With a revolving door of hot new restaurant openings and
pop-ups, it’s all too easy for London’s eateries to flit from our radar all too
fast. But in Emile, Sophie
Thorpe finds a residency that feels right at home
London’s circuit of residencies and pop-ups is its own
scene; a whirlwind of all-star line-ups that demand to be eaten and drunk
before they disappear, quite possibly forever. The stress of such a situation –
an eternal culinary bat-the-rat – for any dutifully greedy and FOMO-inclined
diner is almost too much to comprehend.
Emile is the latest expiry-dated establishment to take the
town by storm. A collaboration between Nick Gibson – the man behind one of
London’s very best pubs (and one with a great wine list), The Drapers Arms –
and Damian Clisby, formerly of Petersham Nurseries, it’s tucked away on the
wrong side of Shoreditch’s bustle, and closer to the City’s hustle. But here,
in this unlikely locale, is a restaurant that exudes a homeliness.
Somehow it’s like every modern eatery we know – shabby-chic
wooden furniture, exposed brick, small plates carefully sourced and simply put
together. And yet it also manages, effortlessly, to exceed every expectation.
Crab croquettes normally come in twos, yet – with one simple
sweep of generosity – came as a trio for our table of three. Celeriac came
shaved like pappardelle, laden with the crunch of hazelnuts, the richness of
cep and a layer of fluffy micro-planed Parmesan. Gloriously waxy pink firs with
anchovy were a revelation of umami-rich goodness. A carafe of Adi Badenhorst’s
Secateurs white – benchmark Chenin
Blanc from the Swartland
– provided a vibrant counterpoint.
For the mains, we ordered a bottle of Graci’s
Etna Rosso; a light, lively crunch of fruit for a dreary day. A handsome
and majestic pork chop had perfectly crisped fat, a flawless hunk of meat
elevated yet further by a smattering of salty capers and crispy sage. John Dory
arrived joyously nude, chilli and dill butter its only dressing. Winter leaves turned
out to be a platter of perfectly dressed and gloriously colourful chicory – a
bright bite of bitter-freshness.
As for pudding, an Original Bean concoction lay halfway
between a mousse and ganache, its decadence cut by a flurry of whipped cream,
hazelnuts and praline. A poached pear, with its hunk of home-made ginger nut
and vanilla ice cream, was perfect in pretty much every way.
Service throughout was unimpeachable – a gentle hand that knew
exactly what you needed and when. Like everything at Emile, it sets you
instantly at ease. Every plate balances the elegance and creativity of fine
dining with the humble comfort of home cooking – with a modesty that almost
glosses over the superiority of the food on show. Rumours have it that a
permanent site is on the cards for later this year. Keep everything crossed
that they’re true.
Our Wine Director Mark Pardoe MW picks six of his favourites from our own-label range
every wine in our Own Selection range has a back-story – an event, opportunity
or style that sets it apart, giving the wine its individuality. Here are some
of my favourites, and why.
