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10 June 2015

geology + gastronomy

i do such a good job of pretending to know about things like wine and food that sometimes i get invited to some really super fancy events, then simply just because i turn up at said events and manage to fool roomfuls of people into thinking i'm one of them, the invitations continue to come. every time it happens, i panic that maybe this is the time that my act will be foiled and my true identity will be uncovered; it happened most recently when an invite from the sommelier extraordinaire douglas blyde dropped into my inbox with an invite to an evening of delicious wine, an exceptionally designed menu, and some very sweaty company in the underground lair at the chancery's private dining rooms in holborn.

having never been before, but having heard lots about the restaurant (and its new head chef graham long - a one-time student of the donkey-king himself, gordon ramsay)(at claridge's, no less!) - not to mention the subtle clues that the night would be fuelled by a fantastic french drop, well... i was in. fraudster or not, i was in. i carefully read through the invite list to make sure there were some friendly faces (cue rosy rosie, matt the list and little miss ella as well as fierce allotment challenge competitor jo jo fusian) in attendance, then made my way over late wednesday afternoon, as i knocked off work.

while the welcome glasses (a refreshing 2012 dauvissat petit chablis) started to flow, conversation turned to how the reception room felt like it could be the devil's own courtyard, and mortally over-dressed waiters delivered delicious morsels of truffle arancini and crab beignets that we needed no encouragement to wolf down. i did take a slap or two to the hand from the server as per my dietary requirements requested, but with arancini that soft and salty, and yet crunchy at the very same time - there was no way i was letting a little bit of onion get the better of me (despite my deepest gratitude to the chef for actually taking note and making an onion-free menu for me in advance!).

before long our host sensibly suggested we take to street level for some air before taking our places in the dining room. with renewed beads of sweat forming where previous ones had been wiped away mere moments earlier, we agreed in unison that ~that was indeed a good idea.

we sat at a long dining table, and awaited instruction. it came in the form of blank tasting notes sheets, and numbered glasses above our empty plates. each glass was filled, and so, we tasted. to begin, a garnier and gils, grains dorés 2012 and a louis moreau 2014 suitably paired with marinated scallops with cucumber jelly, avocado cream, seasame filo and shiso dressing. a highlyly refreshing dish for a pair of delicately light chablis wines.

not that i wrote any notes of course. this is ~all from ~memory, obviously. we were encouraged to empty our vessels so they could be refilled for the next course; a jean marc brocard, montée de tonnerre 2011 and a val de mercy beauregard 2012 chablis premier cru were next paired with tartare of trout, poached apple, nettle puree, macadamia nuts and trout eggs. i remember none of this, or the next course because... i'd had close to six glasses of wine at this point. ever the professional, me. 

the final course and pairing came by way of roasted quail and cannelloni of the leg, foie gras, sweetcorn, hazlenuts, pickled mushrooms and wild garlic, with a domaine william févre, les clos 2012 and samuel billaud, les preuses 2012 chablis grand cru to wash it down... before a selection of neal's yard cheeses and an exclusive mature chablis premier cru - not yet available in the uk, was poured for our pleasure.

and pleasure it was. douglas was as well-informed and funny as ever, and kept us all tittering between courses with in-jokes and anecdotes, and his near-flawless introduction round where we managed to get the majority of the names right. a massive effort, i'll admit. there wasn't munch left to be said, so it was there, over a range of petits fours of beetroot, chocolate and passionfruit that we each went our separate - albeit wobbly, ways.

thanks very much to chef graham long for the attention to detail on our plates that night, as well as his incredible staff at the chancery restaurant for their wonderful service. as ever, a standing ovation to mr. blyde for proving to be not only our host, but an incredible entertainer, sommelier, and pretty decent companion - especially when there's bottomless french wine in reserve.

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