Brancott Wines and Rebecca Seal host Taste Explorers
In a beautiful modern house in north London, Brancott Estate Wines teamed up with food and drink expert Rebecca Seal to develop dinner party dishes based around sharing platters rather than the traditional three-course meal we have come to expect. Accompanying the food was a selection of Brancott’s finest wines, predominantly Sauvignon blancs, but with a couple of Pinot noirs too.
The idea is appealing: to move away from the Come Dine with Me clichés and instead try something different. Boards and slates full of finger food can be found in so many restaurants around London (perfected by places like Polpo and Cicchetti), but the conversion to home cooking hasn’t quite happened yet, and it should. Sharing food encourages dinner to become less formal and more communal. This style of dining promotes innovation, too, as Seal proved with her menu.
To begin was lahmacun, a crunchy bread base topped with meat and tomatoes, followed by crisp arancini. By the time the mildly spiced ribs came, any inclination towards knives and forks had been eschewed.
The second phase consisted of sticky chicken wings, a wild mushroom and onion pizzette and individual Brazilian fish stews that were delightfully creamy and richly flavoured. Next were beef meatballs with sumac and garlicky yoghurt, roasted potatoes, slow roasted fennel and a beautifully tender venison loin. The accompanying wines were a Series “B” Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc that had an intense, fruity nose – almost like a dessert wine – but with a softer flavour that complemented the gentle spices of the chicken wings excellently, a Series “R” Marlborough Sauvignon Gris, less powerful but still very pleasant, and finally a wonderfully versatile 2011 Marlborough Pinot Noir.
Although the food came in varying quantities and on sharing boards, there was plenty to go around, leaving little room for dessert. However, the chocolate cherry tiffin and berry and pinot noir granita were far too tempting to miss. The granita was blood red and not too sweet, allowing the wine’s flavour to come through but without any acidity or overpowering alcohol taste. A 2012 Pinot noir was served alongside and, unsurprisingly, the two matched flavours perfectly. It was pleasing to see something as simple as tiffin served at the end of all these dishes – an indulgent finger food that is simple to make and difficult to dislike.
The chance to get fingers sticky and the social aspect of sharing are elements that forgo the strictures of etiquette and create an evening that, along with several glasses of wine, made it easy and pleasurable to get to know the people around the table. There was a great variety of ideas and flavours – nothing was particularly complicated but it was all delicious – and Seal’s menu succeeds at being full of simple ideas that will encourage people to cook similarly at home.