Thursday, 30 October 2008

Les Senteurs Cote de Nuits-Villages 2006

Burgundy, France, $218, cork seal
Every year I get a three pack of Marks & Spencer's socks or jocks from Granny for Christmas. While M&S isn't particularly cool, neither is having your Granny buy your underwear, so we'll just leave it there ... Anyway I was in M&S stocking up on liquorice allsorts and thought it was time to give their wines a whirl. Their selection includes a wide range of regions and varietals; the wines are reasonably priced and though their plonk is all bottled under their own labels, many of the producers are easily recognisable. After some research I'm pretty sure this wine was made by Nicolas Potel off sixty year old vines.

The Les Senteurs Cote de Nuits-Villages 2006 is a beautiful pure crimson colour. When I poured it into the decanter I got a big whiff of smoky cherries. As it I settled down the fruit lingered and it smelt of black cherries with interesting touch of blueberry, black current and olive. Though not overly complex, it's a tasty wine with creamy cherry and strawberry flavours. It's savoury, medium bodied and has good lingering length. There are lovely soft tannins that give it an extra dimension of structured class. Drinkable? Most definitely. Remarkable? Well, maybe not, but it's a deliciously tasty wine that offers pure Pinot at a reasonable price. Les Senteurs Cote de Nuits-Villages 2006 is one of the best value Burgundies I've had in Hong Kong, well done Marks & Sparks.

Visit the Marks & Spencer wine site.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Homemade Pesto

Update from the Garden
I've a garden bursting with basil. The stuff is self seeding everywhere and it's even growing from the bottoms of pots! I'm not sure if a man can have too much basil, but I've got it drying in the lounge room, frozen in the freezer and I spend Sunday afternoon making pesto. Now I'm the proud owner of stacks of jars packed with bright, luscious pesto; I really don't think a man can have too much basil.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Barkan Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

Galilee, Israel, cork seal, $150

This was a purchase by a friend at last week's Middle Eastern wine tasting at Malouf's. We opened it after the bottle of Domaine Paillère & Pied-Gu Gigondas 2003 and the contrast in styles was extremely pronounced. I don't know much about Israeli wine, but apparently Barkan is one of Israel's biggest producers. The wine is made at their central Hulda winery, but uses fruit from the Upper Galilee, Golan Heights and Jerusalem Hills regions.

It's dark purple in colour, with a little crimson circling the rim of the glass. Having a sniff the oak is obvious; it smells of resin, cedar, cloves and black fruits. The palate is big and intense with flavours of cloves, cinnamon, blueberry, plum and boysenberry - can we call these blue fruits? It's a well balanced wine, though it was a little too sweet for me. Barkan Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 is certainly a wine that'll divide the crowd; if you like big lashings of oak then this is a wine for you.

Visit winery website.

Domaine Paillère & Pied-Gu Gigondas 2003

Rhône, France, £11.10, cork seal
Heathrow airport isn't particularly known as a place to by wine, but a bit of spare time before I bordered CX254 to Hong Kong meant I stepped on the plane with a quite a few clinking bottles; this was one. I couldn't discover much about this particular wine or producer, though I'd assume it's a Grenache and Syrah based blend.

It's a rather fetching bright crimson colour. The nose is full of interest and flavour; but dominated by the big meaty smell of smoked bacon. There's also an aroma of spice, especially cinnamon and some of that sweet red stuff they try and pass of as liquorice. It's a medium bodied wine with flavours of plum and raspberries. As it opened up in the decanter elegant and restrained tannins emerged that added an extra dimension of class. If I had to be critical I'd say the palate didn't quite live up to the nose; it lacked a little length and complexity, but I still really enjoyed it. Domaine Paillère & Pied-Gu Gigondas 2003 is deliciously fragrant, interesting and food friendly wine that I could happily drink on a regular basis.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Middle Eastern Wines at Malouf's

Malouf's Arabesque, Elements, Kowloon
15th October 2008

When I heard that Malouf's Arabesque, one of my favourite Hong Kong restaurants, was hosting a Middle-Eastern wine event I got a tad excited. The setting was casual and it was a pleasure to try the wines on a barmy evening on their upstairs balcony. A selection of high quality, Mediterranean inspired finger food from their meze menu was on offer and it was all extremely tasty. The event cost a hefty $317 each, but after stuffing myself on delightful food and being left with a couple of bottles of wine to finish I really couldn't complain.