Meursault: Burgundy’s restricted size and complexity of vineyard organisation and ownership make it very hard to find a wine of this quality in sufficient quantity. So Meursault grower Patrick Javillier comes to the rescue, and we tap into his knowledge of local growers capable of providing the quality we need. Patrick’s family business does all the élevage for us, so it carries his house style of creamy opulence, but also with his hallmark of lemony acidity. (£43.00)
Old-Blocks Chenin Blanc: I have been very fortunate to stay with Shelley Sandell at her remote farmhouse in the lee of the starkly beautifully Piekenierskloof mountains, where leopards roam. The oldest Chenin Blanc vines on her farm are now 40 years old and, when we found she had made a separate cuvée from them, it was a perfect addition to the range. This is the second vintage of this grapefruit and quince-scented wine, with a hint of the buchu herb which grows wild on the estate. (£14.50)
Good Ordinary White: Good Ordinary Claret’s less famous little brother – think Harpo to Groucho. In its own way, this is just an equally rewarding wine, concentrating on Sauvignon Blanc and its affinity to certain soil types to accentuate a mineral and gourmand style. It’s more akin to a Sancerre than a New Zealand Sauvignon, yet still juicy enough to be a real thirst-quencher. (£10.95)
Côte d’Or Bourgogne Rouge: Bourgogne Rouge can be made from any of Burgundy’s Pinot Noir vineyards, from around Chablis, through to the south around Mâconnais and all points in between, so when a new appellation was created in 2017 to showcase a blend from the region’s finest vineyards of the Côte d’Or, that sounded like a good idea. We approached Ben Leroux who unearthed this jewel which, in the end, was not even a blend, but from declassified energetic pure and joyous Chorey-lès-Beaune. (£23.50)
Côtes du Rhône: To my palate, there are two types of Côtes du Rhône: the widely enjoyed solid, spicy and big-hearted red, and then the more lissom, expressive, garrigue and herb-scented style. The latter is certainly my personal favourite. It is harder to find, yet – when done well, as in this example made for us by Rémi Pouizin from organic and biodynamic fruit – there is a visceral energy that refreshes and satisfies in equal measure. (£11.95)
Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon: Chile’s red wines made their name on easy-drinking Merlot but, for brothers Sebastian and Marco De Martino, it is with Cabernet Sauvignon that the country’s potential for finesse exists. They work exceedingly hard on, and are exceptionally proud of, their Cabernet – and with good reason. Behind the subtle cassis notes, there is a line of graphite and crunchy freshness in this wine that will more than satisfy lovers of Bordeaux. (£9.95)
Last but not least in our round-up of the vintages you should be drinking this year, Buyer Adam Bruntlett offers a detailed run-down on both red and white Burgundy
An excellent tasting of 2010 white Burgundy organised last
year by Sarah Marsh MW in our cellars at No.3 St James’s Street provided a
timely reminder of the quality of this vintage. All of the 30 or so wines
tasted, which ranged from humble Bourgogne Aligoté to a fine magnum of Caroline
showed well, with none of the wines displaying signs of the dreaded premature
oxidation (premox) that haunted the 1990s and 2000s. However, while many wines
seemed able to go on for a few years still, none felt as though they would
improve significantly, so I would recommend enjoying them now while they are in
a happy place.
The same applies to anything older: while some real
enjoyment can be found in these, I would strongly suggest anything from that
period is drunk up now to minimise the chances of encountering the
well-publicised risks of premox.
The 2011 vintage’s reputation grew from a somewhat
inauspicious start, and is to my mind a touch more successful in white than
red, the slightly herbaceous character of the year suiting Chardonnay better
than Pinot Noir. That said, these wines should be drunk in the next year to
avoid disappointment. The 2012 vintage, on the other hand, provided
concentrated whites in a slightly riper style. These can be approached now, but
it’s safe to hang onto them for a couple more years.
The 2013 vintage was on something of a knife-edge with
botrytis, and the wines tend to fall into one of two camps: slightly underripe
and lacking a bit of flavour ripeness, or with the tell-tale orange flavours
and twist of bitterness that comes from a touch of noble rot. I tend to hold a
preference for the latter style, though terroir-definition is lacking a
little. Both styles are ready to drink now, and the richer, later-picked wines
pair well with foie gras and spiced dishes.
The 2014s are true classics, wines for the purists. The
acidity is often searing, with many wines seeming a little austere and
charmless, even at Bourgogne or Village level. Certainly, if a richer and more
generous style is what you are looking for, the 2014s should be ignored.
Personally, I will be burying mine at the very back of the cellar and ignoring
them for many years. Changes in the vineyard and cellar, as well as the use of
alternative closures such as screwcaps and DIAM corks mean the risk of premox
is not a factor.
