Champagne + Fromage 22 Wellington Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 7DD
To be honest I’m a little down at the moment… I’m just back from a wonderful break at Huntstile Organic Farm and had caught The Paralympic feel-good fever. So as the last firework of the closing ceremony faded, I was left feeling rather flat…
So I thought, what’s a better way to get back some fizz than with a champagne pairing evening courtesy of French Bubbles?
Before I go any further I have a confession… I’ve lost my notes from the evening, and before you start thinking that this is a “dog ate my homework” kind of excuse, I do have photographic evidence (above) that proves these notes were actually made! I just hope that my memory hasn’t been clouded by the booze…
Back to the Champagne. The venue, Champagne + Fromage couldn’t be more like a cool French bistro even if you picked it up, plonked it in the middle of Paris and filled it with academics smoking Gitanes.
The concept started as a pop up last Christmas (2011) and proved so popular that husband and wife team, Maud and Stefano gave Champagne + Fromage a permanent home on the edge of London’s Theatreland, just a short cheese wheel’s roll away from Covent Garden Piazza.
In fact the venue has become so respected that if you type in ‘champagne tasting + London’ into Google, Champagne + Fromage is the top result. Bookings are on the up too but the restaurant always keeps at least 40% capacity free for walk-in customers.
Ideal for a quick pre or post theatre nibble (the cheese and charcuterie boards are ready in ‘exactly five minutes’) or take your time and order from the full menu. And yes, frog’s legs and snails are on the list along with the delicious Tartines.
Champagne + Fromage also has a private dining area for twelve, (this is where the tastings are held) if that’s too small you can hire the entire place for corporate events. French bubbles also can arrange a champagne tastings at your office! Add to that a local delivery service, and they really do have it all covered…
Inside you can choose from a vast array of award-winning charcuterie, and as you would expect, cheese and champagne. I left with a big wedge of the amazing Cantal extra fromage – a little more on that later. The shop here is incredible, worth a visit even if you’re not planning to dine there. I think a lot of my family and friends will be getting Christmas gifts from us from here – any excuse to come back!
My tasting guide for the night, who led me down the path to champagne enlightenment was Maud. She was so knowledgeable and passionate that it was hard not to be swept along soaking up valuable insights and tips, such as that the UK is the largest importer of Champagne – recession? What recession?
Our pairing involved 4 champagnes with three cheeses and a skewer of mixed salami (Coppa, Lonzo and Corsican hams). I’m not going to dwell too much on the actual fizz and food, partly due to my missing notes but mostly due to the fact everyone at the tasting had their own favourites.
That said, I will give special mention to the delicious Cantal extra, made in a very similar way to English Cheddar ‘the other King of cheese’. As mentioned before, I bought a wedge of this to take home – incredible on a crusty with a big dollop of Rose Farm Harvest Chutney.
Instead I’m going to focus on just some of knowledge shared by the wonderfully charismatic Maud…
1) Firstly and most importantly, champagne is a wine and so should be stored at room temperature, only put it in ice about 15 minutes before serving. Keeping a bottle ice-cold ruins the champagne.
2) Grower champagne, marked by a small RM on the label, is produced from vine to bottle by small independents. These champagnes offer the most variation and value for money – brilliant quality champagne without all the hype! While the ‘big boys’ such as Bollinger and Moët (marked with a small NM) buy up grapes from various vineyards to keep a consistent house style. And what you pay for here is the name and for all the advertising and marketing that goes with it. In effect you buy the fashion label. RM Vs NM, it’s not quite Primark Vs Prada but you know what I’m getting at.
3) Champagne is expensive because of the complicated and lengthy making process, it takes at least 2 years to get a half decent bottle of bubbles. Maud explained in detail that the champagne is made in individual bottles and the fascinating step by step procedure that sets champagne apart from other sparkling wines, such as Prosecco and Cava.
4) I would have never of used terms such as ‘oily’ and ‘length’ when describing a good champagne! Oily is the term for the apparent feeling you get on your teeth and length is the amount of time that you can taste the champers. And don’t be afraid to ‘wash’ the champagne around your mouth, we have taste buds on our gums that work in a different way to those on our tongues.
5) Champagne goes with everything, well nearly! Don’t serve it with olives, a massive no-no in Maud’s book. Serve it with gherkins instead. And don’t reserve a bottle just for special occasions or for fine dining, it goes perfectly with a curry, eggs benedict, fish & chips, pizza and even hotdogs – as the ever popular Bubbledogs has proved! Can’t wait to try that last combo… It was quite exciting to find that the champagne improved the flavours of the food, these bubbles really do wake up your taste buds.
There were so many more interesting facts that Maud shared with us, grape variety, growing conditions and even translating the label. But my ramblings don’t give them justice, you’ll just have to pop along to try a tasting evening for yourself. Click HERE for the full list of upcoming tutored tasting sessions.
As I wandered and weaved my way down The Strand back to catch my train home, I passed a McDonald’s. Quarter pounder with cheese and a glass champagne? Maybe that’s a combo too far!
Champagne + Fromage
22 Wellington Street, London, WC2E 7DD
Opening hours: 5pm-11pm Mondays, Tuesday to Saturday from 11am – 11pm
Sunday from 11am – 8pm.
Telephone: 0207 240 1604
Nearest tube: Covent Garden
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