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Douglas Blyde tucks into 'real wine and wild food' at North Road

Published:  27 June, 2012

It was an evening of evening of 'real' wine and wild food at North Road.

Phil Barnett, restaurateur of 'Bumbles' turned wine representative for firm natural wine specialist, Caves de Pyrene, François Couplan, Switzerland-based forager, and Peter Studzinski, a home-grown, Hampshire-based forager, rendezvoused at the Michelin-starred Nordic restaurant, for the event.

When I first visited the minimalist looking restaurant on opening in November 2010, few natural wines were offered. Love them or loathe them, the decision to put on a dinner largely devoted to low sulphur (and sometimes sulphur-free) wines made by apparently honest people deploying honourable methods shows their growing relevance.

Danish chef, Hruskova created a short menu of precise dishes using Couplan and Studzinski's roots and shoots, matched to Barnett's natural bins, beginning with 'native' lobster, sea beet and sea kale. With this, Barnett selected Lard des Choix Blanc 2010 from the Ardeche. Described on the restaurant's website as 'wholly natural, made from Grenache Blanc planted on the rocky soils with granite influence,' with 'fleshy, pear and pineapple and a hint of gunsmoke,' it bore just enough acidity to pep the pleasantly barely-cooked shellfish.

With the most successful dish of wild Hampshire mushrooms, 'stems & broth', guests drank an unusually mature, un-filtered and un-fined Verdicchio (Marche IGT Bianco 1997, San Lorenzo). Produced by a cooper by training, the un-verdant, amber, oxidised wine captured the imagination of Couplan more than it did me. Incidentally, Couplan later admitted absolute shock when I mentioned that the UK produced award-winning sparkling wines.

With wood pigeon breast, cooked pink, with ransoms and garlic mustard, Barnett selected the bright in flavour, balanced, Igueira Merenzao Crianza 2009 (Adega Algueira, Ribera Sacra), which he described as coming from very rural, mountainous Galicia.

Finally, pétillant Moscato from Asti (Lumine 2010 Ca d'Gal), a commune famous for its week-long wine festival, was harvested from steep slopes. At just 5%, it barely felt like wine, but proved the freshest, most food friendly of what Barnett showed, complementing Hruskova's scene of a dish - 'birch, sorrel & pine'.

The following day, Couplan and Hruskova headed into the countryside along with leading chefs, Nuno Mendes (Viajante) and James Knappett (Bubbledogs). I hope some of our vineyards were on the itinerary.

Douglas Blyde.

North Road
69 - 73 St John Street