Give in, take out


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Part of the Homing Pidgin menu

While restaurants have been forced to close, it doesn’t mean you don’t have access to their cooking or produce. Sophie McLean from our wholesale arm, Fields, Morris & Verdin, rounds up a few of the innovative options being offered by a few of the restaurants we work with

In the last few days, as the hospitality world continues to face unprecedented challenges, many restaurant operations have had to make heart-breaking decisions over their short, and long-term, futures, with some having had to choose to close fully. However, the intrinsic creativity within this industry remains alive, and some of our restaurateur friends are trialling alternative methods to ensure that exciting dining doesn’t have to be fully off-the-menu in the coming weeks and months. With adversity, comes diversity.

The government has relaxed its policies on takeaway food, meaning we can still enjoy top-notch cooking and ingredients, as well as offering some solace to an industry that is feeling largely on its knees. This is not just about pleasing our taste buds gratuitously; this is much more about helping in some way to futureproof (hopefully) the businesses we’ve grown to love, and those that have become stalwarts on the dining scene. Long may these continue. Spare a thought for the wonderfully talented, dedicated staff who make these establishments the life and soul of our long-lunchtimes and sociable evenings and buy a dish, or a voucher – something to look forward to.

Until we can revel in the ambience of these smart set-ups again, here’s a short-list of places to try and those doing great community things in the meantime.

Bistrotheque, Bethnal Greenlaunching on Mothering Sunday, you can order from a list of greatest hits for takeaway or delivery – and if you pre-order before Sunday, you might find their favourite Greek drag act on delivery duty, as an added incentive.

James Ramsden has launched Homing Pidgin – a pivot on the original Pidgn in Hackney. This new service will see a weekly-changing three-course collection meal for £25 per person, Wednesday to Sunday.

Peckham bites: Fine dining in Peckham remains a reality. Artusi (at the time of writing) is offering BYO-tupperware options for those craving their delicious Italo-inspired menu and fresh pasta – loudly supported by fellow Italophile and chef Angela Hartnett. New-to-town but already with a big following, Peckham Cellars are also offering a take-out service.

Farringdon’s Quality Chop restaurant, deli and wine bar are offering a daily collection and delivery service (Monday to Saturday) of ready-to-cook family pies and “good-for-two” ready meals that include things like Harrisa lamb, aubergine ragù (£19.95).

Mayfair favourite Kitty Fisher’s will be setting up shop with a delivery package that will include a pre-mixed version of the Kitty Fisher’s signature cocktail – the Bad Kitty, a fruity mixture of gin, sloe gin, elderflower, lemon and Cava.

Spanish vibes: From Monday 23rd March ArrosQD – one of the more recently opened examples in the capital’s explosion of Spanish cuisine – will be offering their Valencian-themed cuisine to take-away, under the tag-line of “Fire & Rice”. Fans of the long-time tapas restaurant Ibérica will be able to do the same, as well as having the opportunity to buy vouchers – valid for 18 months, from which the company is giving 12.5% to their staff, straight away. Pizarro has launched a self-styled José-Deli at its Bermondsey Street as they close the restaurant, selling all remaining stocks and giving all profits to the staff and locally elderly people.

No longer open, but…

Many of these are available through Deliveroo and UberEats too – where you can choose the distancing delivery options too.

Out of town

The Olive Branch, Clipsham – long-time Michelin-guide Gastropub, the OB is continuing to serve customers with quality ingredients with things like hand-cut 40-day dry-aged sirloin steaks for £6.95 each, reinventing themselves as a Pub Village Shop (loo roll, bread and eggs also on takeaway) with a safe-distance collection bay.

The Royal George, Appledore – this West Country outpost is offering a takeaway menu and delivery. They have also set up their own van specialising in their own pies. A top spot for those in North Devon, with Mother’s Day roasts to go.

The Sun Inn, Dedhamthis local gastro-Inn is hosting a menu of “finish at home” dishes alongside boxes of fruit and veg, loo roll, dry goods, and wines and spirits

Our thoughts and taste-buds remain with our friends, for their happy, continued future trading.