The 2015 vintage is fast becoming a favourite of mine; the
puppy fat has been shed and there is a little more classicism than we initially
thought. Such is my enthusiasm for the 2015 whites that I feel it arguably
surpasses 2016, a vintage which I tasted in great detail in May, with mixed
results. The 250 wines we assessed blind showed a greater imprint of the
difficult vintage than in barrel and tank, and I would be inclined to drink
them sooner rather than later. The notable exception to this is the wines of
the Mâconnais, which are – in the most part – outstanding (provided hail damage
was not a factor).
Wines from 2017 offer something for everyone; the classic
acid backbone of ’14, combined with some of the generosity of ’15 or ’18. The
wines are charming and all too tempting to enjoy now, but I would urge patience
to derive maximum pleasure. In Chablis, these wines are arguably more complete
than the 2014s.
The 2018 vintage has reaffirmed the ability of the region’s growers to produce excellent white wines even in challenging vintages. The warmth of the year has given the wines a certain generosity, but they have gained in freshness during their élevage and will continue to do so at bottling and beyond. Much like 2015, I feel this is a vintage which will turn out to be better than anticipated for Chardonnay. The wines are approachable and can be broached when young, but there should be no hurry, and the best will offer good medium-term ageing capacity. The Mâconnais appears to have really overperformed in 2018 and continues to offer excellent value when compared to the Côte de Beaune.
With 2018 the latest in a succession of early harvests, my
cellar tastings often descend into discussions around what the future profile
of Burgundy will be, and what the last “old-fashioned” Burgundy vintage was.
Allied to the recent warmer conditions is a definite move towards producing
wines that are more approachable in youth; less extracted, with less new oak
and a more delicate, elegant profile.
At its best, 1999 should continue on for a good few years
yet, although the optimum window is certainly open. The two immediate
successors, 2000 and ’01 are also both enjoyable now and at their peak. A
tasting of 2002s a year or so ago suggested they should be drunk fairly soon,
showing some heavy-handed winemaking which masks some of the charm of the
vintage. They may still shed the oak and tannin, but generally I don’t feel
they are likely to improve significantly.
The yin and yang vintages of 2003 and ’04 are always fascinating
and worth comparing side by side. The ’04s, light-bodied and high in acid and
tannin, show the style of Burgundy that purists perhaps now crave – a stark
contrast to the ripeness of 2018, for example. The previous year, a heatwave
vintage with acute spikes of hot weather, gave wines of much greater
concentration and power. The ’03s have taken time to come around, but there is
a feeling of near-indestructability about them, even if they are not
classically Burgundian in profile. It’s safe to press on, but I think they will
surprise with their longevity.
The 2005 vintage has substantial tannic structure. These are
robust wines which even at village level do not offer much pleasure at the
moment. One to forget for a while at the back of the cellar. In complete
contrast, ’06 and ’07 are ready to go, and should be drunk up in the next
couple of years. The 2008s’ high acidity gives them a little more longevity,
but again these are wines which will give most pleasure in the near future.
The 2009s and ’10s are worth waiting for, although the
richer profile and lower acidity of the former means it is safe to open a
bottle or two. The ’11s are in a good place at the moment, although the herbaceous
character and muted fruit of some wines might not be too everyone’s taste. They
are excellent food wines, particularly for savoury dishes featuring mushrooms
or lighter game.
2012 remains youthful in character, although I have begun to
approach some Bourgogne and lesser village wines with pleasing results. There
is plenty of fruit and a structure which suggests the more serious wines need a
few years yet. 2013 is interesting; the last Burgundy vintage to take place in
October and perhaps the last of the true “classic” Burgundy vintages. As such,
opinions remain divided on its readiness; the relatively high acidity and nervy
fruit profile make it an ideal food vintage, but it may come to be revered as
the last of its kind.
The 2014 vintage is a personal favourite; energetic and
bright, the crunchy acidity and modest alcohol level of these wines makes them
very drinkable, particularly at the table. It is not a vintage with huge
concentration, but its vigour suggests there should be no hurry. Wines from
good growers, even at Bourgogne level, will benefit from decanting for a few
hours before drinking, to allow the acid to soften a little.