Etko Winery, Cyprus (website)
Olympus is Etko's everyday drinking range and Olympus Dry White is made from the indigenous Cypriot grape Xynisteri; full and long it had pleasant nutty flavours but was a tad simple. The Olympus Dry Red was made from local Mavro as well as Grenache and Carignan. Fresh and light I enjoyed this easy drinking proposition; the Grenache was obvious on the nose with delicious cherry and pepper aromas. I also liked the Nefeli Dry White, again made from Xynisteri; it was a well balanced wine with a lovely minerality. The Semeli Dry Red 2004 featured Mavro, Grenache and Shiraz and was a much bigger wine than the Olympus red. It had a herbal nose and palate dominated by cherry and chassis and definitely needed time in the glass to open up. Priced between $120 and $170 these wines from Etko offered enjoyable drinking, decent value and an opportunity to try some Cypriot grape varietals. They are imported to Hong Kong by Wine Patio.

Halana, Morocco (website)
Established in 1994 Halana purchased sixty year old vineyards in the hope of re-establishing the Moroccan wine industry. They are situated near the former Moroccan capital of Meknes, the country's main wine producing region. I was surprised how much I enjoyed the Halana Syrah Rose 2006; this fresh and balanced wine had strawberry flavours and decent weight. The Halana Merlot 2006 was a tad too sweet and jammy for my taste, but had plenty of dark fruit flavours and a soft drinkability. For some reason I had no notes on the Syrah 2006 and Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, but remember enjoying the Cabernet. At only $90 a bottle Halana wines are good value and worth a try, especially the Rose. They are imported by Fico.

Chateau Musar, Lebanon (website)
Lebanon is perhaps the site of the world's first wine production and founded in the 1930s Chateau Musar is often seen as the cream of their wine industry. The vineyards are located in the Beqaa Valley, 15 miles north of Beirut. Their red wines are a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault, Carignan and Grenache. I enjoyed the Chateau's second wine Hochar Pere et Fils 2001, it was a medium bodied and pleasant drop showing aged characteristics, but still had plenty of sweet fruit and a fresh nose. The Chateau Musar Red 2001 was a really interesting wine. Perfumed and subtle it had lovely aromas of spice and a refined dark fruit dominated palate. At $230 is a fair price for such a top quality wine. Again imported by Fico.

Barkan, Israel (website)
Barkan is a large Israeli producer. First we tried the Barkan Classic Shiraz Rose, it was a nice drop that I think benefitted from the addition of 15% Tempranillo. It had delicious almond and herb flavours on the nose and strawberries on the palate; dry and drinkable it really was rather pleasant. The Barkan Domain Merlot was also fresh and drinkable with red fruits, herbs and a touch of vanilla. The Barkan Reserve Merlot was a darker proposition with tobacco, cherry and plum aromas and a bold, sweet palate. Perhaps a tad one dimensional the Reserve Shiraz was dominated vanilla oak. I liked the Reserve Cabernet. This dark wine had a classic cassis and blackberries on the nose and a smooth, fruity palate, though the lack of tannins would suggest a drink now proposition. The oak influence on these Barkan wines was pretty obvious and they were all about vanilla oak and ripe fruit.

I enjoyed myself at Malouf's Middle Eastern Wine tasting. It was fantastic night with nice wines, lovely food and great friends.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Esporao Aragonês 2002

Alentejo, Portugal, cork seal, MOP$190
Another purchase from Macau. It was interestingly enough imported by "Goodtime Distributors" who either have a sense of humour or a very diverse business. Aragonês or Aragonez is the Portuguese name for Tempranillo; one of the few Spanish grapes the Portuguese seem to have taken to with gusto. It's produced by Herdade do Esporao a huge outfit in the southern-central region of Alentejo and is part of their 'Monocastas' range that offers clearly labelled, single varietal wines; rather cutting edge for Portugal.

Esporao Aragonês 2002 is a dark inky purple colour. It smells delightfully dusty, with hints of blackberries, chocolate, pencil lead, tobacco and capsicum. The palate is rich and full with black fruits, spicy oak and bold, grippy tannins. It really is a powerhouse of a wine; the dark fruit flavours are intense, the tannins big and the length excellent. It's already six years old so I'm not sure if it's going to soften anymore, so to enjoy this I'd defiantly involve a decanter and steak. A most enjoyable wine.

