Boldly going where no wine master has gone before, Paul Ferman put on a tasting of 6 reds, all masked. We were told that there were 5 local and 1 overseas, 4 shiraz, 1 cabernet and 1 blend, with 3 SA, 1 WA and 1NSW, and left to fend for ourselves. Small wonder that there was a spread of opinion on which was which, although a surprising consensus on quality, if not provenance.

From the kitchen, Paul Thorne, assisting Keith Steele, sent forth some varied canapés to whet the appetite: a smooth rich and sweet duck liver pate with dried cranberries marinated in brandy; some white anchovies, sour and salty, on mascarpone; and a Mediterranean mix of roast tomato, bocconcini and basil pesto, all served on thin toasts. The accompanying wines were the usual eclectic mix, with a couple of hunter semillons, a 2001 Macquariedale Old Vines in general outclassing a 2002 Rothbury black label, and the requisite Lustau sherry, this time the fresh and tangy manzanilla.

The lineup of reds, when unveiled, were: 2002 Cape Mentelle shiraz from WA; 2005 Tyrrells 4-acre shiraz from the Hunter; 2004 Majella cabernet from Coonawarra; 2004 Balmoral shiraz from SA; 2004 Shadrach cabernet/shiraz from SA; and a 2001 Ch Lanessan, a cru bourgeois from Bordeaux. As mentioned, many opinions were aired publicly and privately, especially on which was the foreign ring-in. But most agreed that the best wine on the table was the Majella, a great example of the region, with the Cape Mentelle and the Shadrach also winning favour. The disappointments were the Lanessan, tired in the best bottles and stinky to the point of being corked in others; and the Tyrrells, which has seemingly fallen into a hole, pale in colour and insipid on the palate. It has been better and hopefully will recover. The food was in keeping, a superior beef bourguignonne made on real (village) Burgundy, with lots of speck and mushrooms to boost the flavour. It was accompanied by a nicely prepared mash and some al dente green beans

The cheese was the best of British, in the form of a Colston Basset Stilton, Will Studd's selection. Soft in texture , with great marbling and a mid –yellow in colour, it showed mature fungal notes with buttery overtones and was well matched with (most of) the tasting wines, and some fresh sliced pear. For coffee, we travelled to Colombia for beans from the Pitalito plantation, medium roasted and showing with the plunger plenty of rich chocolate flavour with a full, if slightly short, finish. Spencer Ferrier assured us that put through an espresso machine it was just this side of orgasmic; sales should increase dramatically.