Please note all the information above was correct at the time of publication; however please do call ahead or check restaurants’ social media channels for the latest information.If you’re interested in finding out about more ways to support the hospitality industry, Ed Smith is providing a round up of take-out/cook-at-home restaurant services, as well as suggestions for local, independent food shops, on his blog Rocket & Squash

Category: Food & Wine

Piedmont: five must-try wines


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Photograph: Jason Lowe
As we look to Piedmont for the just-released 2016 Barolo and 2017 Barbaresco, we asked our Buyer Matt Smith to pick the five wines that would convince any wine-lover of the region’s greatness

2017 Barbaresco, Fletcher Wines

One thing that perhaps most surprised me during my last trip of 2019 to the Langhe was the quality coming out of Barbaresco from the 2017 vintage. Widely documented as a very hot year and consequently among the earliest harvest on record, I was expecting to taste lots of dark, perhaps even jammy wines. Not a bit of it. Through experiences with other hot vintages in recent times (think 2003, ’07, ’11, and the spikes of ’15) growers have learnt to handle hot vintages through better canopy management.

David Fletcher, being an Aussie, does things a bit differently. He doesn’t own his own vineyards and doesn’t feel the need to. Through his day job as head winemaker at Ceretto, he is extremely well connected and respected in the region. He rents vineyards and always insists on managing them entirely in an organic and biodynamic way. His winemaking is completely focused on allowing his vineyards to shine. By choosing to hand-plunge his open-top vats just once every other day, he arguably employs the gentlest extraction of any producer we work with – producing particularly delicate, pretty aromatics. His Barbaresco 2017 is a perfect exhibition of his approach and his skill at managing this hot vintage.

2017 Barbaresco, Montestefano, Luigi Giordano

Luigi Giordano, lying in the town of Barbaresco itself, is not an overt or showy estate. In fact, they have remained distinctly under the radar, quietly crafting traditional Barbaresco since the 1950s from some of the best and most famous vineyards in the region. And until now, they have never exported to the UK. Winemaking is now in the hands of Luigi’s 27-year-old grandson, the softly spoken, smiley Matteo Rocca.

Montestefano is among the most revered crus of Barbaresco. Its extremely steep, calcium-rich soils and southern exposure produce some of the most structured wines in the region – and Giordano’s 2017 is a triumph. Already very expressive with a wild herb, cola character, with savoury notes of meat and game, this is such a complete wine which perfectly encapsulates this iconic vineyard’s character.

Photograph: Jason Lowe

2016 Barolo, Paiagallo, Mauro Veglio

This is the first release of this vineyard for Mauro Veglio and a real standout of our offer this year. What excites me about this wine is that it is very much the blueprint for the evolution of their style, which continues to go from strength to strength. Once firmly in the modernist camp, Veglio has always made excellent full-bodied wines (and they have wonderful vineyards to work with).

But this new wine, made by Ale before he joined up with his uncle, suggests a more delicate, fresher direction. With a much longer, gentler period of maceration and the usual barriques swapped for one large botte, the result is thrilling: there’s a real lightness of touch. Full of red fruit, peach and orange peel, it’s extremely fresh.

2016 Barolo, Cerretta, Giovanni Rosso

The wines of Serralunga d’Alba are particularly spectacular in 2016. It’s a fascinating commune which often produces some of the most structured and long-lived wines. That is certainly the case in 2016, but somehow the wines are also light on their feet. Giovanni Rosso’s wines are not heavy in colour, but have incredible depth and structure.

Normally I prefer the ethereal charms of his steep, cold Serra vineyard and it is certainly very good (if a little austere, as it always is at this youthful stage); I often find Ceretta a touch plush and opulent for classic Serralunga. But in 2016, this vineyard has really shone. It exhibits all the sinewy tension of great Serralunga with blood-orange, iron and tobacco. This year it has masses of extra structure, grip and freshness.

2019 Langhe Nebbiolo, Trediberri

I could have picked any one of Nicola’s wines: this estate really is at the very top of its game now and the Baroli will all no doubt sell out quickly. But the 2019 Langhe Nebbiolo gives an early preview of the 2019 vintage (which Nicola was so excited about when I last visited back in December) and is a pure, delightful expression of young Nebbiolo. Behind the scenes of this seemingly simple wine, Nicola has characteristically put a lot of thought into capturing another side of Nebbiolo.

Completely unoaked, this is not trying to be a baby Barolo. Many of the grapes are sourced from the Alta Langa. Here, the additional altitude and cooler average temperatures allow for later harvesting. The fruit is able to hang for longer, getting riper while preserving their natural acidity and, come harvest time, the grapes arrive at the winery cooler, preserving their wonderful aromatic profile. There is now a lot of investment in the Alta Langa which will no doubt become increasingly important as climate change and extreme weather continues to affect the Barolo region. This is an absolute steal; a fragrant, crunchy joy to drink while you are waiting for Trediberri’s epic Baroli to develop.

