Les 110 de Taillevent – 110 wines and a distinctly Parisian flavour:
It will come as no surprise to regular readers of London-Unattached that I was keen to visit Les 110 de Taillevent in Cavendish Square. The London outpost of the iconic two Michelin-starred Le Taillevent sits along one side of Cavendish Square, just behind Oxford Street. Inside, a contemporary take on the bistro with green leather banquettes and seating with the wines neatly stored behind a bar. It felt like a classic; comfortable and yet elegant. And, I was pretty sure, even before I looked at the menu, that I would want to go back.
Inside, a contemporary take on the bistro with green leather banquettes and seating with the wines neatly stored behind a bar. It felt like a classic; comfortable and yet elegant. And, I was pretty sure, even before I looked at the menu, that I would want to go back.
The full menu is rather fun and appears with a central section listing the food and then two flaps which unfold to reveal the wine recommendations. One side has the cheaper options (less than £8 and less that £14 for a full glass – though 70ml measures are also offered). The other side categorises the more expensive options. I prefer a small measure of wine that matches my food rather than a large pour of something which overwhelms the dish and I like the way the wines are offered here for two reasons. Firstly, half glasses are perfect for me if I’m matching food and wine. I can have three courses with the right wine for each course and with a glass of bubbles to start but only drink 250ml of wine in total. Then, if I’m feeling decadent, I can even ‘afford’ a port at the end of the meal. Secondly, I am at that stage where I know how much I don’t know about wine. I LIKE having my wine paired – for the most part, I am confident the chef and the sommelier in any restaurant will have a better idea of what wine will be best for each course that me. I want the wine to add to my gastronomic experience, not detract from it in any way. And a good pairing will make that happen.
But what of the food?
Well, that turned out to be rather good too, though we didn’t start eating until we all had a glass of Billecart-Salmon. Our menus had listed that we would be drinking Laurent Perrier and I asked our host, Nicola Munari, why there had been a change. ‘
‘Well’ he explained. ‘I don’t believe in bottles of champagne, only magnums, and we didn’t have any magnums of Laurent Perrier’. Happy with the explanation (wine experts often say that a magnum is superior to a regular sized bottle because the ratio of air to liquid is lower in the larger bottle, ensuring the wine ages more slowly), I was also rather pleased by the substitution as I have a soft spot for Billecart-Salmon, one of the last remaining family-owned Champagne houses in France. Though I wouldn’t turn down a glass of Laurent Perrier either!
Our table did have a set menu, but we were encouraged to mix and match dishes from the a la carte – and while we procrastinated we nibbled on some dishes; a toasted truffle sandwich a little pot of mushroom veloute and some confit salmon. All delicious, but there was a lot more to come.
After much procrastination, I decided on Cornish Crab to start, with a remoulade, dill and fennel. It was delicious, though both the remoulade and the radish dominated the flavour.
NEXT time I am definitely going to try the Octopus – served a la plancha with a vierge sauce, Iberico chorizo and squid ink.
Having made something of a song and dance about the wine pairings, I did spot a wine I wanted to try again that was nothing to do with the recommended pairing. Trebbiano d’Abruzzo 2009 Valentini is a delicious white wine from Italy. Valentini (now the son of the original winemaker) runs is one of the top wineries in Abruzzo and the last time I tasted any Valentini wines I was on a wine tasting trip there. It is a complex and intense wine that I’d still order like a shot if I saw it on the menu, simply because you never do. Not in the UK.
My next dish was a plate of wild seabass with celeriac puree, chestnut and shellfish sauce topped with black truffles. Honestly, once truffles have been added to a dish, I rarely think of anything other than the truffles themselves. But, this was beautifully composed, the shellfish sauce just adding a necessary touch to avoid the dish being dry and a nicely cooked portion of seabass nestling under those shavings of deliciousness. Matched for me with Saumur-Champigny La Marginale 2012 Domaine des Roches Neuves, a lovely powerful Cabernet Franc red wine that worked well with the truffled fish
Pigeon came beautifully presented with confit foie gras cromesquis, a little fan of pomme Anna and savoy cabbage purée. It was my favourite of the savoury dishes – the pigeon breast was beautifully pink with a crisp skin and I loved the tiny cromesquis . My pairing, Vacqueras ‘Variation’ 2010 Domain Montvac, a classic Rhone red complemented the dish beautifully
By this stage, dessert was hardly necessary but of course, we continued, with Moscato to drink and I suspect a sample of everything on the menu. By far my favourite was the Truffle Chocolate, with mascarpone cream and caramel. When I go back, I will be eschewing any ideas of trying something new and ordering this again.
Mont-Blanc was pretty but, for me, a little disappointing. But, I have a specific memory of Mont Blanc, in a tea room in Chambery at the age of thirteen. That memory is my own idea of what Mont-Blanc should be – sweet with chestnut puree, meringue and an excess of chantilly cream. Anything else is, well, just too grown-up.
This is somewhere I’ll be back to again soon. I love the obsessive wine and food matching menu – and I really love the concept of half measure. And, of course, I love the food!
Les 110 de Taillevent
16 CAVENDISH SQUARE LONDON W1G 9DD