Spanish Rice Tasting with Matched Wines at Alquimia, Putney:
Having left West London a year or so ago, and, trying my best to avoid accepting too many lunch invitations at the expense of work, I pushed the invitation to Alquimia to one side. I DID intend to reply once I had a better idea of my diary. It was only the night before the event that I realised I hadn’t replied at all – and messaged to apologise. I didn’t expect there to be space, but karma was on my side and the next day I set off to find Alquimia Restaurant, heading south across Putney Bridge
The restaurant is on Putney Wharf, one of those wonderful riverside spaces that you might not know about if you don’t live in the area. It’s relatively new, which explains why I never went there when I lived in West Brompton. If our special lunch is anything to go by, it is definitely worth a visit.
We started with an introduction to what Paella was – and what it should never be. Our passionate hosts explained that chorizo has no place in Paella from Spain. There are a few acceptable variations, but not one that benefits from the addition of chorizo. The origins of Paella is in the region which includes Castellon, Valencia and Alicante, an area filled with rice fields. Nowadays in Spain, the following variations are all recognised: Valencian Paella (Spanish: paella valenciana), Mixed Paella (Spanish: paella mixta), Seafood Paella (Spanish: paella de marisco), and also Vegetarian/vegan paella (Spanish: paella de verduras).
Alquimia had carefully set out a display of the different dishes we would be tasting – of which only one was a paella. The rest were a selection of rice dishes (arroz) selected to showcase different ingredients to match Spanish wines and sherry. Essentially, if the ingredients are not those of a traditional Paella, even if the dish is cooked in a Paella pan it is called Arroz in Spain.
The wines were all from Gonzales Byass, mostly from the Beronia winery. An excellent way to demonstrate the variety of Spanish wines, made from Spanish grapes. We started with the 100% Albarino Fillaboa Rias Baixas 2014, matched to a shrimp and fish rice – Arroz del Senyoret. Dry, aromatic and minerally it was an excellent pairing.
The only Paella of the day at Alquimia, a mixta of seafood and chicken, was matched with Beronia Rueda 2014, 100% Verdejo. This wine region is in Castilla y León and the Rueda is an intense, bright, white wine, fruity and dry with intense aromatics.
Arroz negro, one of my favourite Spanish rice dishes made with squid ink infused rice, topped with squid and prawns, is a speciality of Alquimia. They are rightfully proud of the dish having been declared one of the best three black rices in London by the Evening Standard. Tio Pepe sherry was the accompaniment, a robust pairing to support the depth of flavour of the dish.
Our next dish, I might almost declare my new favourite. Arroz con bogavante is Lobster and Seafood rice cooked in a cuttlefish stock and matched with an elegant white Rioja, Beronia Viura 2014, 100% viura grapes
Beronia Crianza 2012, a hearty red blend of 88% tempranillo, 10% garnacha and 2% mazuelo, was matched with the first meat dish, Arroz con costra, with chicken, sausage, black pudding and an egg crust.
Rabbit rice, with vegetables and herbs, Arroz con conejo, was served with Berionia Tino Reserva. We finished up with Arroz Meloso con Venado – venison rice, with a wonderful Beronia Gran Reserva 2006, a deep, rich mouthful that had been beautifully aged.
Actually I lie. There was dessert – rice of course, with cinnamon. A fitting end to a splendid meal
All the food was prepared by the two Head Chefs at Alquimia, Jose Segura and Sergio Ferrari. Sergio explained that the success of their dishes lay in long slow preparation of stocks for at least five hours and carefully sourced ingredients to complete the dishes. So, what looks so simple is in fact the product of painstakingly slow preparation and impeccable ingredients.
30 Brewhouse Ln, London SW15 2JX
020 8785 0508