Churchill’s Port House pop-up in Soho
London’s new kid on the block joins the revival of the forgotten wines. Nestled in the former site of Greek Street’s Bay of Bengal Indian restaurant, London’s first pop-up port bar serves up carefully matched tapas dishes created especially by chef Xavi Meroño using the finest of Spanish-Portuguese produce. Set across three floors, the townhouse building includes an intimate chef’s table and third floor art gallery with availability for private parties.
For a real experience, diners can choose from three flights – classic, premium and vintage priced at £10, £15 and £20 respectively, two of which include a white port to start and two other samples. Each port is uniquely individual and the list comprises of a range of Churchill’s signature ports; White Port, 20 year old Tawny, bottle aged ports such as the LBV 2003, Crusted, the 2011 Vintage (which recently scored 97 points from Wine Spectator) and the Quinta da Gricha 2015 Vintage. Alongside this, the Port House also serves up a small, concise range of Duoro table wines starting at £5 per glass or £27 per bottle.
The tapas menu boasts exceptional produce creating a variation of carefully designed portions and matched flavours. The menu is split into three sections – bar snacks, tapas and pudding with each course paired with a suggested port allowing you to create a small tasting menu of your own.
We started with the White Port as an aperitif with some Spanish-roasted Marcona almonds, chilli and garlic prawns and a charcuterie board using Pata Negra and the finest acorn-fed Ibérico and Cecina meats (the smoked chorizo was a highlight). Immediately the flavour profile struck as me as that similar to the amontillado sherry – rich, off-dry and nutty on the nose but soft and spicy with a long flowery finish – perfect in a cocktail, perhaps a sour or mojito and a fine way to start a meal.
To follow we enjoyed the Crusted and the 20 year old Tawny paired with the foie gras mi-cuit from Les Landes with figs and port jelly and a winter salad of roasted sweet potato, beetroot, soy mushrooms and tofu. The rich complexity and berry flavours of the Crusted add sweetness to foie gras dish and accentuated the earthy flavours of the soy mushroom and sweet potato of the salad – which initially we thought was an unusual match.
In particular the Ibérico pork burger with crispy Cecina and idiazabal cheese was the highlight, matched with a choice of the LBV 2003 or the Quinta da Gricha 2005 Vintage. The latter was the evening’s winner, with its meaty and black fruit notes like plums and blackberries, it was a heavenly match with the bold flavours of the pork and burnt caramel notes of the dry cheese. The Quinta da Gricha was equally good with the filo-pastry baskets of morcilla Ibérica with roasted chestnuts.
No port tasting is complete without a cheese board; the cabrales and montsec cheeses were outstanding. Extraordinarily strong, the montesec was a firm favourite, when paired with the Quinta da Gricha 2005 Vintage; the port cut through the creamy centre typical of a goat’s cheese, and took the edge off the bitterly chalky rind.
Go now to experience the versatility of port and experience Meroño’s exceptional marriage of flavours. If you’re looking for a late Christmas celebration or even a relaxed educational dining experience, this is a must-visit – there’s much more to port than just Christmas and we look forward to see what these guys have in store for 2014.
Churchill’s Port House: 48/60
Churchill’s Port House pop-up is at 26 Greek St, London W1D 5DE, until 22nd February 2014. For further information visit the restaurant’s website here.