Visit winery website.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

The Square

4/F Exchange Square II, Central
Visited 11th October 2008

The second restaurant in a row with 'square' in the name; though this time I'm dining with visiting friends in Exchange Square, Hong Kong rather than Hoxton Square, London. The Square is located on the mezzanine level of corporate paradise; Exchange Square (I think I just wanted to say the word 'square' a few more times). It seems like the type of place that would thrive with the lunchtime crowd, but was only a third full on the Saturday night we visited. It's a tastefully laid out space with comfortable decor and broken views of the Victoria Harbour and Kowloon's blooming skyline.
For a Chinese restaurant the menu isn't overly extensive, though it included a number of Cantonese favourites and plenty of unnecessary luxuries like birds nest and shark fin. We ordered barbecue suckling pig, tangerine prawns, mushrooms with pea sprouts, beef with vegetables and braised chicken with chestnuts. The food was all of a high standard and all rather delicious. I especially enjoyed the tender braised chicken which was served sizzling from the oven and the plate of six huge juicy prawns that were delicately fried and garnished with a tangy, sweet and sour tangerine sauce. We happily drunk cold cans of Tsingtao, and though I didn't order wine the selection on offer looked reasonable value.

I was impressed with The Square; tucked away from the weekend crowds it was a pleasant environment for an evening meal. The friendly staff were extremely professional and more than happy to assist in making recommendations and explaining menu items, they were also responsible for some of the best beer pouring I've seen at a Chinese restaurant. At over $800 for the four of us, including service charge, I thought it was particularly good value, especially considering the high quality food and central location. The Square comes recommended.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Leone de Castris Five Roses 2005

Salento, Italy, $98, cork seal

Yeah, OK I bought this because of the magnificently cool label, but with a little research I discovered it also has a very interesting story. With its inaugural vintage in 1943 Five Roses made history as the first rose wine bottled and sold in Italy; the marketing gimmick of the day was "an Italian wine, but with an American name". This bottle is the annual 'Anniversario' release that follows the original recipe and uses 80% Negroamaro and 20% Malvasia Nero grapes just as they did 65 years ago.

This is pink, but just; it's probably more 'coral' or something similar in colour as it has a pronounced orange tint. The nose is delicate and there's just a whiff of minerality and the faint aroma of strawberry fairy floss. Tasting this I'm certainly not bowled over by outrageous fruit. There's a nutty crispness to it that actually reminds me a bit of sherry, but sherry with a splash of raspberry cordial. A decent hit of acidity and integrated alcohol make this savoury drop rather refreshing and food friendly. I'm not sure that I'm totally convinced by this; though it's a wine that certainly needs to be drunk alongside food.

Visit winery website.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Hoxton Square Bar and Kitchen

4 Hoxton Square, London
Visited 8th October 2008

A brief visit to the UK finished with a few spare hours in London. My brother was off work and before you could say "time for a beer in the sun" we found ourselves slapped out the front of the Hoxton Square Bar and Kitchen with a couple of cold pints. A cool corner of London tucked away in the north-east side of town, Hoxton Square is close to my brother's new home and an area I hadn't visited before. The pub is all modern, slick design and its open front allows punters to spew out in the square and make the most of London's rare sunny afternoons.

Looking at the past posts I seem to eat a lot of hamburgers in pubs and this little excursion was no exception. I ordered up a bacon and cheese burger and the resulting monstrosity was rather good. The bread roll was fresh and crunchy (oh how things have changed in London) and the thick, meaty patty was topped with tasty smoked bacon and melted cheddar. This big flavoursome burger came with tasty hand cut chips. To drink we sucked on pints of Red Strip an average Jamaican larger that seems to be all the rage in London.

The Hoxton Square Bar and Kitchen is very cool and very London. I'm not sure how much I would have enjoyed the place on a busy Friday night, but on a weekday afternoon is was a great spot to stop for a feed and a couple of beers. The burgers were bloody good, but at £9.50 a pop expensive, but that's the nature of the beast that is London. After a hectic few days in Cornwall it was nice to be able to relax and it's amazing what you can squeeze into a few hours. Before I bordered CX254 to Hong Kong I'd visited three pubs, caught up with a two separate mates, drank a few pints and had lunch in the sun with my brother at Hoxton Square.
Visit restaurant website.

