To mark the start of Chocolate Week, Paul A. Young and Providores owner and Kiwi fusion food wizard Peter Gordon hosted a special six course chocolate themed dinner upstairs at Peter’s Providores restaurant in West London.
Paul and Peter had collaborated to bring a small group of chocolate lovers a unique menu incorporating chocolate and fine dining, complete with a selection of wines from New Zealand (where else?) to compliment each course.
The evening kicked off with a cacao bean aperitif – a Cacao Nib Sipsmith Vodka Sour, which basically did exactly as you might expect. Sharp, ice cold vodka sour with a lovely cacao undercurrent and a wonderfully sour aftertaste, toped with a couple of sour cherries.
The rest of the menu read like this:
Mast Brothers Chuao 70%
Grilled aubergine, tamarind caramel, grapefruit, green mango, coriander.
Served with a 2008 Seresin Estate Reserve Chardonnay, Marlborough.
Every element clearly defined on the palate, and the grapefruit a surprising yet essential addition in the overall flavour complex. The tamarind caramel was another surprise sweet treat, again, splendidly offset by the green mango and that all-important grapefruit. The wine was a revelation to me, but this is a chocolate blog, so suffice to say it was a big chunk of buttery oakiness. The 70% Mast Brothers Chuao sauce was light enough on the palate but packing enough of a dark chocolate punch to blend in with the mixture of earthy aubergine and vibrant fruit accompaniments.
Michel Cluizel 50% mangaro milk chocolate.
Smoked Eel, sautéed Salsify, toasted Sourdough crumbs, Date chipotle Cilli Purée
2007 Richardson Pinot Noir, Cromwell Basin, Central Otago
Much anticipated and calling out from the plate the second it arrived at the table, this was a real “you thought the last course was good?” moments. The smoked eel was pungent, whisper light in the mouth and combined with the date and chipotle chilli purée (where do I learn how to make that?) the salsify and sourdough it was a truly amazing first mouthful. The light milk chocolate sauce lent a sweetness to the smokiness of the eel which in turn brought out new depths in that fruit and chilli purée. The wine was a surprise choice – until the first sip. An amazing Pinot Noir which added a burst of fruit and some good tanins to cleanse the palate.
Duffy Panama 72% Tierra Iscura, from Bocca Del Toro Island
Master-stock roasted duck, prune sauce, wild mushrooms, porcini powder, broad beans
2006 Kawau Bay Merlot/Cabernet Frans/Malbec, Matakana
Beautiful pink Gressingham duck (the only duck you should ever buy) with a fruity prune sauce, mingling with earthy wild mushroom, enhanced with Porcini powder and sitting next to some vibrant broad beans. A more full bodied wine, and a more full bodied chocolate sauce in the mix. The eel dish was always going to be a hard one to follow, and while you couldn’t fault this as a dish in its own right, I could still remember the eel, and would happily have swapped my duck for another eel.
Valrhona Venezuelan 64% (Paul A. Young exclusive)
Crispy Pork Belly, crusted Ox tongue, Butternut Coconut curry, Pine Nuts
2009 Dog Point Chardonnay Wairau Valley Marlborough
The ox tongue was surprisingly light in the mouth and delivered lovely iron richness, while the pork and curry added further dimensions. Almost a meal of two halves, I found the tongue and chocolate paired extremely well, while the Pork and the curry seemed to be made for each other. Another surprise wine choice – more oaky buttery loveliness. It’s official – I like Chardonnay again.
Åkesson’s 755 Brazil Fazenda Monte Alegre
Braised beef cheek, roast caramelised quince, smoked chickpea panizza
2008 Man O’War Dreadnought Syrah, Waiheke Island, Auckland
For me this course was back up there with the eel dish. The beef cheek was melt in the mouth, packing a ton of rich, deep, meaty flavours. The quince and chocolate took some of the iron out of the meat, with the smoked panizza throwing in a new kick to the final taste. It was a big, smokey, rich mouthful, nd the wine really speaks for itself. A big, fat fruity mouthful with tannins to go with the meat. The choice of Åkesson’s chocolate was again inspired (read the review here). Superb.
Dessert Using Orinal Beans Cru Virunga
Tart of malted Virunga chocolate and sea salted caramel, buffalo milk ice cream, sesame praline
Novat 10 Year Old Tawny Port
I managed to come home without a decent picture of dessert. Blame it on five amazing courses and numerous glasses of wine. Needless to say, the ice cream was much lighter than I expected, and the sea salted caramel and Virunga chocolate were just the right blend of sweet and savoury. The praline packed a good sesame punch, rounding things off nicely with the coffee.
The meal wasn’t just about the food though. Both chefs stood up and introduced each course, giving a short talk about how the dish came about, with Peter filling in on the wines. They were both table-hopping between courses as well, so I had a chance to talk to both Paul and Peter during the course of the evening.
The overall impression was that both men had thoroughly enjoyed the process of creating this very special dinner, and that there had been relatively little in the way of stress or problems. My dinner companion and fellow diners were unanimous in their praise of the dishes, and the intimate surroundings of the upstairs room at Providores was perfect for the introductions and for questions to be heard and answered clearly.
Looking at the menu, there’s a lot of fruit and meat combinations going on there – it’s almost medieval in that respect, but the addition of chocolate to each course (plus the design of each dish) added a further dimension. I thoroughly enjoyed every course (although of course there were a couple of personal favourites) and the wines that went with them.
A unique dining experience, and one I am glad to have shared.