A match made in heaven?

A match made in heaven?

17th Mar 2011

Thewineremedy team let the sommelier take the strain at Gordon Ramsay's Petrus – revamped and re-energised

No disrespect to the sommelier, but we are the boss. Perhaps it's a similar syndrome to why men like to drive or insist on giving the pilot a few tips before take-off.  The need to be in control. When it comes to choosing the wine at a restaurant our team is no different – even if the choice shocks the sommelier who insisted we try his fabulous Icelandic Bordeaux blend, a wine for laying down and avoiding. Which is why the Petrus Perfect Match menu intrigued us, as their head sommelier claims she has chosen the perfect wine for each dish? 

The Perfect Match menu at Petrus was conceived to allow diners to sample a range of good quality wines with each course and not worry about what wine they were ordering. The menu is available at lunch time during the week, started in the traditional low-point of the Restaurant season, January. This was our first visit to Petrus since its re-opening; we went along two weeks ago to sample the menu.

We liked the concept, despite our misgivings about not having any say in the wine choices. You are given 5 courses of supposedly high quality food with a glass of wine with each dish. Johannes, the junior sommelier was our host over lunch.  An affable guy, Johannes explained why we would not be seeing any Château Lafite but encouraged that the menu represented excellent value nonetheless. At £50 for 5 courses and wine we would have to agree, but if the food and service was not up to standard, the sense of 'value' is meaningless. Thankfully it did not disappoint.

We were given a glass of champagne on arrival and not rushed to the table, first tick. The Petrus' décor is up to standard with Ramsay's empire, tasteful and simply done out in a not dissimilar style to Royal Hospital Road. The large, state of the art wine cellar in the centre of the restaurant is a beautiful site for any wine-lover and we were almost hypnotised by it.

Eating at any of Gordon's restaurants you should expect very high standard of service that is attentive but sometimes borders on the intrusive. Petrus seemed to get the balance right and the service was excellent throughout without being over-attentive, if that’s possible. They do actually leave you alone, unlike some other restaurants where the staff's beady eye never leaves your credit card or almost empty wine bottle.

After the glass of Champagne we were seated and lunch was served.  A light amuse bouche pre-empted a delicious confit of Loch Duart Salmon with chilli mayonnaise. The Salmon had this wonderful soft, flaky texture and was perfectly cooked and presented. Its match made in heaven was a glass of Sonoma Chardonnay which did admittedly work very well. Reasonably rich and buttery but also structured with good minerality, the two definitely got along.

Next course was the braised shin of beef and Barolo jus, exquisitely presented and designed for those who hate tough cuts of meat. Texturally it was divine, softly centred but plenty of rich flavour, preferable to fillet steak any day of the week. The sommelier served a glass of Valpolicella as his ideal partner to the beef. Sadly, this was not a match made in heaven, at least in our view.

The beef was softly textured but strongly flavoured and it cried out for a Syrah from the Rhone or perhaps California. The ‘Italian stallion’ was too light, lacking in concentration and structure to be a good match for the beef. The poor sod was overwhelmed and flattened at first sip.

A gorgeous selection of cheese followed the beef paired with an Austrian Muscat (the wine, not the person!). Our favourite wine, the Muscat, cut through the saltiness of the cheese nicely and neither food nor wine dominated. We believe that's what you aim for, enjoyment of both equally rather than one obliterating the flavours of the other.

It seemed rude to refuse dessert, a delicious and light coconut and pineapple pannacotta served with a glass of NV Champagne. A shrewd choice, as a heavier dessert wine a la Sauternes would have over shadowed the gentle dessert. Again we enjoyed both and will order champagne more often with certain desserts. Kudos to the sommelier!

We ate very well that lunch time. However, they need to rethink the red meat and wine matching. Keep the food but change the wine, something heavier is required.

Still, this suggestion should not detract from what is a great concept and amazingly good value. Despite our doubts it didn’t bother us that we had no say in the wine pairings, as they were consistently high calibre. It would be easy for Petrus to hide under the value banner and serve indifferent wine and skimp on the food but they don't. £50 a head is not cheap, but considering the quality of the food and the fact that all wine is included, it is a very attractive proposition nonetheless.

Let's just hope we can convince the Ramsay team to keep it running!

Full Details:

The Petrus Restaurant's Perfect Match menu.

Available at lunchtime Monday – Saturday.

Priced at £50 a head. All wine included.

To reserve a table you can call Petrus on 0207 592 1609.

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