Mission: To respond thoughtfully and responsibly to my experiences of drinking and dining at restaurants with regard to the quality, service, preparation, presentation and overall experience received thereat. The standpoint is one who respects the crafts of the chef and sommelier and who seeks to understand their choices in the kitchen and cellar and grow in knowledge. In this, I will seek to be fair, reasoned, direct and constructive and aim to keep my ego in check on our mutual journeys through the worlds of food and wine.

Friday, February 9, 2018

IWFS at Uovo - good fun evening!

Wednesday February 7th 2018

February saw the IWFS finally heading to wine and dine at Uovo. Readers might know that I have been there a couple of times with the various foodie gangs over the past year. The food is very good, the corkage is free and the service is friendly and very good. It is good to see the same staff there on subsequent visits; it is a sign to me that they are happy and sufficiently motivated to stay rather than job hop. Which means they are well treated and a reflection on owner Chris Choo's ability to run his operation well. 

Uovo was chosen as a result of its leaning toward meat protein (beef and lamb) dishes, which coincided with the arrival of optimum drinking time of some Bigass Red Wines in the IWFS Cellar. Hence the event being billed as "An EGG-CELLENT Evening of Proteins and Reds at Uovo" - Uovo being the Spanish translation for "egg". Some more, the dinner was a little earlier in the month than normal, but Committee felt this was necessary to avoid clashing with the impending Chinese New Year festivities. Makes sense, yes?

If you haven't been to Uovo (or sister restaurant "From Farm To Plate" which is next door), you really should. Located in Damansara Kim on a row of shophouses up from and opposite the new Damansara GLO Mall, this modest location belies the quality of the food and service on offer. Now entering its third year, Uovo has quickly established itself as a destination restaurant serving hugely fresh food that is exquisitely prepared and cooked to tantalise the taste buds and leave you wondering where this place has been all of your life. The cuisine style might usefully be described as Asian Continental, though it is far from fusion - the cooking style changes to best showcase the ingredients' innate qualities so as to let the food speak for itself. 

Uovo interior
The website (www.uovo.com.my) says: "A unique restaurant where everything on the menu is grilled to perfection (through a) combination of skilful Teppan and slow roast techniques.  Our menu is based upon which seasonal products are most freshly available. Flavourful in the extreme. Dishes are relatively simple, relying on the quality of the super-fresh ingredients." 

Owner and Chief Cook Chris is a bit of an enigma, but no bad thing. Whispers come down that he doubles as an investment banker and has farms and suppliers across the globe from which he sources his ingredients. He also is rumoured to have stakes in some Wagyu cows which, on harvest, get imported to be consumed. Whatever, he is invariably happy to see old and new friends and ever appreciative of people coming to try his food. 

Both Uovo and his neighbouring From Farm To Plate operate on the philosophy of taking as little time as possible to get wonderfully fresh ingredients on to the tables. The key difference between them seems to be that no pork is to be served at Uovo; we punters need to go to FFTP for our fix of his brilliant Iberico Ribs and other porky delights. 

Forty of the diehards showed up for the beano, and all seemed quickly to get in the mood for a good time. There is something about Uovo that seems to generate this vibe; all the times I have been there have been pretty raucous - lots of laughter, cheering and clinking of glasses. 

Foodwise, the canapes got served at table and got quickly wolfed - very tasty little bites of sashimi style salmon, green tomato and unagi on crackers that gave some necessary carbo and salt to the sweetly light and lightly bubbled Prosecco. We were told that the three reds on show got flipped as a result of a late decision to pair the two Cabs so we presumed we were sucking down the delightful Guigal Cote Rotie with the first few dishes. Foodie friend Julian thought different - he said it felt like the Castillon, and he being the expert as a result of a few rough mornings given to him by this wine on a work stint in Bordeaux. He was right - it was indeed the Castillon in the glasses. I found it fruity and light to medium body, with a little bit of that South Bordeaux tang on the throat, and actually made for a good match with the chicken. The Prosecco was still getting served and made a fair match with the pasta which didn't kill off the lightness of the mushroom jus in the bowl. 

Possibly as a result of the wine mix up, the kitchen decided to add to the confusion by serving the Chicken ahead of the Pasta. And MORE confusion - after consumption and table clearing, Julian looked at the menu and said his Chicken was actually fish; it looked like fish, and he said it flaked like fish. We compared photos and they looked the same - crispy skin, Japanese preparation style. But he swore it was fish. And he does know his food and would not otherwise insist. There was possibly one vegetarian option floating around as a result of a late request (which subsequently became redundant as the veggie pulled out very late and got replaced by a carnivore) and the thinking was that Julian might have been landed with the swimmer. We never got the chance to find out. But strange, non?

