Thursday 14th March 2024

To many France is the centre of gastronomy and classic old-world wine. Dean the Head Chef of the incredible Fitzwilliam Hotel here in Belfast prepared a wonderful menu, delving into repertoire of recipes and his valuable experience working in the culinarily Industry.

Our wine choices for the menu mirrored his French Styling and together we took a journey around France’s classic regions.

To begin our evening we are served our Amuse Bouche “Foure d’Ambert Brulee, Craquelin de Ble” an absolutely beautiful blue cheese with a lovely smooth, soft texture and refined blue flavour. It’s no surprise that Fourme d’Ambert is often referred to as the ‘connoisseurs’ blue cheese. Paired with Joel Delaunay Methode Traditionnelle Rose Brut NV.  A mixed blend of 34% Gamay, 33% Cabernet Franc, 33% Malbec. Pink salmon in colour with fine aromas of raspberry and gooseberry. Harmonious palate with a nice acidity and finesse, full of red fruit with some generous floral notes. The finish is long and balanced complements our Blue Cheese starter perfectly.

The Fish Course of “Sole de Douvres Meuniere, Ratatouille Nicoise Puree” was beautifully presented, Fine Slithers of Dover sole cooked to perfection, salty capers, Cornelle of Ratatouille, roasted cherry tomatoes bursting with acidity and nicoise puree. Paired with Jean-Marc Gilet Vouvray Les Perruches Sec Chenin Blanc 2022. Made with grapes from 20 to 40-year-old vines grown on clay-limestone soil. Expressive with dominant aroma of white fruits (vine peaches) supported by notes of fresh almonds and acacia flowers. Elegant and long, with flavours of citrus and roasted hazelnuts on the finish.

To follow “Canard a L’orange, Confit Bon Bon, Pomme Anna, Chou Frise, I love duck! And Dean did not disappoint, cooked to perfection with a vibrant pink centre, Crispy skin delicious! And wow that Bon Bon! Crispy shell of herb infused heaven.  Paired with Jean Loron Beaujolais Villages Les Belmonts 2022. 100% Gamay with a beautiful cherry red colour, the wine reveals intense red fruits aromas. This easy to drink wine is harmonious and is delicately structured. My stand out dish and pairing of the evening.

The Main event of “Agneau de printemps, Francais garni, fines Herbes, Pruneaux Armagnac, bebes legmes, pomme tournee” you can’t have a French wine dinner and not have Lamb. A succulent cutlet of medium lamb with herb crust had the mouth watering at just a glance. You can tell with every dish served this evening is plated with precision and passion. Paired with Camille Cayran L’Élégante Rouge 2021. 40% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 20% Carignan, 20% Mourvèdre, fruit-driven goodness. This medium to full-bodied wine is loaded with purple raspberries Cherry and Spice. A classic Lamb pairing wine.

Cheese Course followed with three generous servings of “Camembert, Roquefort and Munster. Gelee de coing, Plaquettes” after having an array of rich gamey meats, cheese went down a treat a perfect pre dessert option. Paired with Jules Gautret Pineau des Charentes. Powerful and well-balanced, it can enjoyed chilled as an aperitif, but is also excellent with desserts and in our case cheese. Lesser know on the French fortified wines, however it gained a few new fans from the first sip.

To Finish our evening “Souffle’ au Chocolat, Pistachio glace” a mushroom plume of towering Chocolate, rich creamy chocolate sauce and silky pistachio ice cream. Paired with Domaine des Bernardins Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise 2020, which showed notes of apricot and very ripe pear with floral and butterscotch notes. The palate is rich and runs with surprising freshness after the opening. There is a note of quince paste on the aftertaste.

A fantastic evening enjoyed by all, Dean made an appearance which allowed us to thank him for him and he team for their hard work. And a massive thank you to Lauren, Amy and James who made the evening effortless with their support and professionalism.

We look forward to the next one.