Eat & Drink
Originally published on Wednesday, 1st October 2008
El Bulli / Drink Like a Man
Burgundy, Merlot, Sherry, and The Square - Urban Junkies has teamed up with wine guru extraordinaire Tom Harrow to bring you the Wine Chap's useful Wine Tips.
DrinkOut: El Bulli
People don't make the pilgrimage to Bulli for the wines, any more than you used to go to Ronnie Scott's for the food, or the Sistine Chapel for the crush of tourists; but these factors will normally play a part in your visit. The most famous restaurant in the world may boast a 147-page list that is among the most comprehensive and drool-worthy, but a meal here is such an overwhelming theatrical experience, and the flavours, aromas and sensations during the 34 course eat-athon so diverse that I didn't have the energy or desire to concentrate on a further variable. And what wine, sipped alongside haricot bean with Joselito's Iberian pork fat, will work as well with the mandarin flower/pumpkin oil with mandarin seeds that follows, and then equally with black garlic ravioli?
After a Kyoto yuzu-infused sake - the perfect foil to Bulli's signature spherical olives - and a bottle of Bertha's Brut Natural Gran Reserva 2003 (easily the nicest – that is, the least unpleasant - Cava I've been convinced to try), our sommelier suggested we should move to white wines and stay there for around the first 20 dishes. I put in a request for a regional selection that were unoaked, clean and simple so as to least affect the flavours of the food.
First up from Valdeorass in Galicia: As Sortes 2005, Rafeal Palacios, from autochthonous varietal (see July column) Godello which was frankly God-awful. Cheap pun aside, the noticeable alcohol and oaky tones were not well-suited to the delicate, eastern-influenced concoctions that dominated the first quarter of the meal. Nelin 2005, by Clos Mogador - a rare white from this cooperative in Priorat was lighter and zestier, and should have been served first. Moving on to heavier dishes including game meat canapé and suckling pig tail, we shifted to a red - Masia Serra's Gneis 2001, from the local Ampurdan hills. A hedonistic blend of Garnacha, Cabernet and Merlot, this 'Super-Costa Bravan' was juicy and supple yet complex and well-structured and so enjoyable we decided to try their 1999, which was a little more sinewy and toothsome with age, but equally impressive.
As the extraordinary dinner wound up with the dishes autumn countryside and Morphings…, which would have been esoteric even when sober, we had a wholly unnecessary (but beautifully integrated) bottle of Champagne Drappier, Cuvee Grande Sendree 1996 and several Bas-Armagnacs from, well, an Armagnac producer I suppose, before stumbling off into the Spanish night. Like a Wagner opera, Ferran Adria, and his 45 chefs (yes, 45… for 50 covers) provide an epic virtuoso experience; intense, exhilarating, occasionally impenetrable, utterly suffusing and requiring 6 hours of your life. Over such an extended period of feasting, the booze may not be the reason you wait a year and a half for a table here, but its the reason you have to come back - at least to better recall the last third of the menu.
El Bulli : Cala Montjoi. Ap. 30 17480 . Roses, Girona, Spain • Tel: +34 972 150 457
GrapeVine: Drink like a man
Just as warnings on European packets of fags highlight the cosmetic effects of smoking 'Il fumo invecchia la pelle' (smoking ages your skin) rather than mundane concerns such as cancer or stunting your unborn child, the fun-police that is the Drug & Alcohol Service for London (not providers, I discovered) are appealing to the vanity of the capital's females with their poster campaign 'If you drink like a man you might end up looking like one'. This was actually the philosophy that underpinned my teens - even if a crackhead Barbara Cartland wasn't quite the look I was aspiring to - and I think the DASL would be better off appealing to London ladies civic pride and cultural superiority instead, with a slogan such as 'If you drink like a man you'll act like a Mancunian' accompanying stills from Booze Britain outside the legendary (?) Ritz Ballroom at 3am on Sunday morning.