Chicken. Or Fish. Maybe...
Both Chicken (or Fish) and Pasta were delightful, light and perfect stomach liners for the upcoming protein. The Cote Rotie was getting poured by this time and proved a rich full mouthful of fruit and forest, landing in the gut with that decent whack you always get from a good Rhone red. But the star would prove to be the Hawkeye; totally in the zone, smooth, full, silky, still a slight chew on the tannin but all elements fully integrated to produce a Cabernet of class and distinction. Got the timing well right with this one. Had to leave the Rotie in favour of the seemingly continual pourings of the Hawkeye. Finestkind. 

And it was naturally perfect with both sirloin and lamb rack, which were absolutely well prepared and hugely full of taste and freshness. Wise chefs know they don't have to do much when the meat is of the quality it always is at the Uovo. Dusting of salt and pepper and either light sear in the pan or short slow roast in the oven is enough; less is totally more and this is where Uovo always scores - it doesn't overdo things when the food can speak for itself. Same with the Big Tomatoes - large and crisp and sweet and tasting of lightly seasoned wholesome organic style goodness. Well tasty indeed. Though Lenglui insisted on being parsimonious with eating, preferring to save and doggybag the lovely meat home for sandwiches. And quite right too. Though I did steal an extra rib to go with the superb Hawkeye. So good. Should have stolen some Hawkeye for the home trip too...

The Sirloin. Yum.
Dessert got ingloriously wolfed down as usual and then it was carriages back to KL.  Managed to get around everyone to clink a glass through the night. Didn't get a bad word from anyone as to either food or wine, and the Governor said he would definitely be back. Wonderfully convivial and always a good craiche, the IWFS crowd. We are all now Uovons. Whatever that means. Cheers!

Chow down at Uovo
8 Jalan SS 20/10 Damansara Kim, PJ 47400
Tel : (603) 7731 8311

Getting there
From KL - Sprint Highway past Bangsar and Section 16 to Exit A for TTDI. About 1000m on, you see a big LRT station upcoming. You need to turn in as if going to the LRT station and follow the road past the LRT entrance and feeder buses which bends to the left - otherwise you miss the turning and be advised the original left turn to Damansara Kim is blocked at this time of writing. Also, it is not very well signed.  200 meters along, you see the Damansara GLO upcoming on your left; make a U-turn at the sign and about 120 meters back look for a turn left going slightly uphill to shophouses - Uovo is on the block that you see ahead on your right side. Park where you can. 

From PJ and beyond - NKVE onto Sprint past Damansara Jaya and when you see Tropicana Mall on your right make ready to turn left into Damansara GLO mall. Follow as above. 

Alternative is the LRT to TTDI station (apparently from KL Sentral) and a ten minute stroll up and around the bend behind the station and across the road to Damansara Kim shophouses.


Japanese Nama Pasta
with Shimeji Mushroom

Free Range Chicken
with Zucchini

Varieties of Lettuce Kale and Orange Salad

Prime Cut Sirloin
with Onion

Big Tomatoes

French Trimmed Rack of Lamb
with Green Beans

Lemon Curd Burnt Meringue
with Blood Orange Sorbet

Col Vetoraz Prosecco di Valdobbiandene e Conegliano, Brut Dosaggio Zero
Located in Cartizze, one of the prime areas of the Valdobbiadene region of the Veneto, Col Vetoraz grows its grapes organically at about 1,300 feet above sea level on very steep hills in vineyard sites where the Prosecco, or Glera, grape has grown since 1838. The grapes ferment in temperature-controlled stainless steel, and wine enjoys a second fermentation in tank in the “Charmat” method.

Classic, delicate, and refreshing, scents of ripe orchard and stone fruits lead to a dry, smooth and intense palate with subtle notes of white blossoms, citrus zest, and a touch of toasted bread. An elegant, fine perlage fills the mouth with creamy texture. Energetic and clean, with an elegant, fine perlage filling the mouth with a creamy texture, Col Vetoraz Prosecco is an ideal to pour with appetizers and salads.

Clos Les Lunelles, Cotes de Castillon 2005
Had this at a previous IWFS Bash at Chinoz on the Park in Feb 2015. Notes then were:
Clos Lunelles remains one of the top Bordeaux wines of the Cotes de Castillon appellation. The wine's violet color is so superbly deep and dense that it is almost opaque, an eloquent sign of the maturity that is typical of the 2005 vintage. A ripe fruitiness of blackberries and black cherry jam is balanced by the mentholated and lively, fresh notes of a mature harvest. In the mouth, vibrant tannins give the wine a sound and tight structure, and the mid-palate shows great texture which is made for aging. A mouth-watering finish is long and generous, prolonging the wine's flavor. Tannins and acidity contribute significantly to its impressive structure. This is a superb wine which requires time: about five to eight years will bring out a more complex range of aromas.

