iS Tapas Bar (249 Gympie Terrace, Noosaville, Queensland, 07 5447 1818). In usually sunny Noosaville it was gusty and alternately raining and shining, looking for a light lunch we stopped at the open-fronted iS Tapas Bar and were given a table with views of the Noosa River.
iS is fully licensed but allows patrons to bring their own wine ($4 corkage fee per bottle) and we took along a 2003 Petaluma Hanlin Hill Riesling. Despite its rather warm cellaring in our house it was in excellent condition – sprightly and lemony with just an occasional hint of that aged riesling character that we all know and love yet find hard to describe without annoying winemakers.
From the longish menu we chose Chili mushrooms – in a light sauce/marinade of butter, lemon juice, chili, garlic and finely chopped herebs; Parmesan crumbed artichokes – these were served with the stems (quite edible) attached and looked a little like chicken drumsticks – served with a truffle and lime mayonnaise; Manchego cheese croquettes – crumbed, about the size of pool balls – with a quince paste sauce, and Tempura vegetables on skewers -tiny morsels of crisp veg in the lightest of batter.
The food presentaion was attractive, the waiter was hip and we really enjoyed each dish. The bill for two, including corkage, totalled $42.
One Sunday for a treat, I wandered down and had a big plate of Eggs Benedict Florentine: two poached eggs smothered in a creamy Hollandaise sauce, on a bed of just wilted baby spinach leaves, on grilled sourdough. I just had to have crispy hash browns on the side and, to top it all off, a flat white.
Senderens (9 Place de la Madeleine, Paris 8e, 0142652290): what hope is there of finding a last-minute table at super-chef Alain Senderens’ fabulously redecorated and voluntarily de-starred restaurant on a Tuesday night during the busy Batimat building material exhibition here in Paris? Crise-oblige, it was not a problem, and so on the spur of the moment we returned to this grand establishment, which I visited over ten years ago, when my friend Harry generously invited us here for his birthday; back then it was called Lucas Carton, the cooking was superb, Alain Senderens was still in the kitchen, and it was incredibly pricy the way only Parisian 3-star restaurants can be.
‘My own experience with sommeliers is that they invariably offer the highest price wine.’ So wrote Peter Robotti, restaurateur, in 1972. (Key to Gracious Living. Prentice Hall.)
I believe Mr Robotti’s quote holds pretty much true 37 years on. Sommeliers are meant to advise diners about wine selections and food and wine matching but in Australia they often end up as wine marketers for restaurant owners. And if it’s not always the highest priced wine they suggest, sommeliers and wine waiters do have a certain knack of upselling… Never has any sommelier ever suggested to me selections from the inexpensive wines on a wine list.
Kuta has an obvious village atmosphere. Bare-chested old men in sarongs sit on platforms and groom their fighting cocks. In and around the thatched buildings, scabrous dogs, chickens and swayback pigs root around, wistful-eyed cows graze in nearby coconut groves.
Traditionally dressed women place little woven trays of flowers, rice, and incense, as offerings to the gods at shrines and strategic sites. Soldiers with guns walk around the market stalls. Hippies and Bali Boys ride motor bikes along the beach waterline.
Getting a reservation at the Sant Pau (c/Nou, 10 – E-08395 Sant Pol de Mar – Catalunya, Spain – T: +34-93-7600662) is not an easy matter, this three-star dining room only has 9 tables. Catherine and I travel frequently to Catalunya, my parents live in the Baix Empordà area; the region is also one of the earth’s true hot spots for star chefs: within 120km of Sant Feliu de Guíxols, that useful tyrant known as the Red Guide has identified 38 one-star eateries, 2 two-stars and 3 three-stars! While I can only describe my experience at super-legendary elBulli as “interesting”, a recent visit to El Celler de Can Roca proved to be one the most memorable and perfect lunches of my life. Sant Pau is very different from Can Roca, and yet both share the same extremely high level of taste, precision, service as well as culinary culture and intelligence.
by Martin Field
A bunch of New Zealand winemakers were in town recently as part of their Australian roadshow – the occasion was a grand dinner with NZ wines at Berardo’s Restaurant.
I rang the restaurant well in advance to request a no-meat, no-seafood meal. The person who answered asked if I realised that this was a seven course degustation menu with wines carefully matched to courses. I said that I’d be well satisfied with a couple of vego dishes and asked her not to drive the chef mad.
