It’s hard to beat a good Ruby with your football mates on a Saturday night. And from May to August my football pals and I (Viva Palace, proud sponsors of Dean Moxey’s kit) see far less of each other than we do during the football season.
Four Crystal Palace supporters (well, five of us actually, plus wives) having a curry might suggest images of some place in Croydon with carpet on the walls and a fight on the way home but we chose to do things with a little more class: Benares, Berkeley Square.
The evening begins with a quiet pint of Young’s Ordinary at the Guinea Grill. Proper old-fashioned pub with some light entertainment on the side in the form of an American chap who is rather snookered when informed that “no, we don’t do cocktails”. Then off to the resto.
Benares is an upstairs restaurant. There are a couple of chaps on the door to help you in and to lend you an umbrella if you want to pop outside for a quick smoke. Navigate these gents and at least three ladies are in the lobby to confirm who you are, take your coat, take you upstairs, etc.
There are four private dining areas; we took the Sommelier’s Table which fits ten. The restaurant’s wine covers three of the four walls and the sommelier himself, or one of his team, is in and out throughout the evening. This is quite cool rather than irritating and the room temperature is cool enough for the wine though mild enough for the guests. In short it’s a pretty decent room if you are ten people or so.
The food: we chose the “Fennel Menu”. Exemplary in execution. Indeed exemplary. That’s a full stop.
The wines, the first three in magnum:
1995 Batard-Montrachet, Domaine Gagnard
I’ve had this before. It’s well behind the 1996, though most wine is – 96 Batard from Gagnard is a rare theophany in a bottle – but it’s lovely. The preoccupation with premature oxidisation in white Burgundy has led many to believe that an oxidative character in the same is a fault. Incorrect. This wine tastes as old as it is and as grand as it should be. Proper old white Burgundy, and one for those that know what they like, if that makes sense. I think that me and Mrs JossNotJosh liked it the most.
1989 Crozes-Hermitage, Domaine de Thalabert, Jaboulet-Aine
I’ve had this before too and it’s a safe bet for Goliath-slaying. At just over 22 years old this is perfectly, perfectly ripe. And ripe with a ripeness that only the Rhone can achieve: gamey, fatty. If chewing the bones, or the bone marrow, is the peak of the dish for you then this is the wine. The last time I had this was at a “brokers’ lunch” a few years back. Essentially a bunch of guys who think they’re James Bond because they’ve sold a couple of cases of Lafite show up and bring a bottle. And against a couple of first growths, and all manner of other top label kit, this was my winner. Were it not for the Roc de Cambes it would have been again.
1989 Segla, Margaux
Lovely again. This is not grand wine; it’s just perfect for what it does. Fully mature, a touch of Margaux femininity, still sweet. The analogy that is forming is one of going to the pub – i.e. not grand, but still potentially perfect. They know your name behind the bar, the beer is clean and fresh, and you bump into an old mate. This was perfect old claret; not grand, but perfect for what it is. A night at the Red Lion instead of a night at the Opera.
2009 Roc de Cambes, Cotes de Bourg
This wine inspired this. The more I think about it the more I think that this is the best wine I’ve drunk this year.