The Wine Advocate - "This is the greatest Cotes de Castillon I have ever tasted." (RP 94 WS 92)

2005 Kendall-Jackson Highland Estates Hawkeye Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, USA
We previously had this at a bash at Arthur's Grill at the Shangri La around June or July 2014. The notes were:
Hawkeye Mountain is the spectacular signature KJ property on Alexander Mountain and home to owners Jesse Jackson and Barbara Banke. The 2005 is easily the best yet bathed in spicy black cherry, and tobacco scented fruit flecked with green olive, liquorice and cassis. Clone 4 and 7 cabernets, grown on steep hillsides and terraces provide a firm structure for this red wine to live a long life. An impressive savoury, made from small clusters of small berries sitting well above the valley floor at 900-2200 feet elevation. Buy and cellar for 5 to 7 years and beyond.

One of the riper of the Highland Estate’s current crop of Cabernets, the Hawkeye Mountain shows intense varietal character. It’s rich in black currants and cedar, with a tangy minerality and firm but pliant tannins. A beautiful Cabernet. "Generous cassis nose, ripe, but not overly. Opulent, but tannin creeps up, a lot of alcohol too. Ungainly, no lift or finesse. Drink from 2010." (Decanter) (WE 93pts, Cellartracker 88/100, Decanter 15.3/20)

Cote Rotie, Domaine E Guigal, 2007

96% Syrah with 4% Viognier from average age 35 yo vines in plots on steep slopes in soil rich in iron oxide. temperature controlled fermentation for three weeks in Closed stainless steel tanks and 36 months in oak (50% new). Dark ruby red on the eye, Spices, nose of red berries and delicate oak with soft tannins and aromas of raspberry, blackberry and vanilla on the finish. 91 Parker. 

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Majestic Hotel Colonial Cafe KL - Once is Enough...

January 19th 2018

This was a beano to welcome fellow IWFS Members on a jolly from their Roponggi branch in Tokyo. The Committee thought to give a taste of "Old Malaya" to our guests and had put together a welcome dinner at the Colonial Cafe at the Majestic Hotel to be followed by Curry Tiffin and Pink Gin lunch on the morrow at the Lima Blas estate near Slim River before onward to Ipoh for a seafood dinner and Sunday lunch. I opted against this weekender - it looked hugely boozy and I had a clashing event in KL. Which ended up equally boozy. Sometimes you just can't win, eh? 

As suggested above, the Colonial Cafe at The Majestic was selected given its historical significance and its presentations of Colonial Cuisine. Historical interest also drove the selection of the Lima Blas Estate visit, whilst the Ipoh choices were to offer our Roponggi friends a taste of good solid seafood Malaysian style. 

Colonial Cafe interior
The Restaurant blurb explained the concept behind the Cafe as offering a taste of "Colonial Cuisine" to patrons. It sees this as the result of Hainanese cooking techniques and local ingredients being applied in attempts to recreate British staples for the British expatriate employers of Hainanese migrants to what was then British Malaya. The story goes that Hainanese Chinese came a bit too late to gain a foothold in the mature tin and rubber industries and could only find work in kitchens. "The result was a unique and innovative culinary translation. Colonial Cuisine took traditional British staples and turned them on their head with traditional Asian cooking styles and exotic local flavours. In the same spirit, the Majestic Hotel Kuala Lumpur presents our Hainanese Chefs' own re-interpretation of these classics." In this, the kitchen is apparently presided over by the Majestic Wing's patriarch, Ah Mai, which the blurb says translates to the respectful term of "Auntie" in Hainanese. With the presumed implication that Auntie should be able to cook, yes? Yes. So. Ah?

The evening didn't start too well - driving up to the Majestic, we got very pleasantly told by a Pith Helmeted chap of South Indian descent at the front entrance that there was no parking and we would have to go around the back of somewhere and walk back. Many cars were already parked on the somewhat dangerous roadside, given the speed with which KL's finest were driving past. Given the two Lengui in the car, I opted to jockey at a whacking RM40.

The reception area was heaving with people looking to either go somewhere or looking to get recognised. There were clearly other functions going on across the building. The noise was immense, echoing all around the room. We found the lift and got to the somewhat more reserved area that was the Colonial Cafe. Initial impression was old and reserved and quite grand. The IWFS group was milling around the bar where the Bolly was getting poured. I did a scrum down and grabbed a couple of generous pourings from our bar friend before going off to check the tables. The staff had made out name cards which had been placed exactly acccording to my layout. Which I must say impressed me - it was unasked for but became a thoughtful touch. 

Friends from IWFS Roponggi
It was also good to see some of the longer term members coming out to support and meet up with our Roponggi friends - they all had been hugely generous to IWFS KL on our visit there in 2014 (click here to read my reports on this visit) and this reciprocal gesture by some of those who had made that journey was warming. President David made a speech of welcome recognising this and we got seated for the off. 

