Seven decades of wine with lunch at Simpson's
Restaurant, Birmingham 20 October 2007
The menu at Simpsons
was something (but not exactly?) like :
some delicious, very delicate potato pancakes-cum-blinis; some nice, but
ultimately unexciting Cornish crab croquettes; and some good ham hock
croquettes. All very well made, but three fried items? Two of them
melon, lime and ginger dressing, lardon of smoked duck this was a nice
dish, the salmon and melon being presented in equal sized cubes, which gives a
wholly different texture to smoked salmon. A nice, bright citrus dressing. The
little shards of bacon-like smoked duck breast, slow-baked to a crisp, were a
scallops with cep compote, pumpkin purée and cep foam Can't really
remember much about this. Must've wolfed it down with the Auslese &
of red mullet, fennel and artichoke barigoule, lentils du Puy, green beans,
sauce aux épices absolutely excellent mullet, and while the accompaniments
were good, and the dish as a whole worked well, I didn't think the
accompaniments quite lived up to the brilliance of the goldfish, oops, red
mullet fillet. I found the sauce a bit powdery and raw.
Seared duck foie
gras, roast banana with black pepper, pain d’épices, banana purée
Probably the weakest dish I thought, but only because of one element: the
banana purée. Incredibly smooth, very banana-y purée, but just too sweet,
overpowering and sickly. Fortunately, it was easy enough to ignore the banana
purée and enjoy the large slab of foie gras with the roast banana and pain
d'épices, which did all work well together. I seem to recall that the
combination of foie gras and pain d'épices dates back to Simpsons days in
Kenilworth. Did the foie gras come in a pain d'épices crumb back then?
Rack of lamb with
spiced couscous, ras el hanout sauce, red peppers, lemon confit,
apricots This was good, but I was getting a bit bored by yet more spices.
The couscous had pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, flaked almonds and pomegranate;
possibly a bit of chilli too.
Salad of poached
and raw pear, fourme d’ambert, walnuts, honey and balsamic dressing now
this was really good. A bit mean on the cheese maybe, but a nice palate
cinammon doughnut with raspberry coulis. nice and light (both the doughnut
and the coulis). Yum.
with cherries and cinnamon ice cream gobbled mine up too quickly because I
was rushing for a train. Superb chocolate pastry. The ganache style filling was
just a very high class ganache style filling. Top class ice cream. But note both
the dessert and the pre-dessert continue the kitchen's love affair with spices,
and both involved cinammon. It worked well in both dishes, but why not a bit of
And now the
1976 Diebolt Vallois Blanc de Blancs
Some passing mousse
when poured, but in the glass there is a good firm bubble stream. Deepish gold.
It has a rich, creamy nose. Lovely on the palate, with a sort of delicate
richness. Nicely layered. There's an attractive nuttiness, plus some oxidation,
but just the right amount. Not as good as it was two and a half years ago at the
Champagne Offline, but still Very Good Indeed+.
Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese, J J Prüm
A very dark gold. Lightly petrolled
nose with a hint of honey and a touch of wet slate. Glorious in the mouth and
showing some age. Perfect balance. Stunning. Excellent.
No rush to drink
2002 Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru, Louis Latour
golden colour. The nose is lovely and delicate with an attractive lemony
minerality. There's nice refinement on the palate initially; then it feels
rather full and forward, but it also has a leanness which turns into savouriness
on the finish. Very restrained use of oak. Very Good.
Desirée, AC Rivesaltes, 500ml, 16%
A mid polished teak colour. Quite a
restrained nose: nutty, raisiny and pleasingly oxidised. Very good palate.
Superb balance. Gently caressing, with no spiritiness. Very Good
1967 Romanée St Vivant Les Quatres Journaux, Louis
Remarkably (and a touch worryingly) close in colour to the
Rivesaltes. But let's not worry about the appearance, just get the nose in and
soak up that gorgeous old Burgundy nose: there's lots of sous bois with a very
gentle VA lift, along with some curranty fruit. Very good on the palate. There's
still enough life left, with some very nice fruit still in the middle. Very fine
and delicate, with a lovely, lifted finish. Lasted reasonably well in the glass,
though gone over after about an hour. Very Good Indeed.
High fill, well into the neck. In the glass it is an opaque,
cloudy red-mahogany. The nose is very old claret with some stewed pruney fruit.
On the palate, there's no doubt this has an old, somewhat tired feel, but it
does has some good, sweet black fruit still. Drying and with a grainy feel
(grainy tannins or is the graininess simply from sediment in suspension?). Faded
a bit in the glass. Very Good/Very Good Indeed.
Domaine Jean-Louis Chave
A youngish dark ruby appearance. Spicy, meaty
nose, feeling quite young and brooding. Very attractive palate. There are big
chewy tannins, but it's not too young to be drinkable (though would benefit from
more time). It feels somewhat tighter on the finish. Super balance. Very Good
1995 Oremus Essencia
A mere 3% alcohol. From a dinky
little 25 cl bottle, this didn't so much pour as drop out of the bottle,
revealing an amazing tan gold colour. There is honey and tea and lots of nice
things on the nose. On the palate it's sweet, sweet, sweet, but then a very,
very searing acidity comes along. This is so damn good that it's very difficult
to write anything sensible about it. It's not in the slightest bit sticky or
cloying, though there is a sort of rich gloopiness in the mouth. How do you
score this? Outstanding.
1993 Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Les Cras,
Domaine Ghislaine Barthod
The nose has lifted strawberry and cherry
fruit, with significant forest floor overtones. A vibrant, lovely palate with
good, elegant, restrained fruit. There's noticeable acidity. Very fine finish
with very good length. Very Good Indeed.