On a brisk Wellington lunchtime, the Beefsteak & Burgundy Club of Tinakori convened at The Eating House on The Terrace for their June meeting. The expectation of a good meal was in the air, as The Eating House is well-known chef Jonathan England’s reincarnation on the dining scene. Following his highly publicised and excellent ‘Two Rooms’ restaurant out in eastern suburbs, Jonathan has been keeping very busy in the hospitality game, including assisting with Antonio Cacace of La Bella Italia, but a layer behind the scenes, keeping in touch with all the news and trends. When the site of The Terrace edition of La Bella Italia come available, Jonathan took up his proprietor’s role again…
A white wine greeted the Beefsteak& Burgundy Club members. Very pale, with a crisp, steely, mineral-like nose, the palate was subtle in flavour, but firm in body with acid and searingly dry in expression. Thoughts of Gruner Veltliner, Albarino and Riesling raced through most members’ minds, who were shocked upon the identity being revealed – Crab Farm Hawke’s Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2011. A very good vintage for the variety (but more problematical for Chardonnay) in the region, this wine was clear and clean and in hindsight, very Hawke’s Bay with its restrained, ripe varietal fruit expression. This was served with Bread and extra virgin olive oil.
The entrée was Penne Puttanesca, penne pasta with tomato, chilli, olives, anchovy and capers, a stunning but simple dish done to perfection. The penne spot-on al dente, and the sauce fully-flavoured with more than sufficient heat, but all the components in superb harmony. The dish was too powerful for the second wine, so tasting the wine first was the wise thing to do.
On pouring the wine was a little reductive, but the sulphur quickly blew off as the wine warmed up. The clean, non-funky nature suggested it was a ‘New World’, Australasian wine. The wine was a bit of an enigma in other ways, the spicy, nutty oak the most obvious feature on nose and palate. This led most people to Chardonnay. The fruit flavours of ripe stonefruits and nectarines came through with more air-time. And also pronounced acidity, bracing the wine, which tended to boldness rather than subtlety. Taking all these characteristics into consideration, the call between Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc would have been difficult, and we placed a bet each way. The wine was definitely South Island, in any case. It was River Farm ‘Saint Maur’ Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2009, a barrel-fermented, lees-stirred, more complex style of Sauvignon Blanc.
The main course was Beef fillet Café de Paris, grilled beef fillet with French fries and Café de Paris butter, red win jus. A classic, and cooked medium-rare, this balanced fine texture and a little grainy firmness with delicate, but definite beef flavour. The steaks were excellent.
Served with this was a Garcilaso Toro Crianza 2003, a wine made from Tempranillo from 50-80 y.o. vines, aged 9 months in new French oak. The sweet vanilla oak and ripe spicy black-red fruits and liquorice flavours indicated warm climate fruit with considerable oak maturation. Its soft, forward nature allied to garnet hues to colour suggested some bottle-age. And rounded tannins added to the picture. I was happy to see it as a South Australian Shiraz or Grenache at least five years old. Other experienced tasters saw the ‘Old World’ nuances of rusticity and earth that hid behind the sweet fruit and oak amalgam, and this led them correctly to Spain.
The wines were selected by Dean Derwin of Centre City Wines and Spirits, who no doubt had a lot of fun thinking about what might be ideal to keep the Beefsteak & Burgundy Club members guessing. Well done, Dean!
The Eating House, 101 The Terrace, Wellington