Donostia: a taste of Basque cuisine

Donostia, a Basque-themed restaurant, recently opened its doors in Marylebone. It is just one of a steady stream of exciting new openings in the capital. Read my profile of the newcomer to get the low-down on the team, the food and the drink. It can be found in the ‘About’ section of this website.

Wines to impress at The Jugged Hare

Taxidermy, bone marrow, faggots, junket and traditional sherries from family producers… Yes, there are many traditional elements to The Jugged Hare, the latest addition to the ETM restaurant group. But new City pub also offers the group’s most ambitious wine list to date, so I was curious to give it a try.

Our visit, last Friday evening, got off to a good start. Having settled comfortably on a couple of bar stools in the lively bar area, we soon clapped eyes on a couple of sherries at the bottom of the wine list and a style to suit each of us. I chose the excellent bone dry Fino from Guitérrez Colosia (£3.30/75cl) while my partner, who prefers richer sherries, enjoyed the elegant, nutty ‘Gobernador Oloroso’ from Emilio Hidalgo (£4/75cl). Both were well chilled, just as these styles should be.

We moved through to the bistro-style dining area which features an eight-spit rotisserie for the preparation of many of the dishes on the menu; meat and game are sourced from rare breed and artisan producers while fish is selected daily from Billingsgate market.

After some deliberation – the menu is extensive – I chose a warm starter of Dorset crab claws (£12) while my partner opted for the air dried Welsh ham and celeriac (£8.50). Turning to the wine list, our waiter was keen for us to try a flight of German Rieslings featuring three different producers but somehow, after sherry, the moment wasn’t quite right. However, a glass of white from the northern Rhône – Domaine Courbis, Saint Joseph Blanc 2009 (£12) – was a mouth-watering prospect. A more complex and structured white such as this, which is a blend of the two Rhône grapes Marsanne and Roussanne, would be a good match for the crab, I hoped.

The buttery crab claws arrived piled high on a small cast iron plate and I got to work. They were meaty and delicious and the silky richness of the Domaine Courbis white complemented them perfectly – this was the most exciting food and wine match that I’d come across for some time. It was probably also the most indulgent and one glass was just right (thanks to the use of dispensing machines a selection of fine wines are available by the glass or carafe in prime condition).

Meanwhile my partner was also enjoying his ham and celeriac starter, with some envious glances my way.

For the main dish, meat seemed to be the way to go and the Chateaubriand steak, for two to share, had tempted us both (600g/£55).

A bottle of Pinot Noir, Sokol Blosser, Delinea 300, 2009 (£38), which hails from Oregon in the USA, was our choice for the main. A medium-bodied red, it proved to be a good choice for a warm evening and for the generous slices of meat, cooked slightly pink as requested with béarnaise sauce or rotisserie gravy to accompany it.

Dessert was tempting, but the two courses we chose were more than sufficient. I would have been tempted by the sea-buckthorn junket and a dessert wine. There’s plenty more to look forward to next time.

The Jugged Hare, 49 Chiswell Street, London EC1Y 4SA

020 7614 0134;  www.thejuggedhare.com

ETM Group: www.etmgroup.co.uk

The Rosendale: bringing good food and wine to south-east London…

Could the gastropub finally be coming to south-east London? I was curious to find out when I learnt that The Rosendale, in West Dulwich, had been taken over by Renaissance Pubs. The team already has a number of quality orientated pub-restaurants in the Wandsworth/Balham area, but this is its biggest venture to date.

Our first intention to visit on a Saturday night was foiled by a private function that had taken over the whole building. (I later learn that this was an outstanding commitment from the previous ownership and would not be the norm).

We tried again, successfully, a few weeks ago and again on a Saturday night. This time we booked ahead and we were warmly welcomed. In fact the waiting staff were attentive from start to finish and there were certainly plenty of them fluttering around the tables.

The starters offered plenty of choice – I might have gone for the squid & cuttlefish with chorizo, fennel and rocket – but we decided to jump straight to main dishes. My partner’s sirloin steak was tender and cooked as requested – no complaints there. My Guinea fowl with creamy leeks, peas and potato fondant was excellent but a little more potato would have been welcome. Guinea fowl can be dry but this one was moist, tasty and came with a delicious sauce. So far so good, although we were finding the ‘background’ music a bit intrusive and we were having to raise our voices to hear each other.

By the time we’d finished the mains we were about half way down a bottle of very drinkable South African Syrah so the British cheese board seemed like a good idea to go with the rest of the wine. This was a bit disappointing in both presentation and content. The board came with a selection of three cheeses and one or two slightly soft large puffy cheese biscuits. Two were tasty enough – a firm goat’s cheese and a cheddar – but the third, a Somerset brie, was bland (and in my experience this cheese always is…).

The cheese board needs a bit more attention as not everyone wants to end their meal with something sweet AND the wine list is impressive (for south-east London it’s positively ground-breaking).  So, like us, customers might want to end their meal with a plate of good cheese and a glass of wine.

Careful thought has gone into the wines and the presentation of the list. You can find your way through quite a large selection guided by style descriptions such as ‘zesty and zingy’ or ‘smooth and round’ and if you just want one glass there are quite a few choices (175ml or 250ml) as well as the 500ml carafe.

The drinks list also offers cocktails, bottled beers – including three from London’s Meantime brewery – and whiskies from around the world. All this can be enjoyed in the bar area near the entrance along with bar snacks including burgers, Welsh rarebit or half a pint of prawns or in the restaurant area.

Under the previous ownership, The Rosendale was an upmarket restaurant that didn’t last. Now it offers something that will hopefully keep the locals coming back and, give or take a few minor details, we came away satisfied. What’s for sure is that south-east London needs The Rosendale and a lot more places like it.

 

The Rosendale, 65 Rosendale Rd, West Dulwich, SE1 8EZ, www.therosendale.co.uk

Two courses for two with wine: approximately £70