Usually when your job requires you spend the night in…
We Smiths are a sophisticated bunch, right? We know our velouté from our mirepoix, our Miu Miu from our Missoni and we certainly know our Chablis from our chardonnay. So when Juliet and I received an invitation to take part in a Call My Bluff-style wine quiz at Westfield’s new Meat & Wine Co restaurant, we swaggeringly agreed, confident that our practised palates would wipe the floor with the competition.
Pride, they say, comes before a fall.
We pitched up at Meat & Wine – the UK dining debut of a South African steakhouse that already has outposts in Australia, Greece, the Middle East and Asia – with some concerns that this was, essentially, Nando’s with beef. Stepping into the cavernous interior, however, we quickly realised our first impressions were far from fair. It’s a slick, dusky space of russet reds and chocolate browns, illuminated in amber – exactly the kind of place for a sultry supper after a long day’s shop-hopping in the mall. The spiral stairwell is walled with wine bottles – a sign that this place takes its grapes seriously. So do we, of course. That’s why we’re clearly going to win.
The restaurant’s Meet & Wine Club (geddit?) hosts regular shindigs for budding oenophiles who want to know more about what they’re drinking. Today’s event pitted several teams against each other to see who could accurately identify which of the two experts’ descriptions matched the wine we were sampling. Easy.
Five glasses, and 10 very plausible descriptions later, we weren’t so sure. The experts – wine buyers from Enotria, which supplies the restaurant – were slippery indeed, telling very credible tales of ‘my dear friend in Hawkes Bay‘ who makes such-and-such a label, which benefits from such-and-such a soil type, which gives the flavour of such-and-such a fruit. Using a combination of viticultural guesswork and pop body-language analytics gleaned from GMTV features, we assessed the validity of the sommeliers’ claims.
‘She’s squinting like she’s hiding something – it must be champagne’.
It was prosecco.
‘It’s definitely Chablis. I know Chablis, and this is Chablis.’
It wasn’t Chablis.
‘If this isn’t Rioja, I will never drink wine again.’
I am never drinking wine again.
The final score? Two out of five. We’d have slunk out in shame had the wine not been so good (the Zondernaam cabernet sauvignon a particular fruity favourite), and the food so flavoursome. The sting of defeat was softened by a buffet of beautifully cooked steak and crispy-melty chips (and you know how much we love steak on the Smith Travel Blog). Meat & Wine is clearly not misnamed – it does both brilliantly.
We don’t take failure lying down of course – we plan to do a lot of revision before the next test.
Enotria’s next event at the Meat & Wine Co – a New World wine tasting – is on 30 September at 6.30pm. Call +44 208 749 5914 for info.