Being born in the 60s, I have fond memories of that classic comedy Fawlty Towers with one of my all time favourites episodes (still can’t believe there are only 12 – each a pearler) being Basil’s inglorious attempt to drag his hotel upmarket and away from the plebs (at least in his arch snob eyes) by holding a “Gourmet Night”. There is one peach of a scene where Basil castigates verbally and then phyically assaults his clapped out Austin 1100. I have had many a similar conversation with my work computer, with which I have a hate, loath and despise relationship.
It would undoubtedly be in thousands of piece on the ground outside my office if the windows in my office opened.
As a result of Basil’s efforts, terms such as “gourmet night” (or variations on that theme) do not give me the positive impression that they perhaps should.
So a “Gourmet Evening” at Bully’s in Cardiff (a bit too close for comfort to Basil’s “Gourmet Night”) which promised (according to the website) :
…… a chance for us to show case seasonal food and exquisite fine wines …….. so you can “sit back and enjoy” the company of your friends and loved ones, with the hassle free of trying to work out what wines will go with what dish!!!!!!
BE AWARE…..we free pour the wines during the evening…so it is advised to book the next day off!!!!!
filled me initially with a little more trepidation than should perhaps have been the case.
With Bully’s, one my favourite Cardiff restaurant at the moment, I was in safe hands with the promised free flowing wine very much sweetening the deal.
I have already reviewed Bully’s, back in July, but their Gourmet Evenings are an altogether different beast and deserving of a stand alone review.
For a set price of £75 per head (added to this automatically – grrrrr- is a 10% discretionary service charge) you get a an aperitif followed by an amuse bouche and then a 5 course dinner with wine pairings with each course, as well as a palate cleansing sorbet between the fish and meat courses.
I shall go straight to the food and wine.
The evening jollities started off with an aperitif in the form of a fizz from Limoux (Blanquette de Limoux Reserve, Mademoiselle Marguerite 2013). I am not a great lover of fizz (gives me indigestion) but this was very pleasant.
It had a nice light mousse (the effervescence) to it and was not too acid for my delicate digestive system.
First up on the food front was a demitasse (small cup) of mushroom soup, spiked with truffle oil. This was full of lovely earthy autumnal flavours. It came with some nice home baked bread (with butter and smoked salt). A very pleasant start to the food proceeding.
With this we had a glass (or two) of a very pleasing Burgundian chardonnay in the form of a Bourgogne Chardonnay , Cote Chalonnaise, Vignerons de Buxy 2012.
This had a nice light oakiness to it, with a lovely creaminess on the palate
Course 1 – advocado, beetroot and pistachio salad
A nice, if slightly subdued, start to the proper elements of the meal. Nicely dressed salad leave with earthy beetroot, creamy pureed avocado and a few scattered pistachios. I love all of these things and this was a very pleasant starter.
It was a fairly simple dish and perhaps something more could have been done with the beetroot to give it a bit more pizzazz, but it was a nice enough, clean tasting dish.
The wine with this was another Burgundy (red), in the form of a Fleurie, Manoir du Carra 2012.
Made from the Gamey grape this had nice aromas of raspberry and a touch of smokiness on the palate. It went well with the beetroot etc.
Course 2 – Halibut gravalax, grapefruit and wild rocket
Lightly cured (50:50 sugar and salt with the addition of dill) thinly sliced halibut, this had nice clean flavours to it.
The richness of the fish was nicely countered by the sharp grapefruit segments and the peppery wild rocket. I was more keen on this dish that Mrs. SF who was not enamoured with the texture of the fish (due to the cure).
The wine pairing for this was a Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc from Touraine (Domaine du Rin du Boix 2014).
This was perhaps my least favourite wine pairing of the night. With classic aromas of gooseberry and sharp grapefuit on the palate, it somewhat jarred with the grapefruit segments in the dish causing a bit of grapefruit overkill. Nothing wrong with the wine itself, just not one for me paired with this dish. I would have gone with a dry Alsace Riesling or even a fino sherry.
Course 3 – Barbary duck breast, rosti potato, tender stem broccoli , spiced duck sauce
This lovely piece of meat, with a crispy skin (and the fat rendered down properly), was cooked just how I like it – medium rare touching on the rare.
The accompanying rosti was nicely crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, with a nice bite to the tender stem broccoli (nothing worse than overcooked, mushy broccoli). The sauce had a spiceiness to it that worked very well with the duck. An excellent dish packed with great flavours.
The wine pairing with this was a Chateau Musar 2008, a fabulous Lebanese wine from the great (but regrettably late) Serge Hochar (a true legend of the wine world).
This wine exuded aromas of autumn fruits and cedar and has a nice touch of liquorice and spice (cinnamon) on the palate, on top of ripe berries. A cracking wine to go with the duck. I took full advantage of the “free flowing” wine on this one.
A palate cleasing muscat grape sorbet was next up, which worked a treat in its stated aim.
Course 4 – Cheese board
One a Roquefort, with that lovely sharp salty tang to it, the other a milder one (the name of which I cannot recall – the free poured wine having started to take its toll at this point). It came with a nice selection of crackers (enough of them too, which is good to see) and a lovely home made chutney.
Whilst most people opt for red wine or port for cheese, with blue cheese a sweet wine is a very good (and in my view a much better) match. Here we had a Chateau La Rame Sainte – Croix- du Mont 2012.
This wine was a blend of 75% Sémillon and 25% Sauvignon Blanc. Aged in oak barrels is had aromas of vanilla and lovely sweet ripe stone fruit (nectarines and apricot) on the palate. Gorgeous stuff and really good with the blue cheese.
Course 5 – poached port and vanilla figs, gingerbread ice cream
Last up was a seriously good dessert. Ripe figs poached in a reduced fruity port sauce with a nice hit of vanilla and a killer ginger bread ice cream that had a massive ginger snap biscuit kick to it.
My recollection of this wine is a bit hazy – but I recall very pleasant apricot and honey.
Lovely food, great wine and a congenial host in the form of Russell who explained in an engaging way each course and wine pairing. What’s not to like about that.
A great event which I would unreservedly recommend. As they say on the website, it is worth booking the day off after this as I drunk a fair bit of wine and was very glad not to have to wake up for work the next morning.
The damage (with the automatically added tip and a coffee) was £168.85 (I paid at the time of booking a £20 deposit per person).
I thought for the quality of the food and the free flowing wine this was pretty good value.
Would I go again? Definately – nothing remotely “fawlty” about this gourmet evening.
5 Romily Crescent
Tel: +44(0)2920 221905
Bully’s gourmet evenings are held once every couple of months. The next date is November 26th, billed as Gourmet Exceptionnel which sounds very interesting indeed. It is more pricey at £150 per head, but there are some seriously good wines included as part of the deal (including ones from Margaux, Barolo and Condrieu). Regrettably I can’t make it :((
If the Gourmet Exceptionnel is a bit rich for your blood, the next standard “Gourmet Evening” at Bullys is at the back end of January 2016