London, Monaco and South France…

So… I’ve recently returned from an amazing holiday in London. I also visited Monaco and South France where there is so much great fresh food (as long as you’re avoiding those tacky tourist burger joints)… & I look forward to seeing the rest of France soon…

I felt I lived part of an elite gastronome’s life, chauffeured across many great restaurants, eating until the wee hours of the morning and trying as much food as imaginable with the staff – only in the end to try as much vino as possible… I thoroughly enjoyed this trip and what it had to offer from the hospitality industry. My favourite wine/restaurant picks are as below (click on images for larger view):

Chateau de la Chevre d’Or (France) – stunning 2 Michelin star restaurant in a quaint castle, with spectacular panoramic views all around. As you walk to the restaurant it feels like you’re in Alice in Wonderland… Was this a dream? Everything was beautiful, lush and green, with immaculately tendered gardens layered down a steep mountain, life-size chess game, large bronze animals – horses, lions, deer… and of course water fountains.  I had wines from Burgundy/Gevrey-Chambertin and can’t remember the exact names but all the wine was good. Food was good too of course – even their vanilla ice cream was special, and full of fresh vanilla bean specs!

Petit la Maison (France, Nice) – we dined with the owner of the restaurant, Nicole, a fantastic lady and pleasure to meet. I haven’t been to the one in London but this one was really fun. We ate until about 4am in the crisp morning air while the restaurant was closed, and all tables and chairs were gone except ours so we had the restaurant to ourselves, sampling many a drink and dessert. Good wine list, again just had Burgundy wines. Nicole is a great chef (and all the staff are great too), and as busy as she always is, she doesn’t let a single dish go out without her checking it first, as well as every single bill. Great restaurant, with two giant porcelain bon-bons at the front.

Mas Provencal (France). Now this was a real visual treat! The whole restaurant was adorned with plants, orchids, big floral arrangements, with grapes, orchids and cherry tomatoes hanging everywhere – all real, and no inch of wall could be seen. They have an amazing super-chessy risotto, which a man serves out of a big cheese wheel steaming hot. A tonne of wine was consumed. Can’t remember the names, but it’s all good! The special wines list also came out on thin slabs of rock  for each wine (mainly Bordeaux first growths) linked by a single rod – pretty funky.

Essenza (London, Notting Hill) – Great Italian restaurant. I actually had one of my favourite wines of my whole trip – BATASIOLO, VIGNETO CEREQUIO, BAROLO, DOCG 2004 🙂: Nebbiolo. Intense garnet red colour. Bouquet full of red berries & hints of tobacco or cigar box following through to a full, dry mouthfeel. Plush.. Dense red and black fruits, with soft spice. Good length and vibrant finish. Really ripe but supported by savoury characters. Around $50-75AU. Beautiful!

Mediterraneo (London, Notting Hill) – Italian restaurant and the older sibling of Essenza. Had ILICO ILLUMINATI, MONTEPOLUCIANO D’ABRUZZO, 2008: overall a delicious palate and great value wine in Australia – thus recommended as it over-delivers on quality 🙂 Some lifted violet on the nose, and plush, dense fruit characters (think plums and blackberries), with brightness (think raspberries) in a full mouthfeel, soft tannins and good acidity to pair well with food. Very pleasant finish.

Pizza East (London, Notting Hill) is a great Italian restaurant with really satisfying fresh pizzas and grub. I had a great value wine from the restaurant’s list which was the ITYNERA, MONTEPULCIANO D’ABRUZZO, 2009: This wine was so easy to drink, but a medium weight red – very ripe and plush – great with food; Aromatic, full of berries and earthy notes, and a thick mouthfeel; good finish. Really great value quaffer at only around 10 Euros!

Cipriani’s / C (London, Mayfair) – really great Italian restaurant. Giuseppe Cipriani is a lovely person to meet and has done really well in all his restaurants, starting from Harry’s bar in Venice in the early 1930s. There are good wines on the list but for once I didn’t drink much wine. I had Bellinis as they are really outstanding there – of course because the drink was founded by Giuseppe at Harry’s Bar. It was so clean and refreshing – albeit went down a little too quickly!