Hainanese Rice Ball
The wines were splendid. as was the company. The ambience was good - quite nicely big and airy and cutely "colonial" with its wood and floor tiling. Though the sofa style seats along the wall irritated. I am not a fan of sofa seating in restaurants - the back can never feel firm enough with only a cushion between it and the back. I don't like to sit and beg whilst I am eating, which I had to do tonight. 

Foodwise….  I suppose I enjoyed it. Bread was soft and the butter was good standard. The Chicken Rice ball was a tasty opener, the fresh Prawn cocktail reminded of childhood at Butlins seaside resorts. The Mulligatawny was awful - felt like shredded chicken in thin murky green spiced gravy. My fish was well cooked and fresh and tasty and my trifle was light and fluffy and tasting as I remember it from the stuff we would get out of a box from the local supermarket at home in Cardiff. The mains were slow in coming out (the kitchen delivered all of the fish, then all of the beef and then all of the chicken). I did taste the chicken chop - felt a bit sludgy and not very pleasant to eat. Service was youthful and plentiful, though the hospitality experts in our group said they were far from impressed with it. I guess they should know, eh?

Prawn Cocktail
Matching wise - it sort of worked. The Bolly with the rice ball got its bubbles kicked into gear to clean the slight gunk at the back of the throat, the floral and buttery Chablis evened out the slight pepper in the sauce, the perfumed Gewurtz stood up well to the broth, and the Bordeaux was a surprisingly good match with the fish - a somewhat milder presentation of the Medoc whose fleshy fruit gave good support to the texture of the fresh fish. The 2005 is a lively and lovely Bordeaux vintage - can't recall ever having had a bad bottle from this year. 

But tastewise it all felt a bit too ordinary for the price. My position has become that I don't mind to fork out where the standard of food, wine and service is worth the money. I increasingly find myself driven by a value metric, and if the standard matches the price demanded then fair enough. If one is paying top dollar then one should get top dollar standard. It didn't feel like it on this showing. Far from it. It was probably that Mulligatawny - brought the whole thing down. We had recently had a Mulligatawny at a friend's home over the New Year and it was magnificent - fire, taste, substance, spice; the works. Not sure whose version was closer to the original, but the Majestic version was pretty grim in comparison. 

Roponggi and Kuala Lumpur at Colonial Cafe
One of the Members asked whether we had had a food tasting and I had to confess no - we were a bit rushed in putting the concept together to visit the place. Someone else remarked that the food standard was not wholly unexpected - the outlets at other establishments operated by the owners can be variable. Well, and yes - I get it that hotels need to cater to a wide range of salt and spice tolerances. Though indeed, I am one who has tried the various food outlets at the other operations and found little there to command my returning to them. 

The Band. And David.
And I now can add the Majestic to that list - the food standard did not warrant the price payable for my wallet. I get it that it is one of THE places at the moment and that many people are clamouring to get turned away by the little Pith Helmeted man at the front gate. 

But seriously, if you can't park at a hotel and face the option of getting scalped for RM40 to let them park your motor in front of the hotel (of which there were dozens scrapping to get their cars at the end of the evening) - nah… not me. Don't waste my time. Not at these prices. You can Pith Helmet off. 

Not to be Trifled with...
Photos by Jan Shaw and Kit Ong pinched from Facebook with thanks :D

Bollinger NV

1st Course
Hainanese Chicken Rice Ball
Bollinger NV

2nd Course
Classic Prawn Cocktail
Fresh Shredded Lettuce, Chopped Cucumber, Spicy Cocktail Sauce
JD St Veran 2014

3rd Course
Spiced Peppery Broth, Indian Spices, Lentils
Gisselbrecht Gewurtztraminer 2014

Main Choice
Hainanese Chicken Chop
Cracker-Crumbed Deep-Fried Chicken, Garden Peas, Hand-Cut Fries, Tangy Spiced Onion Gravy
Traditional Hainanese Boiled Beef
with a mixture of cuts: Sirloin, Brisket and Back Ribs, Asian Spiced Beef Broth, Radish, Somen
Baked Spiced Cod Fish
with Curried Cauliflower, Piccalilli and Mango
Chateau La Tour Carnet, Haut Medoc 2005

English Trifle
Custard, Sponge Cake, Red Fruites, Chantilly Cream

Freshly Brewed Coffee or Tea

Wednesday, December 27, 2017


The brilliant Balmoral breakfast sausages
This was an IWFS event organised by the Europe Africa Zone entitled the "Edinburgh Festival". About 50 members from across the globe (though naturally most from the UK) got together for three days of food, wine and the delight of enjoying it all. 

