Establishment's Second Birthday
I was invited to the dinner to celebrate the second birthday of the Establishment restaurant in Manchester: hearing the menu and the accompanying wines removed the slightest hint of hesitation!

The evening started with a walk up the red carpet into the restaurant where the waiting staff were lined up like a (slightly uncomfortable) guard of honour, with copious amounts of Louis Roederer NV flowing to accompany canapés. The canapés were a disc of very good pressed ham hock topped with a dab of piccalli and a few baby leaves; a nice light goats cheese mousse served on a spoon, which might have benefited from a slightly smaller spoon and consequently smaller portion); a tart of warm cod in a light cheese sauce; and another tart of a fresh escabèche of sardine on some light tomato concasse. Unfortunately both the tarts could really have done with much thinner pastry. The Roederer NV had a nice, and somewhat surprising, richness and roundness that made it rather moreish.

Once at the table, the first course was an Escabèche of Red Mullet with poached langoustines, oscietra caviar, chilled watermelon and cucumber salad. This had two fillets of very fresh tasting red mullet, served warm, one very large, lightly poached langoustine, and another breadcrumbed and deep fried. The melon worked well with the fish, the cucumber less so. The breadcrumbed langoustine added a useful contrast in texture, but only briefly, as the whole dish was served in a bowl of melony liquid, that was actually rather good, but it did make the fried langoustine soggy and, without any spoon being provided, couldn't be consumed.

The escabèche of mullet was served with a 2001 Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru Les Perriers, Etienne Sauzet The had a buttery sweetish fruit nose with a hint of melon and a hint of mushroom. Round and open on the palate, initially it feels a touch simple, but left in the glass, with time it builds into something really quite full and complex, yet retaining an appropriate elegance. It worked well, not so much directly with the mullet, but with the residual flavours in the mouth after the food has been swallowed. Very Good Indeed/Excellent.

The next dish was a fantastic marbling of guinea fowl and foe gras with cumbrian ham, wild mushrooms and baby leeks, toasted pain poilaine Rich yet light and by no means overdense, with a wise combination ofthe various ingredients, all wrapped in Richard Woodall's ham. This worked superbly with the accompanying wine: 2003 Erdener Treppchen Riesling Auslese Meulenhof A very closed minerally, peachy nose. Immediately sweet on the attack, but this has really quite decent balance. Very long. A good, clean auslese for food (it really needs food - any sort of terrine would be great), just maybe suffering slightly from the 2003 disease. Very Good Indeed.

The Auslese worked superbly with the next dish too, a demitasse of Mini French Onion Soup made with a fabulously rich meat stock.

The main course was Roast saddle of spring lamb, canneloni of organic Welsh goats' cheese, house dried tomatoes, aubergine and courgette The lamb really suffered a great deal from not having been rested long enough and from coming out to the table with far too much fat still attached. A quenelle of very strongly flavoured green olive tapenade also jarred with the rest of the dish. The canneloni of goats' cheese was delicious in itself and worked extremely well with the lamb.
The lamb was accompanied by 2002 Pinot Noir By Farr, Geelong, Australia, which had a very deep, raspberry fruit nose, but with a bit of heat and quite spicy. On the palate, it was realy very similar and just a touch hot. But two to three hours later, this had vastly improved when I returned to it with the cheese, with which it was a vastly better match than the '77 Dow. Given the time, Very Good Indeed.

A pre-dessert was "Rhubarb and Elderflower". This was a delightful miniature creme brulée, with a delicately flavoured rhubarb compote base. Unfortunatley, this was lacking in crispy brulée topping, having been blowtorched too far in advance. A light elderflower moussey-foamy-creamy thing balanced the richness of the crème brulée.

The dessert itself was A trio of lemon with fresh raspberries. This was a good lemon tart (maybe a bit sweet?), a gorgeous lemon parfait that was perfectly judged, and a less well-judged rather soggy disc of shortbread topped with a rich lemon curd. A very nice plate, and it was no hardship when they brought us another plateful, as the kitchen had forgotten the parfait off one of our plates. But it's a shame really that they couldn't have come up with something more seasonal than raspberries.

With the dessert, and just about standing up to it, was served a 2002 Moscato Passito Palazzina from Araldica. This had a fairly powerful nose, though not overly muscatty and not really grapey at all: rather, a rich, honeyed and tropical nose. Deep and powerful on the palate, yet still with very lovely balance. Quite almondy and marzipanny on the palate. Just a touch disjointed on the finish, when the acidity and the sweetness just seem to separate out a bit too much. Very Good+

Brie de Meaux with Black Truffle was an à point brie that had been sliced open, a liberal layer of black (summer?) truffles inserted before the brie was sandwiched back together again. This worked beautifully, and was served in a suitably generous portion. As already mentioned, 1977 Dow Vintage Port was served to accompany this, though the Pinot Noir from Gary Farr was, unsurprisingly, a much better match. The Dow had a very figgy nose with blackberries and a blast of spirit. Very much in the Dow style, which, with every bottle of Dow's I try, I increasingly think is not for me. The 1977 still felt quite young on the attack. Very deep, chocolatey fruit, but also a lot of spirit. Good length. Could have done with being opened and more aggresively decanted rather earlier than it was (around 4-5 hours earlier). Very Good+

Coffee and petits fours were accompanied by a glass of 1999 Cristal, Louis Roederer, which I thought was going to be far, far too young, tight and infanticide. But actually, it was very giving and open. A very, very fresh, crisp nose with just a touch of biscuit and a nice hint of strawberries and cream. Crisp and clean on the attack, it develops a nice creaminess and depth, with lots of interest. Very Good Indeed/Excellent.

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Last updated: 14 May 2006