I’m no Champagne expert but when I know that I like something, I know that I like it. On a Monday evening just a little out of the ordinary I headed to the Royal Borough (Chelsea) for a Thiénot Champagne tasting and dinner at Cheyne Walk Brasserie. River views and residential surroundings give this old Victorian pub a neighbourhood feel, albeit with said neighbours being the likes of Keith Richards and Mick Jagger.
In anticipation of National Champagne Week, the Brasserie spruced up their usual Wine Club with the more bubbly variety. Perched on a red velvet chaise longue (yes really) in their salon room we were treated to four different Thiénot Champagnes and a really informative, but not boring, talk about the history of the drink and making methods. For 30 years, Thiénot have been producing distinctive and exclusive Champagnes, and were selected to be the official champagne supplier for the 2014 Oscar ceremony – a huge accolade for such a young Champagne House.
I’d never really given it much thought but Champagne is made from a mixture of grapes, predominately Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, in various percentages to produce different tasting drinks. Ever wondered why, if 65% is Pinot Noir, is it not red? Me too – our host compared it to a cup of tea; the longer the brew the stronger the taste, so the red grapes are only gently pressed to extract their taste. Of the four we tasted, the Thiénot Brut Vintage 2006 was my favourite; lively on the palate and floral on the nose developing into sweet pastry notes… Their words not mine!
An hour of Champagne tasting was enough for me to work up an appetite so we headed downstairs to the main brasserie for dinner. For 9pm on a Monday evening there was a lovely warm, friendly atmosphere with couples, friends and a round table of eight celebrating a sixtieth birthday. I chose the Australian Grain Fed Black Angus 300g Sirloin steak, cooked perfectly rare on the huge open grill in the centre of the room, diagonally sliced to cut through the charred outside and topped with a glowing sprig of rosemary. What’s a steak without a few sides? Exactly, so we got Dauphinois potatoes (fluffy and creamy) and green beans with shallots and crispy bacon. I don’t know what they did to get them tasting so smokey but they were the best beans I’ve tasted! Fuss-free food but all impeccable. Despite our full tummies we managed to nibble at the cheese board presented to us by the wonderfully attentive maitre d’ – a lovely ending to a very pleasant evening, we walked off our Dauphinois with a moonlit stroll by the twinkly lights of Albert Bridge.