Thursday 22nd September 2016 - DAY FOUR OF FIVE

Board coach outside Balmoral Hotel
Visit, tour, wine tasting and lunch at Whitmuir Organic Farm
Return to Balmoral Hotel
Arrive Balmoral Hotel
Board coach outside Balmoral Hotel
Board Royal Yacht Britannia for Reception and Tour
Dinner in the State Dining Room Royal Yacht Britannia
Return to Balmoral Hotel
End of Festival

Everyone got a very welcome lie in this morning ahead of our 10:30am on the bus for a one hour ride, visit, tasting and lunch at the Whitmuir Organic Farm. Lenglui and I lolled about doing some casual packing ahead of the morning shower with 007. And Ursula. Then down for the brilliant egg, toast and sausage breakfast and coffee before joining the assembly in the reception. Outside looked a bit grey and windy, though with enough brightness to suggest it would quickly clear. Which it did about 10 minutes out of our destination. Perfect. No rain heralded little mud in prospect.

Veggies on sale at Whitmuir Farm
The bus parked up and we got herded in. Entrance was through a small B&Q style wooden slat and glass door and opened out into a well stocked store full of purchasable items, much to the delight of the Lenglui. We had a quick peruse before getting herded into the Larder. which would serve as our venue for lunch and tasting. We sat for a brief briefing about the dos and don'ts and then it was out into the fields to meet the residents.

Guid Morrrrrning!!
Whitmuir is a 54 ha, mixed upland farm 16 miles south of Edinburgh in the Scottish Borders and priding itself on producing Scottish organic food for retail and eating on site. Owners Pete Ritchie and Heather Anderson moved here in 2000 and operate the farm together with their sons, Joseph and Ewan.  Thanks in part to farm supporters who make regular monthly payments to the farm in exchange for organic food, Whitmuir has grown from the first week shop to where it is now, employing over 27 people. The farm rears beef cattle, sheep, pigs, layer hens for eggs and turkeys for Christmas, along with seasonal vegetables, some soft fruit and lots of hope and encouragement. It is also a learning centre which advocates healthy living through organic food to everyone who visits.

"Mama, are these people going to eat our food?"    "No dear - not without wine..."
The farm butchery started in 2006, and in December 2009 Whitmuir Kitchen was opened for direct sales of farm produce and butchered meats. Both the farm and butchery are certified by the Soil Association which means Whitmuir meets the very highest welfare and production standards. Whitmuir also has Producer Certification for the farm and Processor Certification for the butchery and shop.  Whitmuir is a passionate advocate of organic farming and the long term aim is to develop the farm as a Living Learning Space for sustainable food and farming.  It is both children and dog friendly, though there are requests to clean up dogpoop and to keep them on a lead. Also is best come prepared and wear suitable shoes and clothing and remember to bring wellies - there is always mud. And poop.

Mama Pig and offspring
I had brought my usual pair of Bata boots for the trip, figuring that much time would be spent either walking on road or earth. They were doing sterling service in the fields, though I did notice some of the other members struggling with slippery soles and the occasional raised heels. Our guide for the day was Heather Anderson, one of the two owners of the farm, who proved a hugely informative and engaging guide and passionate about the organic cause. I have great sympathy and admiration for people like Heather. They are all absolutely spot on in their outlooks and brave enough to pursue their vision of living in harmony with the land and seasons rather than farm the bejasus out of the earth and seas. In my earlier days, I embraced the environmental groups' messages and philosophies of wind, sun and water power. Even once visited a Centre for Alternative Technology in West Wales (wonder if it is still there?). But I checked out - at that time it was all a bit great ideas but not much in the way of concrete plans. I remember one guy name of Spanner from Friends of the Earth in Cardiff who had massive ideas for earth friendly technology. But to the young idealist I was at the time they were all hugely impractical. At that time I could not see the value in dreaming - I can now. Looking at all of the windmills and solar cells planted around the countryside, some of the dream is coming true. Though others (like whaling and sharking and tuna-ing) remain shameful blots on the collective human conscience.

Linda Ward sharing wine details
Our first interaction with the beasts was the resident wandering sheep (named Lizzie, God save her) and Mama Pig and her babies. Lizzie was kept under strict lock and key in a field all for herself to prevent her, er, wandering. Mama and baby pigs were quite friendly, though as soon as we approached, Mama decided it was time to take a pee. Never seen a Mama pig pee before - I have now. Once is enough. Totally perfect arc of glistening fluid watering a piece of mud four feet distant. Impressive. Memo to self - never get into a peeing contest with a Mama pig.

