I attend many wine tastings, but the Palm Restaurant – Unlimited Wine Tasting Dinners sounded different. Many tastings give you a sip of a wine, or maybe a small glass alongside a meal. Technically that is a tasting, but it is not an enjoyment, and maybe that is why many are turned off at the thought of wine tastings. The Palm London however was offering a full meal with matched wines to taste, and as much as you wanted. If you have ever wanted to try another glass of a wine you like, the you can instantly see the attraction in the Palm Restaurant Unlimited Wine Tasting Dinners.
The Palm is easy to find, only a few streets back from Harrods. When I arrived, the private dining room had already be laid out for the 30 guests. Each Wine Tasting Dinner is limited to 30 guests, so that so can get the maximum enjoyment from both socialising and tasting of great wine and food.
As people started to arrive and mingle, canapes were served, which not only tasted good, but were exactly the right sized nibbles that maintained conversation and encouraged discussion amongst the diners. Whilst some diners were there for the tastings, many were there to enjoy the meal with perfectly selected matched wines. This is a new area for the wine explorer; those that put food on an equal footing with wine.
Seeing 10 bottles of Shafer Red Shoulder Ranch Napa Valley Chardonnay 2010 on ice was a surprise. Most wine tastings simply offer you a small glass of each wine. Clearly at the Palm, you would be able to have as much as you wanted; and this was reiterated by my discussion with the Palm General Manager, Marc Whitely. Marc had as much passion for customer service as he had for fine dining and wine, and he clearly understood that a good food experience is as much about the company and environment as it is about the food. His desire with the Wine Dinners is to bring both together in a welcoming environment that encourages social interaction and taste exploration.
So sitting down to dinner, I set out the tools of my trade. Writing paper, pen and a glass of wine. But for most here, note taking was not needed. The handouts on the wine explained most things, but the emphasis was on enjoying the wine and food. If you wanted to get a bit more from a wine, you simply had you glass topped up again, without even needing to ask.
After a light pre-starter of Marinaded Shrimp Caeser Salad, the starter of Roasted Salmon Escalope arrived. This was matched with the Shafer Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay, Napa Valley 2010, which was somewhat of a surprise to all of us. Whilst most would expect a demure, soft Chardonnay with Fish, this was full of taste and citrus zing, giving a sharp taste and a very refreshing finish that could almost be taken as a palate cleaner. the taste was complex and new, and most of us went back for another glass to try and clarify our own thoughts on it.
The menu to go with the Wine Tastings have been selected from a variety of dishes from The Palm’s 86 year history. You can be guaranteed a different meal at each tasting, which really shows that both the wines and the food have been carefully selected to appeal and to be a new experience every time, at every tasting.
The main course consisted of a really decent sized steak – a 35 Day Aged Prime New York Strip 12 Ounce, with Savoy Cabbage and Bacon, Turned Potatoes and Forest Mushroom Jus. The Palm prides itself on good steaks, a home-from-home for ex-pats they say. (that’s Americans living in London missing home) Now I have been to America many times, but would find it hard to find a steak over there as good as served by The Palm over here.
To go with the steak, two red wine Shafer were available; The Shafer Napa Valley Merlot 2010 and the Shafer Napa Valley One Point Five 2009. It was a revelation to be able to try full glasses of each side by side and see how they compared. Even more so to be able to ask for more – not that you needed to ask, your glass was topped automatically up by the wine waiter going around the table.
And if you like a good steak, how could this be bettered? It was absolutely perfect, cut easily and was as tasty in the mouth as it looked. The green on the top of the steak was the creamed Savoy Cabbage, and added her to really highlight the superb texture of the 35 Day Aged Prime New York Strip 12 Oz steak.
Between courses, Richard Lashbrook m.w. from the wine shippers Thorman Hunt & Co. Ltd, gave a brief overview of the wines paired with the food. Short, focussed and interesting, it gave you the key facts about the wines. It also acted as a natural interlude between courses and conversations. And being on-hand around the table, you could always get more information or ideas.
After a suitable break, and good conversation with fellow diners, the dessert arrived. A Palm London Carrot Cake with Cinnamon Cream, this acted as a great dessert that welcomed the end of the red wine and introduced us to a new dessert wine. In this case, not a Shafer Napa wine, but a French Les Clos de Paulilles, Banyuis Rimage 2008.
The carrot cake was light and absorbed the red wine, the cream giving it a cold edge that acted as a good finale to the meal. It was not a sugary dessert that so often leaves a lingering taste, but allowed the desert wine to reveal its sweet taste without the sugar hit. Much mirth was made around the table the it was not an American wine. I think I need to research any American Dessert wines that are available.
One of the nice things about the Palm Restaurants Unlimited Wine Tasting Dinners is that the diners were as interested in the food as the wine. There were no wine ‘snobs’, just regular diners who knew how to appreciate a meal. Everyone had a good time, new friends were made, and a common interest in wine and food was shared.
The Palm London Wine Tasting Dinners happen on the last Friday of the month, covering a wide range of wines from American wineries and regions. There is also an American vs. European wine showdown in August which promises to be an amazing event.
I am already booked for the next one, as this is a really great way to enjoy new wines, not by the sip, but by the glass.
The Palm London
1-3 Pont Street,