints of potpourri/garrigues emerging with time. The palate is fleshy and displays exquisite balance, the vestige of fruit framed by filigree tannins, hints of strawberry and bay leaf as it fans out and deepens on the captivating finish. Format and provenance play a role here, yet it was undeniably Hermitage at its very best and at 58-years of age, one senses it has no intention of stepping off its high plateau. Utterly transfixing. The 1964 Richebourg Grand Cru from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti is a wine that I have drunk on one occasion, some 16-year ago (there is an interesting backstory on why I opened it, but I’ll save that for another time.) Just like then, it is utterly sublime. Compared to the Hermitage, this unfolds with each swirl, touches of red cherry and bergamot, wilted rose petal and then more exotic, richer aromas of kirsch begin emerging. It has an ethereal quality that only the very best Burgundy wines possess. The palate is perfectly balanced with a silver bead of acidity, so pure and elegant, hints of sour cherry and soy, enormous depth on the velvet-smooth finish and a hint of Lapsang Souchong on the aftertaste. This multi-dimensional wine is a wonder to behold. There was one additional bottle served blind, and it turns out to be 1961 Romanée-Conti Grand Cru. This is actually my third bottle, but I must admit, not my favourite example. Smoke, autumn bonfire on the nose, the palate a little hard, transparent yet has an odd green pepper tincture on the finish, a trait that I have not noticed on previous bottles, hence the question mark against my score.

The 1995 Pape-Clément is also served from magnum. Deep, almost opaque in colour, it has a youthful bouquet, slightly reductive at first, pastille-like with blueberry and cassis surfacing with time. The palate is marked by chewy tannins, grippy and heady in style, certainly powerful with tobacco and black pepper infused dark berry fruit. I find this a little heavy-going to be frank, typical of the wines at the time, though I would be interested to revisit it in a few years’ time.

We then returned to the Northern Rhône with three wines from arguably the greatest producer of Hermitage: Domaine J.L. Chave. I used to drink and cellar a lot from Chave and only recently have encountered a few bottles, including one spectacular mature example saved for a forthcoming Cellar Favorite. The 2016 L’Hermitage came from another magnum. This strides authoritatively into the room wanting to make a big impression with its penetrating scents of maraschino cherries, blueberry and cassis on the nose, bunches of violet intermingling with olive tapenade. The palate is medium-bodied with saturated tannins and spine-tingling acidity. Yes, it is way too young to broach, yet the pedigree of this Hermitage is patently obvious. The 2010 L’Hermitage is just as intense on the nose, maybe higher-toned with a little more VA than the 2016. Black plum, cassis, allspice and a huge dose of extravagance, this is Hermitage pumping on all cylinders. The palate is armed with silky tannins, enormous depth with no hard edges. Its opulence brilliantly disguises the structure underneath – a fabulous wine that has decades ahead. The 1999 L’Hermitage is an entirely different proposition with melted red fruit, clove, Italian meats and a touch of garrigues, biding its time before opening fully. The palate is reaching full maturity with firm tannins, red fruit infused with clove and thyme, less dense and muscular than bottles I tasted several years ago. Perhaps I would still afford it just another couple of years in bottle. There was one addition. The 2003 Côte-Rôtie La Turque from E. Guigal is a wine that I remember buying on release and then sold when I didn’t really appreciate the style of the vintage. It has a decadent bouquet with blue fruit, orange zest, marmalade and a fair bit of alcohol. The palate is sweet and exotic on the entry, dense and powerful, though I cannot help but wishing there is more acidity and tension on the finish. For someone else’s palate.

We finished with two German Rieslings. The 2007 Monzinger Frühlingsplätzchen Riesling Auslese from Emrich-Schönleber came in a magnificent magnum. It has a wonderful bouquet with scents of yellow plum and kumquat, a touch of petrol emerging with time, yet maintaining superb focus and definition. The palate fizzes with energy and tension thanks to its spine of acidity, orange zest and fresh Nashi pears, segueing into a slightly peachy finish. Great length and persistence in the mouth, this is Riesling at its best. The 1959 Hattenheimer Wisselbrunnen Beerenauslese from Schloss Rheinhartshause is a perfect way to finish any dinner. Deep amber in hue, the nose offers a kaleidoscope of aromas: crème brûlée, nougat and just a touch of caramel, all delivered with impressive definition considering age and sweetness. The palate is perhaps not as decadent as the nose, just a hint of petrol infusing the luscious, honeyed fruit, yet there is an underlying salinity that keeps everything in check. After seven decades this is still going strong, a Beerenauslese that should reach a century with ease.

It was an outstanding evening of fine food, fine wine and even finer friendship. Medlar delivered yet again, not just in terms of the impressive standard of cooking that complemented these bottles with aplomb, but particularly the sommelier team that handled all these bottles with care, skill and all-important smiles. If you find yourself walking down King’s Road, then do treat yourself to lunch or dinner at one of SW3’s finest restaurants. And I do like Chelsea, despite my opening diatribe. I probably just wish I lived there!

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