Explore our full Piedmont offer, including Barolo 2016 and Barbaresco 2017, here

Category: Italian Wine

Barolo 2016 and Barbaresco 2017


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Photograph: Jason Lowe
As our offer of the new vintages from Piedmont – Barolo 2016 and Barbaresco 2017 – goes live, our Buyer Matt Smith introduces these two very different years and the remarkable wines they produced

This year’s Piedmont offer presents a fascinating voyage through the villages of the Langhe hills, focusing on two of Italy’s most thrilling and noble wines: Barolo and Barbaresco. It is a journey of contrasts and a chance to experience Nebbiolo’s many personalities through the distinctly different lenses of the 2016 and 2017 vintages.

Plenty of excitement will no doubt surround the much-lauded 2016 Baroli and the hype is certainly justified. Near-perfect vintage conditions allowed the grapes to ripen steadily with everything in balance and the growers were able to harvest their healthy crops as late as possible. 

During my final buying trip in December last year, I was amazed, not only by the sheer consistency of quality, but also the individuality which the wines possess. For enthusiasts eager to understand the nuances of the individual villages, this is the vintage to explore.

The 2016 vintage in Barolo is a case of the right place at the right time. This great vintage comes when many producers are in their prime, now comfortable with their own personal style, allowing the true character of the vintage to shine. The results perfectly convey the nobility and potential of Nebbiolo: these are spectacular wines, characterised by great luminosity, freshness and elegance.

This year we are delighted to welcome two new producers to our range: Luigi Vico from Serralunga, a commune which has fared particularly well in ’16, and Bruna Grimaldi from Grinzane Cavour, whose vineyards cover their home village together with Roddi, La Morra and Serralunga. 

In contrast to the consistent, late harvest of ’16, ’17 was extremely dry, hot and one of the earliest on record. But those expecting jammy wines lacking in precision will be very pleasantly surprised. The wines are certainly more robust in structure and colour, an undeniable result of the low yields and high skin-to-juice ratio of the berries. But this is Nebbiolo after all, and a pattern of cool night-time temperatures resulted in bright, vibrant wines, very much in balance, with plenty of acidity. These wines illustrate just how adept growers have become at protecting their vines from heat – working with the changing climate.

Barbaresco legally spends one year less in oak and gives a first opportunity to taste some great wines of the ’17 vintage. Lesser-known in comparison to Barolo, this region is no less captivating – and we are thrilled to be offering two new producers: Luigi Giordano and Fletcher Wines, both from the town of Barbaresco itself. 

Photograph: Jason Lowe

Barolo 2016

For all our producers 2016 was a joyful experience – relaxed, effortless and free of significant climatic complications. It was certainly one of the longest-lasting growing seasons in recent years. The vegetative cycle initially got off to an early start due to a relatively mild and dry January.

However, from the end of February to the end of March, the temperatures dropped, delaying the vegetative development, while plenty of rain provided the soils with good reserves of water. April remained chilly but the rains subsided (in contrast to the warmer, damper April in ’15). This pattern continued into May with temperatures rarely rising above the 10-year average for the region.

June remained relatively cool and consistent, without any of the heat spikes of the previous year. Temperatures began to rise steadily in July, but a couple of well-timed rain showers, together with a notable diurnal swing, helped to keep things fresh and in balance. Unfortunately, minor localised hail at the end of July affected some producers, including Trediberri whose Rocche dell’Annunziata and Capalot vineyards in La Morra lost some fruit.

Following a cool, subdued second half of August, directly after the Ferragosto (a public holiday on 15th August), September brought welcome dry and sunny weather. The combination of warm, bright days and fresh, cool evenings allowed for steady, relaxed ripening of the Nebbiolo. Sugar levels developed gradually and in sync with ripening of the seeds, while acidity and aromatics were preserved. This allowed growers to wait and harvest up to the start of November, a full week later than in ’15. Many producers noted the presence of thicker skins compared to ’15 and chose to extend their macerations, always the sign of high-quality grapes.

The results have been unanimously appreciated by the producers. Maria Teresa Mascarello sees ’16 as a return to the vintages of the past – warm but not hot, with a long, slow ripening phase, with a later harvest allowing cooler fruit to reach the winery. Manuel Marchetti at Marcarini feels his wines are similar in many ways to his ’15s, but that the lower average temperatures and lack of heat spikes yielded even greater finesse and freshness. Nicola Oberto at Trediberri feels the lower temperatures and late harvest resulted in one of the most amazing vintages of the last decade or more, a view shared by Ale and Mauro Veglio and Davide Rosso. 

