Ever tried Portuguese wine? Well, I recommend that you do. Especially Colinas Espumante Brut Rosé 2009. Last week I was invited along to Texture where Taste Portugal was hosting a six-course meal, packed full of fresh ingredients, culinary creations from Michelin-starred chefs Agnar Sverrisson and Ricardo Costa, paired with wine chosen by Portugal’s top sommelier, Antonio Lopes.
It was here that I discovered Portuguese wine for the first time – the Brut Rosé’s delicate bubbles and gentle sweetness was a welcomed alternative to Champagne. Portuguese wine is something my eye would previously have skipped over on a wine list. But, it’s a hidden gem and perhaps because it’s less well known, can offer better quality for less money, so it’s one that won’t be passing me by in future.
The menu mainly consisted of seafood. Admittedly, not my food of choice, but, it turns out, it’s altogether a different kettle of fish when prepared by Europe’s top chefs: the co-founder of Michelin-starred London restaurant Texture, Sverrisson, and the head chef at Portugal’s The Yeatman Hotel, Costa. Needless to say, Costa has himself been responsible for a Michelin star – the first for a restaurant in Porto – when The Yeatman received theirs in 2012. And then again in 2013 and 2014.
The first course was Norwegian king crab, served with coconut, ginger, lime leaf and lemongrass – a far cry from the crab I was once served in Dorset, whole, with ladyfingers and beady eyes (looking up at me) in tact. I didn’t manage to even touch the crab that day, but the one served to me at Texture was gone in fast, soft and delicious seconds. In fact, it was so soft and almost fluffy, I would have never realised it was crab at all, were it not for the menu spelling it out in black and white before me. Lopes paired this with a 2013 Ameal Escolha.
The langoustine followed the unforgettable crab, with Champagne sauce, and was equally as good. And what better to go with Champagne sauce than a sparkling Ribeiro Santo Blanc de Noir? Bubble and bubbles always make for good company.
Course after course, I felt like my eyes were being opened to what good food really can be like, when in the right hands. But my favourite had to be the lamb – three cuts of it no less – all as tender and succulent as the next. My mouth is watering just typing about it. And the 2009 Robustus that Lopes – who can usually be found at the five-star luxury hotel, Conrad Algarve – chose was the perfect partner for the dish.
In fact, Lopes was as interesting to me as were his wine matchmaking skills award-winningly good. Unassuming and a far cry from the stereotypical pomp one may expect when the word ‘sommelier’ crops up in conversation, he was also younger than I would expect. It’s nice to see that when it comes to knowing your grapes, it’s not just a juicy game for old men.
The evening ended with a choppy blood orange sorbet, served with cream, pumpkin jam and cinnamon. A great cleanser, washed down with Quinta de la Rosa’s 20-year-old Tawny port. And, for those who had room, a Japanese garden of sweet treats – celeriac macaroons being the standout morsel. It really opened my eyes – and my palate – to the great taste of Portugal. And, my God, was it good.
Taste Portugal is the Portuguese Tourist Board’s increasingly in-demand gourmet initiative. To find out more info or to see their programme of events visit the website.
For more info and to make a booking at Texture, visit the website or call 020 7224 0028.