The 2015s and ’16s should arguably be left alone for a
while, the former a little richer and the latter somewhat fresher. Neither should
be broached for several years as they are likely to close up soon, if they have
not already done so.
A real charmer of a vintage, 2017 is one whose reputation I
feel sure will only improve over the next few years. Initially overshadowed by
the whites, the reds are an absolute joy at every level, and can be drunk now
on their fruit. There is an effortless, transparent quality to these wines;
everything is in perfect harmony and there is a purity of Pinot Noir fruit that
will delight lovers of Burgundy. While I may be proven wrong, I do not feel
these wines will close up, meaning they are both approachable and age-worthy.
A final, quick note on the Beaujolais, whose wines continue
to offer excellent value and real cellaring potential. Indeed, my favourite
wine experiences of 2019 included a magnum of 1983 Beaujolais from the south of
the region (outside of the Villages zone) and a three-litre bottle of 1999
Morgon from a Roger Thévenet. Recent vintages have left Beaujolais fans spoilt
for choice, but 2018 seems richer and perhaps more approachable than the
slightly more austere 2017s. The 2016s are elegant and delicate, but can be
approached now, whereas the beefier 2015s perhaps require a little more
patience. The 2014 and 2012 vintages should be drunk up, whereas 2013 and 2011
still offer plenty of ageing potential from serious producers in the top crus.
In the second instalment of our series on the wines to tuck into this year, our Cellar Plan Manager Tom Cave reports on a half-century of Vintage Port
The 1970s continue to shine on; these are a wonderful indulgence
now and display all the great traits of truly venerable Vintage Port from a long-gone
era. Seek some out if you can, and continue to enjoy those you have.
The 1975 vintage followed, a shadow of 1970, due much to political
unrest in Portugal. This was a vintage that perhaps should never have been
declared, though if you do come across any, respect them for their delicate, elegant,
persistence to have reached this far.
The 1977s strode in soon after, pitched as classics, and
sold far and wide. There was lots of the vintage, and there’s still quite a bit
around. With few exceptions, the wines are all well onto their “drink now” plateau,
even if most will remain at this stage for some years yet.
The 1980 vintage proved an undersung gem for, notably, Dow,
Graham and Warre. Well into prime maturity, best kick on and enjoy rather than
hold out for more.
Both 1983 and 1985 are likewise ready to go. Some ’85s will
continue to improve, but – nearly two score years on – it’s time to wield corkscrew
and decanter for both. By the by, Vintage Port of this age won’t fade in a
decanter for a good few days; ever thought of opening a bottle on a Friday
night and enjoying it glass by glass right through to Sunday evening?
On to 1991 vs 1992 and a “split declaration”: 1991 is
perhaps the lighter-footed hurdler, and one to broach sooner. The 1992s (in the
main, those from the Taylor-Fladgate group) have the muscle and concentration
to stay longer, the staying ‘chaser.
The 1994 vintage sails on with pride and promise. Rich fruit
and painless tannins mean they can be delicious now, though there is plenty
more development to come. It remains a stand-out vintage to seek out now for
drinking over the next two to three decades.
Wines from 1997 are more sedentary, though it was gratifying
to see how well one provided praiseworthy pleasure earlier this winter. Silky
fruit in balance to crisp tannins suggesting this mid-weight vintage is coming
into its own.
The 2000s, little-seen, generally need lie longer and remain
a little underwhelming. The 2003 vintage is one of greater note; producing big,
expressive wines that while a bit short on charm can warm the soul. Overall, leave
both for now.
The tempo of releases rose with 2007, ’11, ’16 and ’17 all
declared and in lower quantities than of yesteryear. Many of these earning high
praise. Be thankful, they can all slumber on, developing as slowly and majestically
as any great vintage – though changing styles and customs hint we’ll be enjoying
these a little sooner than our grandparents had to wait for theirs.