Barbaresco 2017

In stark contrast to the 2016 harvest, ’17 will be remembered for its lofty temperatures, a severe lack of rain and a very early harvest period. The winter was mild, with only a few flurries of snow leading to a spring marked by light rain and above-average temperatures. This facilitated rapid vegetative development, which immediately proved to be ahead of time and continued to be so for the rest of the season.

A sharp drop in temperatures towards the end of April brought with it sleepless nights amongst growers, with spring frosts affecting vineyards at the bottom of valleys and on some of the cooler slopes. May saw the beginning of an extended period of fine, dry weather, allowing excellent plant health and lack of disease pressure. The season was one of the driest on record, with just 280 millimetres of rain recorded between March and October (in comparison to an average of 550 to 600 millimetres).

Summer was very hot with temperatures consistently exceeding the 10-year average. Unlike other hot years such as 2003, however, there remained good variation between day and night temperatures, which allowed acidity levels to be maintained. Matteo Rocca of Luigi Giordano in Barbaresco believes that – as a result of previous hot years – they were better prepared to deal with the effects of heat through experience in the vineyard. Growers focused on protecting the clusters, keeping more leaves and turning the soil closest to the vine to avoid evapotranspiration of the water.

September saw the weather cool down, and continued strong diurnal variation, together with a small amount of much-needed rain to rebalance the berries.

Harvest was also one of the earliest on record, with some producers starting to pick Nebbiolo in the first week of September, and everything finished by mid-October, a full two weeks earlier than the average.

The combination of heat and lack of water resulted in a small crop (15 to 20% down on average) of compact, thick-skinned berries – exceeding many growers’ expectations in quality. The wines are concentrated and age-worthy, with colour and tannins aplenty, but with surprising acidity and freshness.

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Category: Italian Wine

Slow cooking: beef in Barolo


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Photograph: Joe Woodhouse
Ahead of our offering of the new vintages of Barolo and Barbaresco, our Head Chef Stewart Turner has cooked up a recipe inspired by the region – with beef short rib slow-cooked in Barolo. Indulgent? Yes. Deserved? Yes. Settle in with a glass of something good and make the most of some extra time in the kitchen

The Piedmont region of northern Italy is famed for its food and wine, with the white truffle and hazelnuts the most famous treats from its natural larder. But there’s plenty more beyond the famed truffle season. With a little more time in the kitchen, this slow-cooked beef dish, doused in a bottle of Barolo (although another full-bodied red will do), offers serious comfort.

Beef in BaroloServes 6
  • 6 small beef short ribs
  • 750ml bottle of Barolo (or another full-bodied Italian red wine)
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • 5 sage leaves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1tsp black peppercorns
  • 1tsp juniper berries
  • Olive oil
  • 250ml beef stock
  • 2 large onions – peeled and quartered
  • 2 large carrots – peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 8 cloves of garlic – peeled
  • 3 sticks of celery – cut into large chunks

If you have time, marinade the beef overnight. Place the short ribs in a large container with the herbs and aromatics, pour over the wine and place in the fridge to marinade.

Remove the beef from the marinade and pat dry. Set aside the wine and tie the aromatics and herbs   in a piece of muslin.

Preheat the oven to 160°C. Heat a good splash of oil in a large casserole. Add the beef and brown well on all sides, then remove and set aside. Add the red wine and muslin bag of aromatics. Boil for around 15 minutes, until reduced by half, then add the stock. Bring to the boil. Return the meat to the pan, cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook in the oven for two and a half hours.

Fry the onion, carrot, celery and garlic in a frying pan over a high heat until golden brown, then add to the meat, cover and return to the oven for another hour and a half. Once cooked, carefully lift out the beef and vegetables into a serving dish and keep warm. Discard the muslin bag, sieve the cooking liquor into a clean pan. Skim off the fat, bring the sauce to the boil and reduce to a nice saucy consistency, then pour back over the beef.

Serve with some soft polenta and seasonal greens.

What to drink: The obvious partner here is Barolo – and our own-label version, made by Davide Rosso, would do very nicely; the high acidity will help to add freshness to a decadent dish. This superb and very serious Barbera from Conterno would be brilliant too, with a slightly more fruit-driven profile. But, quite frankly, most full-bodied reds would do, especially savoury, mature Claret, like this 2003 Batailley – which feels deliciously reassuring.

Our Piedmont offer, with the new vintages of Barolo and Barbaresco, will be launching on Thursday 19th March.

Category: Italian Wine