Small Plates to Start
Don't seem to remember a lot of what Heather had said, though one thing did stick - she told us that clover is the foundation of farming and without it all the animals on which humans depend would soon vanish. It is the root of the ecology and food chains for many of the planet's lifeforms. The organic way allows for natural grass and clover to get consumed by cows and sheep who are healthier as a result and consequently produce healthier milk for cheese and healthier meat for consumption. Which seems to stand totally to reason. Problem clearly is, the demands of this dominant race of ours vastly outrun supplies and especially when everyone in the world wants to eat burgers and fries. Result - the soil gets driven and overdriven with the result that ultimately it will produce less healthy staples. Equally, the massive declines in bee populations (probably resulting from pollution and increasing temperatures, though the naysayers with agendas naturally dispute this) mean that pollination no longer occurs which will equally result in a massive die off of plants dependent on such pollination. Same with farming fish - smaller and smaller are the fish in the nets because they are not given chance to grow to maturity. And all this time the global population grows, along with the percentages able to pursue the great American Dream of driving cars and going to supermarkets. I fear not for long - I think the great American Dream will ultimately kill off humanity in its headlong rush for the better life. 

Chestnut Mushroom Cassoulet
I recognise this in myself - I do live larger than so many. And it cannot last. A day of global reckoning will come - and much of the plant and animal life (humans included) will be the price. Some assert the earth has already entered a 6th Great Extinction era. And all because of less and less clover. And the voracious appetite of humans. Mental.

After about half an hour of watching the pigs we ambled back to the Larder for a swift and tasty lunch in the bright and naturally lit classroom. Coats were divested and thrown across spare chairs and we sat in the canteen like space (long tables and IKEA style chairs) to listen to a talk on Organic and Biodynamic wines and tasting by Linda Ward of wine importer Vintage Roots. Quite lively and breezy, the tastings would be conducted alongside lunch. 

The Aperitif wine was a sparkler, the Albury Estate, Premier Cuvee Brut, 2013. We got told this is a 13 acre farm outside Guildford and this one was a Gold medal winner. A blend of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay,it was like light fizzy cider, all crisp fruit and green apples. Very pleasant drinker, though perhaps a shade sharp for the palate at this time of the day.

Beef with the amazing Butternut Squash
We were served three small plates to start which would pair with three wines. There was Chard Omelette with a French white blend, Sorrel Falafel with a Spanish Penedes and Salmon and Lemon Creme Fraiche with a NZ white Pinot Noir. Collectively, there was not a hint of a nose from any of them; it was as if the aroma switch had been flipped off. Or perhaps the wines were too cool. Didn't get a whiff of anything off any of them. Odd. 

Tastewise, the French was light, pleasant and inoffensive, the Penedes was lovely, all fine and fino nuts and chewy, whilst the NZ had a slightly sweet kick and proved the better in match terms of the three. Though in fairness, matching anything with egg and dip is a real challenge. I seem to recall that the Penedes went quite well with the omelette, though the food came off as somewhat ordinary - bit like an amuse breakfast and in need of both coffee and a glass of spring water. 

Roll of Honour
The mains were a different story. The Cassoulet was lovely, with the Brie giving a kind of texture fat feel to contrast against the creamy mushroom. I tasted the beef which felt a shade dry and not a lot of taste as a result. In contrast, the butternut squash was fantastic. Rich, creamy, full of fire and taste and totally magnificent with the jus. The cauliflower was equally lovely and tasted full of iron and minerals and vitamins and everything good that was in the wild earth in which it had been grown. You could really taste the terroir in the vegetables. Magnificent food. 

Salut!! Chef, Chef, Heather and Linda
Winewise, the Italian Maremma Toscana was the clear winner and the one we bought for takeout. 100% Sangiovese, nose of dark plum and damson, with sweet cherries and dark fruit in the mouth. Light to medium body, very nice balance with six years bottle aged having taken off the harsh edge of youth and a fair to medium finish. 

Wooo! Look what Lenglui found!!!
The Ameri had a nose of dark plum and damson, full rich fruit in the mouth, in good balance with a fairly full and rich finish. Went so well with the cheese and mushroom, the creaminess of which tamed the larger fruits and settled all into a most pleasant combination. 

The Blue Cheese Souffle promised much but delivered little. Somewhat fluffy in texture, though with little in the way of taste. Perhaps the double baking had sucked it all out. Didn't get this one. Sorry.

In contrast, the fudge cake was a rich Valrhona chocolate bomb full of cocoa and fat and dripping with caramel sauce. The taste of this took me back to Caramac Bars bought in the sweet shops near the school in Grangetown - milky, slight toffee taste, utterly delicious. 

The fortified Malbec was amazing - port-like and silky, though lighter in texture, full of raisins and prunes and tasting like liquid blackberry jam. Not much in the way of nose. 

After lunch we went shopping and picked up a couple of bottles along with some pretty gifts for the folks at home. As said, we bought the Italian (also ostensibly for home) along with some mustard and a jar of brilliantly priced Coconut Oil. Whether it will get used is a good question but as said it was a brilliant price compared to the wallet whack we seem to face for it at home. (NB now writing this one year later - it is still in the fridge...)

