My mate Big Phil often asks me on a Friday: “Oikball tomorrow, Fowlers?”. Phil’s not a toff, but he is a terrible snob, and reckons that the terraces of Selhurst Park, or any other football ground in the country, are chock full of society’s worst every other Saturday. When I put it to him that, of my own football band of brothers I am the only adult who is not a company director, or that our mutual friend Clarethound – who is pretty much as posh as it gets without owning half of Scotland – is a season ticket holder at Chelski, this is just dismissed as flannel. Which is what Big Phil thinks proper sportsmen should be wearing. I used to get angry about this, indeed he came pretty close to getting a slap a few months back, but I have since let it go. And I suppose the slap would have rather proved his point: you can take the boy out of SE26, but you can’t take the SE26 out of the boy…
So, a birthday bash for one of my Palace supporting friends at Chez Bruce. Top food, fine wine, and a sort of Crystal Palace theme where appropriate and possible.
I met Bruce Poole late last year at a rather good dinner. He more or less immediately became one of my favourite people in the world with his concise evaluation of Sir Paul McCartney during a conversation on music, and I’ve been looking forward to the opportunity to dine at Chez Bruce ever since. I am rarely impressed when I eat out, though have had a good run recently, and it continued.
Food first, albeit briefly:
The foie gras & chicken liver parfait with toasted brioche. Or foie gras pate on toast. I need to learn how to do this. Seamless consistency and a very clever balance between sweetness and a tiny kick of pepper. Perfect brioche – reminded me of my grandmother’s fried bread in the perfection of its execution.
Rib-eye with béarnaise and chips. No comment needed, other than it was just as it should be.
Dessert: I was too well-oiled for this but it looked smashing.
1990 Bollinger from magnum is pretty much sublime. This is what I’d be drinking of I were James Bond. Ripe, rich and perfectly evolved, I reckon this will go further but it really is just perfect now. Chosen for the year – one of Palace’s best. I don’t always agree with Jancis but she’s got this one right.
2004 Felton Road Riesling. Another great year for Palace – our win in the play-off final was one of the best days of my life – and another cracker. Limey, edgy, classy. Undoubtedly one of the best NZ producers there is.
2006 Condrieu, Les Chaillees d’Enfer, Georges Vernay. Passes all the Condrieu tests. Peaches, honey, viscosity, and you feel a little bit like a girl for liking it. And what all great wines have, what I too often describe as “class”: balance. No Palace reference.
1990 Pesquera Gran Reserva – just buy stuff like this if you can and drink it. Proper, mature wine. All that is good about this is all that is wrong with Bordeaux, in that no one is chasing this stuff for the label or for financial gain. Rant over. More on 1990: we nearly did Man U in the FA Cup Final. We drew 3-3, then lost 1-0 in the replay. The previous season and the one that followed were a brief golden spell (as opposed to age) for Crystal Palace. This was perhaps the best of the Coppell years.
1990 Chasse-Spleen – a colleague (aforementioned Clarethound) and I have a simple question for Bordeaux: “is it red Bordeaux or is it claret?”. This is the latter. Englishmans’ claret, for those that know what that means. Big Phil would love it, even if the vintage might be a little ripe for him – he’s probably just tucking into his 1974s…
1990 Clerc-Milon – a chateau that is beginning to flirt with the speculators on account of its Mouton connection. A rather ebullient colleague (those that know him will know who I’m talking about) reckons that this is better than Mouton 82. I’ll have to get him to show me them side by side before I rain on his parade but this was rather good. Not a premiership wine, but a championship wine that has won the play-offs in this particular season. Apt for the evening.
Finally, what impressed me most about Chez Bruce was the service. Ask most waiters, whatever, what you should have and they’ll look like they’re drowning, or if you’ve asked them where Slavic the Dragon keeps his magic lawnmower (translated: they’ve no idea what to say). Ask Edward at Chez Bruce whether you should have the beef or the chicken, for example, and he will tell you with an authority that will outdo your father: “Oh, the beef, Sir”, noting it before you’ve even had the time to concur. Brilliant. And he was right.
So – just a few fitba fans getting together on a Monday night…