28 July 2020 - CoTD Leo Rachid
Food review by James Tinslay and wine review by Chilly Hargrave
It’s always a promising day when the chef at the Royal Exchange Club cooks for us for a wine luncheon. This week we were not disappointed. With the restriction on numbers at REX, Leo has been doing it tough having to cut back on staff with him being a jack of all trades.
Leo started us off today with scallops and to be accurate, big juicy Canadian scallops. These are a signature REX dish served in the shell with a Mornay sauce and mushrooms cooked in garlic butter. The scallops were wonderfully tender, and you can see why the combination of ingredients is referred to as classic.
Next up was another classic dish, French onion soup. Leo said that it was cooked in lots of butter with bay leaves, garlic, thyme, et cetera. The soup is made from the base stock of REX with a can be reduced for a demiglace. The richness of this dish was amazing, and it attracted many favourable comments.
The lunch not being a health and wellness competition, Leo served us pork belly on horseradish mash with caramelised apples, accompanied by an orange and purple carrot with a wonderful jus. The pork belly had been baked for 3 to 4 hours in the oven and then blasted at high temperature to get a beautifully crisp crackling to top off this dish. The jus was based on cider with a good dose of bacon.
Again, this dish attracted praise for both the taste and presentation which capped off a wonderful trio of dishes from Leo.
James Healey took us back Australia mode today, selecting a Pyengana mature clothbound cheddar. These come in 16 kg rounds and the cheese is a fine-textured with a (sometimes) crumbly body with subtle flavours, including some nuttiness. This is another Society favourite and we should enjoy it when we can because it is not always available through our suppliers.
The cheese was accompanied by red and white grapes and some quince fruit paste.
Truly a superb lunch.
Nick Reynolds once again supplied coffee for this lunch with a single-origin coffee, Ethiopian Uraga from Ona Coffee. It was a medium strength coffee and to quote the supplier ‘this hand-selected filter blend is characterised by sweet, funky and tropical notes. Blackberry and tropical sweetness will hit you up front, but then will transition into qualities of jackfruit and to papaya as it cools.
After the Masters, Leo spoke to us lucky attendees and explained that he had picked three dishes today that were not only his favourites but also the signature dishes of his restaurant which were much loved by their day-to-day clientele.
A couple of aged Tyrrell’s Vat 1 Semillons, both under screwcap, got our wine lunch underway. The 2011 vintage was still in excellent condition, with typical pure Hunter lemon aromas and flavours with a big acid finish. A bright match for the scallop. Similarly, the 2004 carried the same high acid, but not the fruit. The nose was all toast and honey, while the palate was starting to dry out.
With the main pork dish, we matched two pairs of Riesling from Alsace and Mosel. While only a few hundred kilometres apart, the difference between the wines of Hugel et Fils and Egon Muller couldn’t be more pronounced. Interestingly both wineries are members of the rare First Families of Wine. They share this with Château Mouton Rothschild, Vega Sicilia, Pol Roger and Antinori, amongst others.
The Hugel family can trace their origins back to 1639 and are renowned for both their Riesling and Gewurztraminer. We matched the 2013 standard release (12.5%) with the 2009 Jubilee Riesling (13.5%). Both wines had genuine lime, Riesling characters with a touch of apricot botrytis. The first, while pure and defined wasn’t a match for the Jubilee. Sourced from the famous Grand Cru Schoenenbourg vineyard, 2009 was one of the great vintages declared by Hugel, rivalling their 1990. With great weight and fruit drive, it was a perfect balance of flavour, sweetness and acidity. Perhaps the wine of the day.
Curiously, while Alsace has often been under German rule, the Scharzhofberger vineyard of Egon Muller was acquired from Napoleon after his defeat of Italy and his secularisation of the church estates in the Saar and Mosel. The 2013 Scharzhof Riesling (10.5%) is a blend of grapes from the estates Saarburg and Wawern vineyards. As with its partner, it was dominated by botrytis characters with a purity of fruit and sweetness matched by crisp acid. The 2010 (not 2009 - apologies for the misprint) Scharzhofberger Riesling Kabinett was similar in style to its younger sibling but wound up to the nth degree. Much deeper in colour, it had a lusciousness more usually found in Sauternes, but with an enormous acidity.
Of interest was that the Hugel wines were closed with inert Diam cork while the Muller wines had screwcap. Certainly, Muller were ahead of the game 10 years ago. There seemed general agreement in the room that the four Rieslings were a great fit for the sweet flavours and fattiness of the pork dish.
The cheese was matched with a pair of Penfolds St Henri Shiraz. The 2010 was perhaps not as expected as many members dismissed this option as the vintage. Closed under screwcap, it was still an extremely young wine. Colour showed no browning edges, oak was still sitting on the fruit, but that was very clean and pure without overripe aromas. On the palate, there was an abundance of tannin and berry fruit. Both of these wines were poured with a filter, but still left a significant deposit in many glasses.
The 2001 St Henri, the last vintage for John Duval, was a completely different style. It was more refined and elegant with a delicious mineral tannin note. Still with some time ahead of it, there was more balance of components here with the fruit well expressed.