July has turned out to be unexpectedly gluttonous. I blame the weather. The horrendous rain and wind drove me to red wine and big dinners. Then the sun came out. That drove me to gin and tonics in the sun and well…. big dinners.
This month, read about my culinary trip to Guernsey, a wonderful weekend destination for food and drink lovers, as you’ll discover on page 74.
What of my other food highlights? Well, I have been venturing further afield than normal this month. I enjoyed a great lunch at The Pint Shop in Cambridge. If you haven’t been to Cambridge you must. It’s one of the most beautiful cities in the country with a great food and wine scene (being home to the two Michelin star Midsummer House). A fascinating city for a day trip (or better still an overnight).
The Pint Shop was positively reviewed in the national press a couple of years back when it opened, and has become a bit of an institution. It specialises in (yep) beer. Not something I know much about (shameful I know, but I only have so many hours in the day), so I was grateful for an interesting wine list as well as the terrific food.
I enjoyed a ros. Blanquette de Limoux (a full-bodied sparkling wine from the Languedoc) and three small plates as follows: Gin Cured Sea Trout, Buttermilk Pancake, Pickled Gooseberries, Salad of Charred Broccoli with Hazelnut Dressing and Char-grilled Sardine with Salsa Verde. All delicious.
After lunch I paid a visit to the Cambridge Wine Merchant. Here I purchased what has turned out to be my wine choice of the month, Langlois Cremant De Loire Brut Rose. The Loire valley is famous for its sparkling wine and is the largest producer outside of champagne. This particular bottle is unusual in that it is 100% cabernet Franc, one of my favourite grapes. Langlois is owned by Bollinger so I assumed immediately they know what they’re doing. And they do. Light and fruity with fine bubbles and plenty of structure. I absolutely loved it, and at only £14.95 it’s a real bargain. Speaking of wine, read about my trip to Bolney on page 78.
Two launch parties happened in July. First up The Jetty, the seafood restaurant forming part of the new Harbour Hotel on the seafront. This was a great bash and with the excellent Simon MacGuire back home to Brighton after a stint running the Kensington Hotel in London, at the helm as Ops Director for the group, I knew we were in safe hands. It looks like there’s a great team at the hotel and the bash was top notch. Champagne was flowing all night along with delectable canapés providing miniature tasters of what’s on off er on the main menu.
My second launch of the month was (dare I say it) even more impressive. Hotel Du Vin. What a party! I have to say, the new GM Ben Haynes has won me over. I have met him on numerous occasions now and he is understated, humble, eagle eyed, passionate about what he does and possesses real vision and attention to detail. I have never seen the staff as happy as they are now. The atmosphere on the night was fantastic thanks to the fun the team were having. This is a great achievement for any leader.
The spread on the night was beyond expectation. A full bank of roast meats with all the trimmings, an antipasti station with the best charcuterie and cheeses, a seafood bar, an ice cream stand, a wine tasting station, free flowing Ridgeview and a free bar all night. OMG. And all my favourite people were there. The lovely Andrew Kay from Latest magazine, Tom Flint from the Brighton Indy and not to mention all the food festival crowd and tourism alliance folk. A wonderful evening.
I have since been back for lunch. The chicken liver parfait with hazelnut brioche was outstanding; the brioche in particular was impressive, rich, buttery yet light and studded with toasted hazelnuts. I spotted a pork belly on a neighbouring table and decided this is what I would have when I return to review the restaurant later in the month. Read the full review on page 72. All I can say is mmmm pig!