Although Jacob Brown and Sarah Bullock of The Larder in Miramar run one of the best contemporary eateries in Wellington, they push themselves and delight their clientele in offering special theme menus throughout the year. Considering the interest and quality of their standard fare, these specialist wine matched dinners are not really necessary, as it can be argued they have nothing to prove. But the dinners are how they extend their boundaries even further and higher, taking their dining fans with them.
The ‘Bones’ of the duck produced a very concentrated broth, served in demitasse, screaming of Asian sauces and umami, but also clearly spoke of the bird. The broth was sensationally flavoursome showing the magic of reduction. This was extremely salty and concentrated sipping. This course too, was served with the Charles Wiffen Marlborough Pinot Noir 2009, the flavours of which became amazingly intensified, almost as essence of Pinot Noir cherry fruit to be in empathy with the broth. The fluid of the wine diluted the saltiness and spread the flavours of the broth, gently dissipating its concentration. The broth is a stand-alone in any circumstance, but in combination with the wine, it shared its flamboyant nature, lifting the wine to new heights. A provocative and imaginative match that surprised and excited us all.
One could see that the ‘Leg’ duck course being matched with the Vynfields Martinborough Pinot Noir 2010 was all about texture. Shredded duck leg meat wrapped in filo pastry was substantial and a mouthful with mouthfeel of chunky flesh. A contrast was the smooth-textured pan-seared liver, and tart spiced orange segments. The wine is a classic Martinborough one with riper, savoury dark berry and flavours with grainy tannins, being more robust than Pinot Noirs from other regions. This 2010 is a particularly enjoyable release, delivering much of its character already, but it will develop more with time. With the confit leg meat, it was a meeting of similar weight and textures resulting in a drying evenness. This dish is on the saltier side too, and the wine is not quite as sweet and lush as required, and this highlights the phenolic feel. Yet with the liver, the wine came alive, the moisture bringing out the wine’s sweetness. The soft density of the liver absorbed the wine’s tannins and the combination was one of integration. The spices in the orange picked up the spice notes in the wine, but citrus and acidity stood to the side as components. Though not as successful as the match with the liver, the duck leg and wine was workable, based on flavour intensity, weight and textures. These points were keenly noted by Jacob and Sarah, and no doubt some tweaking will occur.
The pairing of duck ‘Breast’ fillets with beetroot mash and celeriac cubes and the Mount Edward Central Otago Pinot Noir 2009 was a lesson in seamlessness and finesse. Tender, succulent and subtly flavoured breast fillets on a moist and mildly earthy beetroot mash, this was a near-perfect match with the wine. I thought the wine mght have been too fruity for the gentle food flavours, but the Mount Edward is a more restrained expression of Central Otago, and not the ‘fruit bomb’ style which is the stereotype. The flavours of the wine were certainly not overbearing, and the duck breast possessed more than what seemed there on initial impression, and the two were in fact, very evenly matched. The acidity in the wine was at an ideal level to meet the richness of the duck, and the wine’s tannins were essential to handle the texture of the breast meat. The beetroot was more sweet than earthy, but both traits were present, and this was another tie between the wine and the meat which both also displayed sweetness and earthiness. It is always fascinating how pairings can lift components and the duck breast became more flavoursome, and the wine more supple and smooth. A wonderful match.
The final course was ‘Egg’. It was a dessert of quince tarte tatin with duck egg ice-cream. No wine Pinot Noir match was available here, though there are sweet Pinot Noir wines on the market. The ones I can think of would be too sweet for this dish. It was a classic, filling, individual serve, baked tarte tatin with the quietly exotic quince providing a lift, and ice-cream richer and creamier than the norm providing the necessary counterpoint. Delicious.
The Larder, Corner Darlington and Camperdown Roads, Miramar, Wellington. Tel: 04 891-0354, Email: [email protected]