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Noilly Prat L’Apéritif Spring event at Cafe Pistou

Where
Café Pistou, Exmouth Market

photo 2

What
Noilly Prat L’Apéritif Spring event

  Experience
On a pretty spectacular spring evening (girl’s arrived), me and Stephen headed down to Café Pistou for the Noilly Prat L’Apéritif Spring event. The quaint and pretty brasserie lies at the gateway to Exmouth Market serving provençal inspired small plates throughout the day and, both giddy from leaving work early, we plonked ourselves like a pair of fat cats in the sunny terrace and grinned smugly. Noilly Prat is considered one of the world’s first and finest French vermouths, used widely in classic cocktails such as the dry martini; but we were here to  drink it the way the French do, as L’Apéritif served simply over ice with a twist of lemon. We felt refreshed and sophisticated and found the single globular ice cube particularly satisfying.

Noilly Prat has been created and aged in the South of France for over 200 years using Picpoul and Clairette grape varietals that are aged in small oak casks exposed to the natural elements throughout all 4 seasons in L’enclos. This method replicates the aging process of wines once experienced aboard the decks of sailing ships on long journeys across the sea, resulting in more complex, powerful wines. The Part des Anges (angel’s share), wine lost to evaporation, is 4 times greater than if the wine was aged in an indoor cellar. A secret recipe of over 20 herbs and spices are gently macerated into the blended wines by hand each day for 3 weeks to give Noilly Prat its distinct, aromatic profile.

Classically, L’Apéritifs are served before meals to stimulate the appetite, so kindly, we were treated to an array of provençal small plates to stop us from just getting completely hammered. Noilly Prat is also used in French Haute Cuisine and it’s complex aromatic flavour goes beautifully with fish and seafood dishes, particularly oysters, which we were happy to confirm. We also tried the Barbajauns (deep-fried Provençal ‘wontons’ with goat’s cheese and a Noilly Prat honey pepper dip), Salt cod croquettes in crispy breadcrumbs with a sweet pepper, tomato and Noilly Prat mayonnaise dip and Sliced Bayonne ham. The Pissaladieres (puff pastry tart, topped with caramelised onion and a choice of either olives, salted anchovies and a Noilly Prat twist, or Noilly Prat marinated figs, sunblush tomatoes, Gorgonzola and herbes de Provence) were beautiful and the Prawns in crisp feuille de brique pastry were elevated by the delicious Noilly Prat tomato and basil butter dip it was served with.

As the sun was going down, and we were thoroughly happy and steaming… dessert! Tres bien. It was charcoal roast plums with blackcurrent, Noilly Prat and olive oil sauce and vanilla mascarpone served with caramel and pine nut crisp and basil sugar. “It’s like a wander through a fragrant forest of berries and basil”, Stephen whispered wistfully, and I said “Yea, it’s dead nice”.

It’s safe to say that I probably won’t be recreating any of these magical culinary adventures myself any time soon. On the other hand, let’s see how many bottles of Noilly Prat I manage to work my way through this summer…

Cost
Noilly Prat ~ £11.00 for 750ml bottle

Address
8-10 Exmouth Market
London
EC1R 4QA

Café Pistou on Urbanspoon

Le Menar, Fitzrovia

Where
Le Menar, Fitzrovia

Downstairs_frontWhat
Le Menar is North African food with a difference. Combining core ingredients with modern cooking techniques, Chef Vernon Samuels also brings a fresh approach to presentation.

The Experience
Le Menar is tucked away on Cleveland Street in upmarket Fitzrovia. Seated at the low round Moroccan brass tables, you sink down into giant colourful pillows in a room that glows with warm tones of red and orange.

The mezze sharing platter, served with delicious Lebanese flat bread, is filled with hummus, tabbouleh, baby okra salad, moutabel, falafel, moussaka, wareq enab (stuffed vine leaves) and mini kebbeh. Each element has intense flavour. The baby okra salad with pomegranate and coriander was particularly mouthwatering. The menu showed traces of Chef Vernon Samuels’ time spent working in Italy, and the Za atar burrata with heirloom tomato salad, sumac and baby basil was a fine example of this.

Unable to leave a morsel of the starters, we were all-too-soon presented with our mains. The delicious Green harissa monkfish was served with batata harra (a sauce of potatoes, red peppers, coriander, chili, and garlic), samphire and tomatoes; while the slow-cooked short rib braised in a Moroccan spice mix called ras el hanout came with Jerusalem couscous and iman bayldi (aubergines stuffed with a garlic, onion and tomatoes). How we each managed to devour every mouthful is a mystery. I’ve never been to Morocco but now I surely want to eat my way around the country.

Sadly, no room for dessert but when I return I’ll definitely save space for the Saffron and pistachio crème brûlée.

Cost
Starters from £4.75
Mains from £14.50
Tagines from £12
Dessert from £5

Address

55 Cleveland Street
London
W1T 4JL