Min Jiang (London) – is a Chinese restaurant around Kensington. There I had the CANNETO, VINO NOBILE DI MONTEPULCIANO, 2006: Well rounded with expressive floral, feminine characters (think a lifted violet hue on the nose etc), soft spices with a ‘bit of a bite’ (black pepper), concentrated plush fruit (plums, blackberries and raspberries) and a hint of tobacco. Somehow the plush-ness of the wine went fine with the Chinese food, and didn’t overpower the cuisine. I later bought this wine at The Sampler wine store in Kensington, however it tasted differently like it needed more age – I didn’t have a decanter on me and it really does help open this wine up like they did in the restaurant. So, decanter you should… Around $20AU.

The Mitre (London) – I was quite surprised with this ‘by the glass’ wine – BARBERA DEL MONFERRATO ‘VOLPI’, 2009: For a casual place this is a good wine, possibly one of the best I’ve had by the glass at a pub. Good honest Italian wine – bright red and black fruit including cherry and blackberry, dark colour, good food-friendly acidity but also good on its own (unlike some Italian wines which some find hard to enjoy by themselves due to the austere acidity and tannin – however they are the perfect match with food). Around $10AU/glass.

Home House – club in London with a good red by the glass: AUGUSTINOS BIO BIO VALLEY, PINOT NOIR, CHILE, 2009 – Red & black fruits on the nose with deeper liquorice, leather and earthy characteristics (good for a wine by the glass at a bar, where Pinots can often be like a fruit bomb). Palate savoury with dense black fruits (like blackberry & black cherry), warm spice and a touch of black pepper, all enveloped in a smooth mouthfeel, with none of that ‘tarty acid’. Good example of Pinot from Chile.

Yauatcha, a nice Japanese restaurant (London) – had the PLANETA, CERASUOLO DI VITTORIA, SICILY ITALY, 2009, which they serve chilled. The red wine is a transparent ruby colour, with a fruity bouquet crammed full of strawberries, cherries, dry fig and raisins… The palate is full of these fruits, and also presents pleasant soft tannins followed by a pleasant acidity and round full mouthfeel. Nice, lean finish too.

Other good wines tried were at:

The Ebury, London – Saint Estephe, Chateau les ormes de pez, 1996;

Vinoteca Wine Bar, London – wide range of Spanish/Italian wines (as well as international);

Sake no Hana, London – Devil’s Corner, Pinot Noir, Tasmania, 2008, chilled & by the glass. I also had amazing sake there called Azumaichi – very easy to drink, rich, very soft/unique rolling feel in the mouth, semi-dry;

Kensington Wine Bar, London – tried a good amount of wines including a nice red under the name of Paul Pernot, 2008;

Berry Bros and Rudd, Wine Merchant, London – have a great selection of wines and I was lucky enough to have a tour of the underground wine cellars and rooms right underneath London city, which are beautiful;

Institute of Directors, London – good wine list with classic wines, I had Gevrey-Chambertin;

The Hilton Hotel, London – classic Penfolds Bin 128 at Freddie Flintoff’s charity ball – the table was filled with this never-ending juice!

I also added my favourite restaurants from this trip to my top restaurant page which are well worth a visit if you’re around the areas. Cheers!

5 thoughts on “London, Monaco and South France…

  1. Not only did I already envy you for being so gorgeous, now you have to go off on a trip to leave me positively green. Sounds wonderful.

      1. actually, my emphasis was not on tasting wine! 🙂

        I remember the 1990’s travelling Europe on tennis circuit, travelled & stayed in every wine region in France, Italy & Spain…. but I never drunk alcohol back then…. only started drinking wine when I met my ex around 2000…. and I look back now wondering how I missed out on so much damn fine wine in Burgundy, Bordeaux, Tuscany, etc! and it would have been so cheap back then in Europe…. oh well!

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