On the night, every guest was presented with a menu describing the wines and food. To my surprise, I was given my own menu, each dish a variation on the seven-course omnivore’s banquet. My meal was cleverly constructed to mirror the main menu and at the same time to harmonise with the wines. This is what I call true professionalism.
The wines were top notch, the list without any undue emphasis on the expected theme of sauvignon blanc. One of the winemakers asked me for my pick of the night and I chose the 2007 Marlborough Staete Landt Chardonnay: elegant and light-bodied, with elements of newly picked nectarine, understated oak and a crisp tangy finish.
My last visit dates back to October 2007, at the time I had sent my friend Eric Sapet to the Istrian Truffle Festival in Croatia, and on his return he had prepared a meal inspired by white truffles in his then new Petite Maison. I have since tried several times to book a table, mission impossible! No wonder, when a restaurant serves such “passionate” cuisine at affordable prices, success is guaranteed.
This Saturday, I was lucky to find a table for 4. We headed for the Luberon with our friends Michael and Marie Rose, about 1.5 hours’ drive, to the village of Cucuron, one of the most beautiful in Provence, with its clock tower, its walls and the immense pond on the main square surrounded by old plane trees. La Petite Maison de Cucuron (Place de l’Etang, Cucuron, 04 90 68 21 99) is right next to the pond. It is Saturday noon and Eric is conducting a cooking class on the ground floor, we happen to arrive during the preparation of a soufflé pancake.
The restaurant is small, the kitchen is only 4m2 … It is well known that to make good wine you need to keep yields low in the vineyard, but in restaurants yields can be very high, this minuscule kitchen is sufficient to treat 40 guests to a cuisine as generous, honest, tasty, creative and cheerful as its author, the dishes are always perfectly cooked and well presented, the service, thanks to Patrick and Camille, is friendly and competent.
On Wednesday evening February 18 I met Joan Gómez Pallarès to discover this incredible laboratory of wine and taste sensations, certainly unique in this world, called Mon Vínic (c / Diputació 249 Barcelona – Eixample, +34-932726187) – in Catalan, “The World of Wine”. Surprisingly not very well known, despite the level of ambition of the project and the huge investment required, it is a sensational place for wine lovers, made magical by:
• its rich collection of wines, thousands of bottles from all over the world, including some very old Malaga bottles reaching back to 1795, all available for tasting or meals at prices barely above what you pay for them at a wine merchant’s, even those that have rested in the cellar for a few years (aging is free!).
• its incredible architecture all in wood, concrete and stainless steel signed Alfons Tost,
• the documentation center, a library of books and magazines about wine from around the world, with several terminals to connect to the internet or the place’s wine database.
• the extraordinary competence and kindness of its sommeliers under the leadership of César Cánovas and Isabelle Brunet,
• the creativity strongly rooted in terroir and tradition of chef Sergi De Meià, whose dishes may be enjoyed in the “culinary space”, where some forty guests can be seated at two long white tables to enjoy their meal, with wines selected for this incredible cellar by means of touch screens on tablet PCs that provide access to the cellar’s database, including photos of the labels, information on the winery, etc..
• the selection of wines by the glass or half-glass: every day fifty labels are available in the restaurant or at the wine bar for ridiculously low prices.
• the class or conference room, used as a tasting workshop space
• the wine bar, a relaxing place for tasting wine
Tuesday evening 17 February 2009 is the second gastronomic stop of my stay in Barcelona. Rosal34 (c/ del Roser 34, Barcelona – Poble Sec, +34-933249046) is the contemporary and refined tapas restaurant of Oscar Adelantado and chef Josep Nicolau. The restaurant is closed Sunday, Monday noon and holidays.
Sitting in this beautiful modern room, we start with a series of three tapas to share:
Tàrtar de tonyina amb soja, mostassa Antigua, ous de salmó i fulls verds – a tuna tartare with soy, mustard and salmon caviar, spicy and tasty
Mozzarella i tomàquet sec italià – mozzarella and sundried tomatoes, fairly simple and lightweight
Cecina de Lleó amb formatge Idiazàbal – dried smoked beef from the hind quarters, a delicacy from the province of León, beautiful dark red thin slices served with basque Idiazábal ewe’s cheese, which I find similar to Pecorino di Pienza.