Restaurant Story Lunch at Gusbourne Vineyard
Do you like tasting menus and good wine? If so I’m here to tell you that you need to keep an eye on my local English winery Gusbourne’s events page because the luncheon I attended last month was excellent fun! London creative dining stalwart Restaurant Story were in town, pairing several seasonal courses with Gusbourne’s brilliant English sparkling wines and I was lucky enough to snag tickets.
On arrival we were greeted with a nice crisp glass of Gusbourne’s signature Blanc de Blanc (light, crisp and eminently drinkable) and a duo of canapés to sit outside their winery with. First up, pictured at the top of this post we were treated to the curious yet winning combination of a sweet charcoal biscuit topped with a buttermilk cream, roasted beetroot, and a salty scoop of caviar. A lovely, curious, complex bite.
However, our favourite bite was the fresh, zingy and sublime trout and chive tartare piled atop a bright yuzu mayonnaise in a clever cup of dehydrated tomato. I know this is the opposite of what I’m always going on about, good ingredients treated simply, but it just worked, and I was sad to have only had one.
After our first glass we were invited to make our way further up the vineyard, past the vines heavy with soon to be harvested fruit and to taste our only still wine of the day: their Chardonnay 809, a 2020 vintage I think everyone was rather surprised by. You see I don’t like chardonnay, it is too rough, too full on, and a lot of people at the lunch with us expressed the same sentiments. Except that this chardonnay is nothing like you’d expect: it is light, incredibly fresh and very drinkable. Oh, and for the English wine nerds out there it is also made exclusively from Kentish grapes (Gusbourne usually manage to make such smooth and enjoyable wines as they have grapes from their vineyards in both Kent and Sussex to choose from, with a wide mix of different altitudes and soil types).
Alongside we were treated to our third and final canapé from the Story team: a crisp, delicate tartelette of goats curd topped with green peas and dill. Very simple, but very enjoyable, the perfect pairing with the chardonnay.
Moving into the tasting room, we were treated to a glass of their 2018 Blanc de Noirs (one I’ve been a fan of for a while, a bit bolder and a bit more complex than their Blanc de Blanc but still bright and light enough to pair with food) to go with a sublime and toothsome (I wanted more) bowl of pumpkin tortellini topped with pumpkin seeds and a slither of aged lardo. Light, rich, and as my first bite of something squash for the season, utterly perfect.
I was in two minds about the next course, probably because it was so small. The roasted monkfish was lovely, perfectly cooked, I enjoyed the seaweed on the side, and the confit potato was just fine (though: looking back I ask myself if I thought it was just ‘fine’ because I was comparing it to the stunning example I’d had at Wyatt & Jones not a week before) but it was the Gusbourne chardonnay beurre blanc that just made the dish for me. Etherial, light, rich, I was spooning it up long after the rest of my dish had gone. Next spring when I once again make my Asparagus with Lumpfish Caviar Beurre Blanc, I’ll be reaching for the Gusbourne.
With it we had a really interesting wine, a classic Gusbourne Brut but from 2013 which had been late disgorged, hence why it appears so lively and busy in the glass. It is what you’d expect but with each of the different flavour profiles in the wine so much more pronounced than in a more recent vintage, just like tasting an aged wine. What you’d expect from an English sparkling, but a lot more. Try this if you have the opportunity!
Next, to move us into savoury we were presented with a Cucumber, Apple and Dill Granita, topped up with Gusbourne’s classic Blanc de Blanc. It had a lovely flavour, but I think the flavour of the wine itself was somewhat lost, and it became quite soupy quite quickly, losing a lot of its texture.
To go with dessert we switched to pink, to be specific their 2018 rose which I love as it is always fruity whilst still being light and refreshing with a sweeter mouthfeel than some of Gusbourne’s other wines, exactly what you’re after for a not dessert wine pudding wine.
Pudding was somewhat controversial at our table. An exploration of different textures and temperatures, warm tapioca was topped with textures of blackberry, chocolate and violet (though I did not think I could taste the latter). I really liked it; though it was nothing ‘wow’ it was sweet and surprising for the end of the meal. However, I was in the minority, as a lot of people thought it did not show much effort, and was too much like a school pudding (and not in a good way!) Though, looking back, if I compare it to the next, much simpler dessert of this ilk I enjoyed, the Rice Pudding with Poached Quince at Updown Farmhouse, it was a little lacklustre.
I know I’ve been a bit mixed about the food (it started incredibly strong and ended at simply enjoyable) but Gusbourne’s events are really what I want to talk about: they’re a great way to taste some brilliant wines with some likeminded people, and well worth looking out for – I know I live literally just up the road, but I’ll be coming back!