Pom and bon vivant of note Roger Straiton was in the kitchen, supported by Ian Witter, getting proceedings off to a brisk and tasty start with some fish and prawn fritters, well browned on the outside and served with a garlic mayo dip which set them off well. So too did a 2000 Rothbury semillon from wine master John Rourke, showing inevitable bottle variation from the cork closure but none of them undrinkable and the best giving a good example of mature Hunter semillon.

Roger took us to Devon with his main course, giving him the chance to practice his "aaarh" pirate call, in the shape of pork loin, marinated in mustard and cooked with cream and cider. It was tangy but light despite the cream, and well matched with a stuffed field mushroom, some boiled chats (slightly underdone) and good crunchy broccolini. A choice of wine styles to go with it, featuring a 2004 Providence chardonnay from Tasmania, and a 2009 blaufrankisch from Austria. Both were good, the local showing mature stone fruit and wood notes, drinking well but not likely to improve; whilst the Austrian, made from grapes which are that country's equivalent of pinot noir, was light but with enough tannins to handle the food, although served slightly cold.


The cheese was the classic Comte semi-hard cows' milk from France, a style not unlike gruyere, with a firm texture and an agreeably nutty taste. Simple dates and walnuts were served with it; also a 2004 Georges Michel Marlborough pinot from NZ and the 2004 Burton McLaren Vale shiraz. They were a contrast in styles, the pinot showing good fruit identity, but lacking on the finish, the local hero big and rich, with tonnes of fruit and holding well.

The coffee came from Sumatra, 2nd to Ethiopia as the origin of the drink and the source of the nickname "java". This was made on medium roast beans and showed an attractive lower acid mouthfeel, albeit at the price of a shorter finish. No short finish problem with a Cuban rum provided by birthday boy Michael Hobbs, lighter than the local product but with plenty of fire and sweetness.