Friday 7 December 2007

The trouble with texture

This is not a review of the new restaurant, Texture. It is just a pathetic whimper about how texture is no substitute for taste!

Last night, we went to a French wine tasting dinner at our local pub. Interestingly, all 4 wines on offer were red. Unfortunately, I have a heavy cold and couldn't actually pick wine from water by smell.

As a first course we could either have baked camembert in a box with crusty bread shared between 2 people, or a classic French onion soup. The cheese had a lovely creamy texture, and my husband said it was very pungent. The bread let it down - white and fluffy, not a bit crusty or countrified. The wine was a Chinon, quite thin and a very light red colour. Apparently it is quite good chilled as an aperitif.

Then there was beef bourguinonne with mash and veg. The beef was lovely - very tender and quite juicy - but there was no bacon or little onions in the sauce (so I think my way is better). The mash had just enough texture to it to be reassuring that it wasn't Deb (which I think is called Smash in this country); the veg (mange tout) were perfectly balanced between crisp and floppy. The wine was made from 100% pinot noir. A little more substantial on the palate than the previous one, but I was still getting nothing from it. My husband was diving into it, which leads me to believe that it was a very delicate wine. It certainly wasn't puckering my mouth the way the massive tannin-y shiraz I like does.

I think the kitchen made an error of judgement now, and decided to serve the pudding before the cheese. So out came what they called a pear tarte tatin and I would have called a fine tart. It really wasn't caramelly enough to be a tarte renverse; the pears were only lightly cooked and showed no sign of being upside down. But the pastry was short and flakey and the creme anglais on the side was the thickest custard I've ever seen without the aid of cornflour. There was a definite change in the wine served with this. I could feel much more of a syrupy texture and a blunt sugar hit on my tongue.

Going back to cheese was a bit odd. What I would have judged to be quite a young, chalky goats cheese tasted as mild as butter and I decided there was no point even trying the others. The wine felt thin again after the dessert wine and had a definitely acid edge. Since sauternes is so nice with blue cheese, I would have thought staying with sweet wines and maybe bringing out a fortified for the last course would have been a better move.

So, a very pleasant evening of textures with no flavour at all. Makes me wonder what on earth the pleasantly spicy kofta I'd had for lunch tasted like!

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