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Diary of a sommelier: Jake Crimmin

Published:  09 February, 2009

Diary of a sommelier: Jake Crimmin, sommelier at The Gaucho Grill, Swallow Street, Piccadilly looks back at the first few weeks of the year

Goodness. What an eventful January it has been. After the utter mayhem
we annually subject ourselves to in this industry that is Christmas I
took stock in my own annual ritual. A post-festive season snowboarding

There's nothing that brings out my ugly, smug streak more than
gloating over my nine-to-five friends (who'd spent December partying
hard whilst I was pouring hard) as they return to work suffering a
post-party season hangover and I sod-off to the Alps.

It was my first time in Tignes, Savoie that, in turn, brought about a
series of firsts. In a restaurant that doubled as a working farm/
dairy, aptly titled La Fromagerie, I had my first raclette. A kind of
cheese furnace, which melted a deliciously stinky Tomme de Savoie onto
sliced, boiled potatoes.

Another first aided this wonderfully heart and stomach warming sensation: my first Vacqueyras. A sublimely,
sweetly spiced red with enough rustic clout to get the Tomme's stink
back into line. This region's red blends are based on the Grenache
grape are a great and worthy alternative to its neighboring bigger
brother: Chateauneuf du Pape.

Especially for anyone whose money has gone to Iceland. Unfortunately, my notes on the wine were lost whilst
attempting another first: hitting the snow-park. So be rest assured
that although I've deprived you of this wine's identity, I did manage
to nail a 360-tail grab-double-whirlybird-grind-crunch-ouch so it was
a sacrifice not made in vain.

Returning home on an overnight Eurostar I found a Sunday London in
similar Siberian conditions. As I was undecided on what to wear to
Gaucho's belated 70's Christmas staff party I thought it appropriate
to sift through Brick Lanes thrift stores for a seventies ski outfit.

For anyone attempting this outfit, a word of advice. You may well be warm and toasty outside but you'll be god-
awful sweaty once doing the YMCA. I am certainly blaming the
dehydration and lack of sleep on the Eurostar for my falling asleep on
the early train to Woolwich to find myself in Gillingham (a full two
hours beyond my stop) just in time to return home in Monday rush hour
in full seventies ski outfit. Uncomfortable.

A recent catch up with friends found me booking in at Roast at Borough
Market. As the name suggests the focus is very much on British
cooking. As the location suggests the emphasis is also on locally
sourced ingredients with most of their deliveries coming from some of
the UK's finest producers downstairs.

A friend warned me that critics had slated the restaurant in the past.
After some thorough research (googling) I found, ironically enough, a
constant letdown was their roast potatoes, which are surely the
bastion of any roast dinner? Another friend told of a Sunday lunch
he'd had there when Roast had even ludicrously run out of roast

The restaurant is perched in the glass enclaves above England's oldest
food market, Borough. Coming through on a Saturday afternoon is a real
treat with all the colours, smells and bustle of market exciting even
the least foodies of us. The large, tiered, open plan floor is light
and airy with sun pouring in the many glass panels and teases of views
of St Paul's Cathedral visible through the surrounding buildings.

The service was slick, quick but totally impersonal with little
rapport built amongst the ten or so people that looked after us. A
style that would do well in some City eateries on a working hour lunch
but I was a little surprised to see it put on for such a leisurely

I've always been a huge fan of a roast dinner and am frequently
disappointed with the ones served up every Sunday in many pubs across
the capital but this was going to be different. My slow-roast Wicks
Manor pork belly with mashed potato and Bramley applesauce (£18)
looked a little too much like the service for my liking. Very slick
but with no rustic character.

A very neat cone of mashed potato with a perfectly parallel scored, arched belly. But it really was sublime. A
portion fit for a fat medieval king, the crackling was just crunchy
enough to be called just that but not so hard for me to spitting
enamel. The flesh was tender and juicy with just enough chews-per-
swallow so as to not impede me catching up with friends.

The 'AA Notable' wine list was extensive but stopped short of
exhaustive. We went for The Gatekeeper Chardonnay 2006 Barossa Valley,
Australia (£29). It turned out to be perfect for a Saturday lunch. A
little oak gave it light creaminess and slight toast notes but allowed
the brilliant peach and apple fruits through. Superbly balanced and
refreshingly light, it was happy to help out my Bramley applesauce cut
through all that fat.

Oh, and the roast potatoes in beef dripping had obviously been given an overhaul albeit an expensive one (£4.50) as
they were delicious.

As our table looked over the renowned Monmouth Coffee shop it meant we
could look down with disdain from our glass palace at the hideously
long cues of peasants until they diminished and we could grab a quick
espresso before work. Genius.

Jake Crimmin