That Sir David Tang is a true boffin. In the Weekend Financial Times today he tells the truth about restaurant critics.
Q: I have noticed that restaurant critics invariably neglect water, bread, coffee and toilets. A gently sparkling mineral water, warm and crunchy bread, a concentrated and aromatic espresso and clean and spacious toilets seem to me conditions sine qua non for a good “restaurant experience”. What is your take?
A: Frankly, I couldn’t care less about what restaurant critics write, and I think we all exaggerate their importance. If I go to a restaurant, I will return to it if I enjoy it; and not if I don’t. Therefore, my relationship with the restaurant has got nothing to do with restaurant critics. Indeed, when I used to take note of what critics wrote, I always found myself in disagreement. That shouldn’t be surprising as gastronomic experiences are intensely personal. I like chewing tender duck’s feet, which my wife finds totally disgusting. But I abhor wobbly mozzarella, which she hugely enjoys. She doesn’t mind waiters interrupting our conversation, whereas I go completely berserk whenever they do. So relax and stop being over-fastidious about reviews, because eating cannot be vicariously enjoyed.
What is it with Pinot Noir? Nothing for years and then two in a week? It’s like having sex when you’re over 50. Alex Dale calls it Freedom and although I was not the first wine commentator to taste the 2010 – that honour went to Dubai-based baby banker Markus of previous blog posts – I deflowered the 2011 at Carne on Tuesday and was gobsmacked by an elegant femininity as opposed to the defined masculinity, linearity even, of the 2010. Violets and celery or where they the pheromones swirling in from other tables like the sea mist rolling in at Misty Cliffs? This is real Romeo and Juliet juice and just about as much fun you can have under R200 a bottle with your clothes on.
As South Africa starts to take wine exports to the Sinosphere seriously (Sawis reports sales of bottled SA wine in China up from 600K to 4.3 million over the last five years) the question for any eastern looking sommelier is what wine to recommend with virgin boy eggs. Especially with 300 000 Chinese tourists expected to visit SA this year.
The Cape Times reports this morning “in the eastern Chinese city of Dongyang… basins and buckets of boys’ urine are collected from school toilets. It is the key ingredient in ‘virgin boy eggs’, a local tradition of soaking and cooking eggs in the urine of young boys, preferably below the age of 10.” Urine from Dongyang being a felicitous combination enough to convince a marketer of the sense of appellation legislation.
I’m afraid I’m with ViniPortugal on this one. The Portuguese WOSA (but with better looking employees) has stopped paying appearance fees to UK supermarkets. So one of their number, Majestic, is demanding 5% directly from producers, effectively cutting out the middle men. Off License News reports a terse e-mail to Portuguese suppliers “We have calculated the cost of this lost funding based on current volumes by product and cost price. Unless the generic body reverses this decision in the next fortnight, we will be invoicing each supplier equal to 5% of your cost price on all orders received after January 1, 2012 in order to recoup this lost support. I accept that this will not be popular. You have the option to withdraw your listing from Majestic if you are unable to agree to this.” Sounds like good old Al Capone-style extortion to me.
The clamour from the UK’s rent-a-crowd of wine writers and bloggers has been deafening, NOT. Probably as most of them seem to be on a well-paid jaunt in balmy St. James, judging the hilariously misnamed Top 100 SA Wine Awards. Up to now they have done a good job of dodging the well-trained great whites hired by the competition’s many detractors and competitors. An identikit likeness of one by UK “con” artist Damien Hirst, is shown below – or is this perhaps the wine buyer for Majestic?
The damages: R110 – best value Swartland red blend, the sizzle to go with the steak
Available from: firstname.lastname@example.org
The back label: Winemaker Alex Dale, who made this enigmatic wine with grapes grown on the Paardeberg, is the Black Rider in the Tom Waits album of the same name. Well at least it felt like that last night while eating rare bone-on ribeye in Giorgio Nava’s Carne palace of meat in Keerom Street with a Finnish baby banker called Markus. With those nautically grey steel beams and rivets, the place looks like a German U-boat circa 1942. Several of the patrons could have passed for William S Burroughs.
The Black Rock white sister Chenin blend has been hibernated. “Too hard to sell. Our problem was we priced it too cheap” leaving this exuberant mélange of Syrah, Grenache, Carignan, Mourvèdre and Viognier left to fly the black flag.
Thanks to the Alexander Bar for pointing out to Uncorked that yesterday was World Whisky Day. To celebrate, a press release with the news that Three Ships Premium Select 5 year old, a blend of Scotch and local whiskies, was voted World’s Best Blended Whisky at the annual Whisky Magazine World Whisky Awards 2012. This was the UK-based Whisky Magazine and not the local version, brainchild of Ray Edwards, former liquor executive at Spar, which confusingly rejoices in the same name.
Last week I was sipping a glass of Château Malartic-Lagravière Red 2009 at the only authentic brasserie left in Bordeaux - Le Noailles in the Allées de Tourny, a few hundred metres from the Grand Theatre. An artist friend reports “it is a shadow of its former self but still has linen aproned waiters with moustaches, but the last time I was there they didn’t even have chicken on the menu!”
Exactly a week after the Wall Street Journal interviewed the CEO of Cartier, Bernard Fornas and described him as “riding the tiger of luxury” when he should perhaps have been stroking the leopard of luxury, comes the bombshell that he is to leave the company. As the Financial Times comments, this raises “a question mark over the future of Richemont’s powerhouse jewellery and watch subsidiary” and perhaps the importance of choosing the correct cat when you speak to the press.
The recent contention of Richemont chairman Johann Rupert that WOSA, the exporters’ mouthpiece, are hugging the wrong tree in punting diversity as the USP for SA wine exports, has been confirmed by the news that Tesco, largest seller of wine in the UK (largest export market for SA wine) is “making drastic cuts to its wine supply base in a bid to improve profitability and encourage brand owners to increase consumer loyalty.”
A bad Monday for SA tourism starts off with Frank Chikane’s interview with Zainab Badawi on BBC Hardtalk. Poor old Frank couldn’t get a word in edgeways, which was probably just as well as he mixed up Jacob Zuma and Thabo Mbeki, leaving everyone most confused about exactly what went down at Polokwane which seems to have ended in a coup d’état. A great exposition of local politics for tourists planning a trip to SA. NOT.
But even more serious was a Daily Telegraph travel story on the Western Cape which concluded “South African cheese. Try as we might, we couldn’t find one to match the marvellous wines. Maybe we just didn’t look hard enough.” Is there a COSA – the cheese equivalent of WOSA?