Larder at Whitmuir
Aperitif wine
Albury Estate, Premier Cuvee Brut, 2013 England

Small Plates to Start
Chard Baked Omelette (V/GF)
Sorrel Falafel with Harissa Dip (V)
Hot Smoked Salmon with Lemon Creme Fraiche (G/F got fish)
Blanc de Brau, 2015, Chateau Brau, Pays d'Oc
Xarello Curios, 2015, Albert y Noya, Penedes, Spain
Blanc de Noir, Pinot Noir, 2015, Richmond Plains, New Zealand

Chestnut Mushroom Cassoulet with Clava Brie (V/GF)
Slow Cooked Beef Shin with Butternut Squash Puree and Jus (GF)
Maremma Toscana Estaturata, 2010, Baron Pizzini, Italy
Ameri Single Vineyard, 2011, Domaine Bousquet, Argentina

Double Baked Blue Cheese Souffle (V)
Dark Chocolate Fudge Cake with Caramel Sauce (V)
Fortified Malbec, 2015, Domaine Bousquet, Argentina

The stunningly elegant Lenglui with a Kilted Piper
Back at the hotel to laze around and watch more of The Jeremy Kyle Show ahead of getting dolled up and decked out for the main event dinner aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia. This was to be a full on Tuxedo and elegance with medallions affair. All members were again on time and all were indeed looking splendid in all the sartorials and finery. Our usual swift bus ride got us back to Leith and we all got piped aboard by a bearskin headed kilt and sporran wearing bagpiper, which gave a fantastic sense of occasion. Lenglui was most impressed - never had a bagpiper piping for her before. 

Because, indeed, this was an occasion. Whatever one feels about the Royal Family, the fact remains that this ship is living history. All the heads of state across decades who had boarded and sat and spoke and dined, all the growth of the family and children, and all the places where this ship had docked - it all flooded in. This ship was Britain Abroad at a time when Britain was… okay, letting go of the empire but still "great" in many senses of the word - culturally, morally, setting the example and the standard for much of the world. Of which much is now seemingly being lost, and over which few seem to care and which fewer seem to want to mourn. As I age, I increasingly recognise that some traditions are worth preserving whilst others will naturally and necessarily wither. For me, The Royal Yacht is a link to what was and what is, and in consequence definitely worth memorialising. All power to it. 

Rule Britannia
The ship itself seemed smaller than TV memories of it docking around the world. And a bit… ordinary, notwithstanding all the photos and memorabilia dotted around it. We got the tour and saw the bedrooms and studies and captain's quarters. The crew were very friendly and proud to be at the frontline of sharing their knowledge and history of the ship. Everyone was ambling around, fizz in hand, having a well fun time of things. But, as said, just being aboard this timeless chunk of British history was fantastic. Lenglui was in her Royal worshipping element. We stood in the State Drawing Room and later on the deck and felt like… royalty. The nearest most of us would ever get to feeling king of the world. Once in a lifetime - well worth the visit. 

In the drawing room on board the Royal Yacht
We got called to dinner in the State Dining Room and following a couple of speeches of welcome dinner got served. I have very few notes of the food or wine - one of those where it felt best to just enjoy the evening and take the photos rather than seek to record it in writing and miss the fun and sense of occasion. The food was traditionally British in taste and texture and the wines were well matched. The Amuse was Celeriac and Garlic Espresso in a cup, which was a very tasty mouthful of slurpy creamy gunk. The first dish Halibut was okay, the notes say the beef was amazing (combo of rare and well done with wickedly good jus and intense vegetables) and the 1996 Leoville was powerful and intense, with an austere lean green leek feel to it. But the thing that stood out was the service. There was a lovely bit of theatre where all the plates got lowered to the table at the same time on signal from Maitre. The regimentation of it - very clever and well executed. 

IWFS Members in the Royal Yacht State Drawing Room 
The table companions were a bit hard work at first for me - mine had a slight speech impediment which, along with my increasing deafness, must have come off to anyone watching like some old seventies sitcom sketch. But we somehow figured it all out and once the wine started flowing it all fell into shipshape. Clearly a lot of people here who really know their wines and food. And occasional incidental indications of the widely different planets on which they appear to be living. But there you go - we all have our planets and I am just glad there is good food and wine and the Lenglui and the IWFS on mine. And enough ability to generate the income needed to support it. I feel massively blessed in these respects to be able to share this planet. It's a nice planet. We truly need to do more to preserve and conserve it for future generations. Memo to self - eat less meat. 

Waiting for the off
I recall a speech by Ian Nicol - he seemed to be echoing my earlier thoughts about all the dignitaries who had gone before and stood in the same spot as he was now speaking. IWFS Andre Simon awards were given to Hans and Philippa Keller for their participation in setting up the IWFS Zurich branch, and thanks and recognitions were given to everyone instrumental in making the Festival the tremendous success that it clearly had been. Unfortunately my photos did not come out too well. Bit shakey after the dinner. Or maybe someone was rocking the boat...

