A virtual visit to Burgundy (London EC2V 7AY)
I am sure I am not alone in having abandoned any thoughts of travel this year but there are some great experiences to be had closer to home if you know where to look. During my wine career, the annual trip to Burgundy was always one of the highlights of the year and is a habit I have found hard to kick having left the trade. This year I will have to forego the pilgrimage but when an old customer (and almost by definition, Burgundy lover) suggested we meet up for lunch there was only one place to go; La Cabotte in Gresham Street, a stone’s throw from the Guildhall and the Bank of England.
It is named after the small restaurant on Nuits St George’s high street – la Grande Rue – which is now virtually pedestrianised. A cabotte is a stone hut found in the vineyards for sheltering vignerons and the name is most apt as you will always find a good huddle of them here come rain or shine. The wine list for this relatively modest eatery is exceptional and you can find cracking bottles from interesting growers at all price points. Little wonder it is a favourite haunt of wine merchants keen on a bargain or perhaps on discovering a new lead worth following up in the afternoon. It was a couple of sommeliers, Gearoid Devaney, now the Sales Director of Flint wines and Xavier Rousset, who set up the London Cabotte looking to emulate this little gem of a place and they have created a Burgundian haven in the heart of the City.
To be greeted by name as you enter a restaurant is always nice until you realise that the reason they know who you are is because you are the only reservation that afternoon! The City streets too were eerily quiet compared to the normal jostling crowd of “suits” but this is a good time to explore the little lanes and back alleys that are packed with historical interest. In normal times you would fight for a table here, but we plumped ourselves down at the best table and ordered a couple of glasses of Albert Bichot’s excellent Crémant de Bourgogne to rectify any feelings of disquiet. They duly arrived with a couple of Gougères, the traditional cheese puffs often served in the cellars during tastings.
The menu is littered with Burgundian classics like Jambon Persillé, Oeufs Meurette & Bouef Bourguignon but rather like its French counterpart the menu relies more on fresh ingredients than regional loyalty and changes daily. We kicked off with a small bowl of Farfalle pasta with fresh broad beans, peas and smoked ham. This was perfect with a carafe (50cl) of Pernand Vergelesses Blanc 2016 Domain Poisot (you do not have to have a bottle off the “short list” wines). The lesser known villages on the Côte d’Or offer great value for money and this did not disappoint. Pernand is tucked just behind the great hill of Corton of Corton Charlemagne fame and the village is as vertical as it is horizontal. From the top of the village the vista over the vineyards towards Beaune is spectacular. It is home to some excellent properties and I have been visiting one of them, Domaine Dubreuil-Fontaine since the early 1980’s. I will certainly be paying M. Remi Poisot a visit when I finally get over there again.
We continued with a bottle of 2017 Monthélie (rouge), 1er Cru ‘Le Meix Bataille’, Douhairet-Porcheret recommended by Gearoid who by now had sensibly invited one of his customers (and once upon a time one of mine!) to join him for lunch. This was fast becoming foodies re-union, albeit a very small one! This was a good choice: it matched well with my lamb as well as my friends fish. Monthelie’s vineyards border those of Volnay and Meursault and whilst the reds are a bit lighter than those of Volnay they have a silky feminine charm (if that’s not too sexist). The 2017’s are drinking beautifully right now; they are forward, juicy and best enjoyed whilst still vibrant and fresh.
We could have continued with their excellent Tarte Tatin, a mainstay of the menu and/or cheese but on this occasion, in departure from Burgundian custom, we called it a day. A visit to Burgundy may have to remain on hold for now but if you are pining for a bit of a getaway, why not start with a visit to the Cabotte website - www.cabotte.co.uk. Better still give them a call 0207 600 1616 a pay them a visit. You will get a very warm welcome and of course your £10 off Monday to Wednesday.