Sunday, 5 October 2008


Basement, 71-77 Peking Rd, TST
Visited 2nd October 2008

An old friend was back visiting Hong Kong and the catch-up was organised at Delaney’s. Styled as a traditional Irish pub with a big bar, darts board and plenty of tables for drinking, it’s an oasis of civility in Peking Rd; one of Hong Kong’s busiest locations. Thursday night must have been party night, as two-for-one cocktails and music requests were being touted by a DJ who was doing a great job of living out fantasies of radio fame. Like all good Hong Kong pubs Delaney's also a branch in Wan Chai.

Even the menu at Delaney’s has an Irish twang with the lovely named "champ and coddle", next to fish ‘n’ chips, burgers, steaks and Irish inspired dishes such as pies and stews. I was in the mood for a burger so I ordered one and even took up the optional extras of cheese and bacon. The burger patty was big; a rolling fat thing nicely flavoured with herbs and served in a tall bun with plenty of cheese and bacon. It was accompanied by an impressive gherkin baton, a simple salad and crisp chips. My friend's shepherd's pie came straight from the oven with warm bread and, strangely, a cherry on top. The mash topped pie was pretty average; the minced lamb filling was overwhelmed by tomato and tasted like cheap spaghetti sauce. To drink I got into the spirit of things and sunk a few pints, while the girls were fans of the draft cider.

Delaney’s is a decent enough pub; the staff are efficient and thankfully preference is given to background music rather than huge TVs spewing out sport (something that happens way too much in Hong Kong). The food wasn't cheap at $108 for the pie and $102 for my burger and I was a little resentful at having to pay an extra $15 each for cheese and bacon – surely cheese should be standard on any burger? Though not overly cheap Delaney’s is certainly comparatively priced for Hong Kong pubs and the fact there’s no stupid service charge makes the bill a bit easier to swallow. If you’re missing the Irish theme pubs of home; whether it’s Melbourne, Vancouver or Glasgow then Delaney’s could be the place for you.

Visit restaurant website.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Tsim Chai Kee Noodle

98 Wellington St, Central
Visited 1st October 2008

A mate and I found Tsim Chai Kee Noodle by chance while staggering down from Soho. When we rocked up it was quite busy with a line of people waiting for seats. Decked out with communal wooden tables and simple wooden stools it was a surprisingly clean and pleasant environment.

There was only a couple of options on the menu; noodles with beef, noodles with wontons, noodles with minced fish balls, noodles with a combination of things and vegetables. We luckily both like noodles and went for the beef, wonton combination. While the steaming bowls that arrived weren’t as big as I expected, they were rather tasty. The strips of beef were tender and the two chunky wontons packed with juicy prawn. The highlight however was the delicious soup base; it was dark, rich and flavoursome.

A tasty meal for $21 is good value and it was rather nice to be able to enjoy a bowl of noodles in such a clean, modern environment. Sure the service was nothing special, but I got a smile as by bowl was plonked down and they had English menus, which is enough for me. If you’re in the area and feeling peckish Tsim Chai Kee Noodle is a good option, it’s also convenient if you just happen to be stumbling downhill from Soho.

Delicious Seafood Restaurant

San Hing Praya St, Cheung Chau
Visited 1st October 2008

Chung Chau is becoming a favourite place to take visitors. The mix of tranquil forest paths, decent beaches, temples, an old town and busy fishing port makes for a good day out. I've had pretty good luck with the seafood restaurants along San Hing Praya St and while nothing outstanding this strip of alfresco eateries seems to dish up pretty decent Cantonese seafood. This time I picked Delicious Seafood Restaurant because of the mass of locals filling the place - all I might add who looked more like pirates than fisherman. We plonked ourselves on the plastic outdoor tables; the perfect place for observing harbour life on a busy spring afternoon.

The menu at Delicious Seafood Restaurant has all the expected Cantonese dishes with a leaning towards seafood; fresh tanks of which decorate the front of the restaurant. We ordered fried rice, a roast pigeon, some fried beef with onions and the mandatory salt and pepper squid. The food was pretty good. The rice and pigeon were OK, the beef a little too sweet, but tender and the crispy fried calamari deliciously fresh. A couple of big bottles of Tsingtao for $25 each were definitely a bit of winner.

Delicious Seafood Restaurant is a decent enough place to stop for a feed. The staff were friendly, though like all the restaurants along this strip they did tend to have a bit of hustle about them; there’s plenty of menu holding employees touting to innocent out for a stroll. The food was pretty good, and fair value at about $80 each including a couple of beers. There was nothing really wrong with Delicious Seafood Restaurant, but I'm not sure if there was anything about it special enough to draw me back.