Table Setting in The State Dining Room

Also somewhere in the mix was a wonderful story from Treasurer John Nicholas about his father being knighted on board Royal Yacht Britannia in Sri Lanka. He promised to present some memorabilia of the event for the Royal Yacht archives, as they seemed to have no records. As Ian Nicol said in the email in which he reminded me of this story, some events in history are worth preserving.

And then it was done. All back on the bus for the hotel to divest the tux and crawl into bed. The morrow would see us all departing on our various paths. Mine would lead to France and CDG then on to the Champagne, Burgundy and Alsace wine regions with the Lenglui and fellow foodies arriving from Malaysia. For more on that, click here. Good night James. 

And Ursula. 

Closing Dinner Royal Yacht Britannia
Reception in the State Drawing Room
Aperitif and Canapes
Camel Valley "Cornwall" Pinot Noir Rose Brut, 2012, Cornwall, England

Dinner in the State Dining Room
Amuse Bouche
Cured Halibut, Crab Salad, Pickled Cucumber and Avocado
Collerisio Pecorino, Terre di Chieti, Italy
Roast Fillet of Orkney Beef
with Fondant Potato, Parsnip Puree and Port Wine Sauce
Chateau Leoville-Barton, 1996, St Julien
Constantia Glen Five, 2011, South Africa
Mango Tart with Raspberry Sorbet and a Passion Fruit Coulis
Gewurtztraminer, Vendange Tardive, 2007, Hugel, Alsace
Coffe and Hand Made Petits Fours
Graham's Tawny Port, 20 Yr Old, Douro Valley, Portugal

Sunset over Leith from the Britannia

Cured Halibut, Crab Salad, Pickled Cucumber and Avocado
Roast Fillet of Orkney Beef

IWFS Members Hans & Philippa Keller who helped start-up and run Zurich Branch getting their Andre Simon Bronze awards from IWFS EAZ President Ian Nicol 

IWFS EAZ President Ian Nicol (left) and Edinburgh Festival Organiser Ron Barker (right) with Awards Officer David Chapman who prepared the Awards and Citations for the Festival

Mango Tart, Raspberry Sorbet and Passion Fruit Coulis


Friday 23rd September 2016 - DAY FIVE OF FIVE

Post Festival Schedule
Friday 23rd September
10:00 – 10:30
Balmoral Hotel
Forth Suite
11:00 – 12:30
The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, 28 Queen St, 
Malt Whisky tasting
11:00 – 12:30
Valvona & Crolla VinCaffè, 11 Multrees Walk,
Italian Wine tasting
12:45 – 15:00
VinCaffè, 11 Multrees Walk,

There was a post Festival schedule on this day which we would necessarily miss due to a 1pm flight to Paris to join our Kuala Lumpur pilgrims for a, er, pilgrimage around some of the wine holies (Champagne, Burgundy, Alsace). These were the EAZ AGM at the hotel along with a Malt Whisky tasting at The Scotch Malt Whisky Society and Italian Wine tasting at Valvona & Crolla VinCaffè. Can't do everything, eh? 

So we took it easy with a lazy pack and late and final sausage breakfast, which saw us saying goodbyes to some of the new friends and a taxi to the airport by a more traditional parsimonious Scot who could not understand why people would spend more than five pounds on a bottle of wine.

Edinburgh Airport check in for Easyjet was tremendously easy thanks to some human help at the tagging place. Off for a coffee and sandwich ahead of boarding. Very pleasant and comfortable flight, far more so than the BA nightmare we had endured three days and an eternity earlier. 

Getting to the Ibis Styles at Paris CDG Airport would prove a nightmare. We got the bags to the bus stop for the hotels and promptly got on the wrong bus. Forty minutes later we got off at the place we started. Got on to the right bus but the driver nor the metallic announcing thing on the bus announced the stop for the hotel. Around we went again to our point of embarkation where we met The Governor and wife and helped them with their luggage. Disembarking at the correct stop involved a ten minute walk through a MRT station to the hotel where we ran into Dear Leader Wong was on his way to a meeting. 

Got the bags to the room with both of us feeling very stressed and hot and bothered and cheesed at the total waste of two hours getting to this room. So we opened that bottle of italian red we'd bought at Whitmuir and drank from the plastic bathroom cups the hotel provides. Sometimes sacrifices are necessary and you use whatever is available. It was wonderful. We quaffed half the bottle in 20 minutes.

The original plan was to dump the bags and head into town for a shop and something to eat - the time wasted on the CDG internal transport had put the absolute kibosh on that. We settled for a pleasant and easy burger and fries at the Ibis restaurant and an early night. There would be a lot of food to come on the trip.

And can click below for the start of the Champagne, Burgundy and Alsace Pilgrimage 2016 Blog reports