Stuart George

Sex & Pintxos & Rock and Roll: Food and wine at PINCHITOtapas

In Restaurants/wine and food on October 2, 2009 at 4:16 pm

On 1 October, the newly-opened West End restaurant PINCHITOtapas launched the “Viva el Vino” campaign of matching food with Campo Viejo wines.

Customers choose the wines rather than the food, with various “surprise” tapas dishes matched to the appropriate wine. PINCHITOtapas will start serving “Viva el Vino” on 14 October until January 2010, with the concept due to be rolled out across the UK from February.

The PINCHITOtapas group is the brainchild of South African-born Jason Fendick and Bruce Batholomew and the Spaniards Tobias Blazquez-Garcia and Valeria Fossatti Noguera. Their first restaurant in Brighton attracted much praise, winning the Cocktail Bar of the Year award, but was increasingly unlucrative so they headed back to London.

The Bayley Street venue is apparently a bit “smarter” than the sister restaurant at Featherstone Street, with its décor described as “contemporary chic” (read loud music, neon lighting and bright posters). The site was formerly a YO! Sushi restaurant, hence what is now an “island bar.”

The wine measures for “Viva el Vino” are what I would call tasting sample size but if you are having eight wines and dishes, it soon adds up. As Campo Viejo’s UK Marketing Controller Mathew Bird said, “We take our responsibilities seriously.” It is commendable that Pernod Ricard is doing its bit to mend the pernicious drink culture of Broken Britain.

Certainly none of the pairings was anything but tasty but a couple were real successes. And the wines weren’t bad, either. It is very easy to be sniffy about such an ubiquitous brand but when paired with good food they can sometimes come to life and reveal a whole new side to their character—like the disco wallflower that has his first drink and suddenly becomes the life and soul of the party. The full wine list is entirely Spanish and has plenty of reliable names—Tio Pepe, Torres, CVNE and others.

“Viva el Vino” is very good value at £30 for eight wines/dishes or £20 for four.

Cava NV

Clean, fresh, simple. A good, very drinkable Cava, with none of the rootiness that mars some wines. Paired well with Manchego cheese and quince, but not such a success with the salted almonds. The flavours were fine but not the texture—the almonds were too crunchy and sticky for the Cava.

Viura 2008

Interesting nose—smokey and grapey. There is some oak influence on the palate that was hinted at by the nose. I guessed at barrel fermentation but 25 percent of the wine spent two months in new oak—skilfully done. The oak is even more apparent on the finish. A soft, quite fat wine. With boquerones (marinated anchovies over potato crisps), the wine was rich enough to withstand the marinade but perhaps it needed a bit more acidity to be even better with this dish.

Rosé 2008

Bled from Tempranillo grapes. Rather confected at first, with bubblegum flavours and some acetate. The pepper and onion salad was a bit spicy but fine with this rosé. The tortilla de patatas was utterly delicious but the wine’s acetone jarred with it. And the French fries and chorizo was very yummy but a bit too spicy for the wine. However, the rosé was much better with aeration and began to show soft red fruit aromas.

Crianza and pork belly

Crianza 2006

A very typical, simple, oaky young Rioja, with a fruity, supple texture and sweet oak on the finish. With the mango and pork belly dish, the sweet finish was ideal with the mango but the dark fruit flavours were not suitable with the pork. I prefer a lighter red with white meats—but that is purely my own taste.

Reserva 2005

A lighter colour than the Crianza, worryingly! Closed and not revealing much but, like the Crianza, made in a fruity style. A real success with the “mushroom bikini,” a toasted sandwich of mushrooms and Parmesan. The wine was smooth enough to match the cheese and rich enough to cope with the mushrooms. Also good with the hanger steak with paprika alioli, the spicy sauce bringing out the cedary flavours of the Reserva.

Reserva and hangar steak

Gran Reserva 2002

Spicy, slightly dusty nose, the palate more chocolaty, and finishing sweet. With aeration, there were some liquorice flavours. An ideal pairing to the Morcilla (Spanish black pudding) with apple reduction, the dark fruit and sweet oak of the wine just about perfect with the dark pud and sweet sauce. The sweet oak and finish of the Gran Reserva also just about coped with caramelised onions on bread.

Dominio de Campo Viejo Reserva 2004

A single vineyard Tempranillo from the Cañada Valhondo plot overlooked by the winery. A more extracted style than the previous wines, with a darker nose, lots of acidity and some tannin at last! Very good with the lamb and cheese tapas and also paired with a very rich roasted pepper, the wine’s richness, sweetness and juiciness really good with that dish.

Cava Rosado NV

Made from Trepat. A sherbetty, “fizzy” nose, with some strawberry fruit flavours. A bit rough around the edges and quite rustic. Finishes dry. Tasted with Tarta de Santiago, which are almond-based. The pairing was about as enjoyable as wedding cake with Champagne…

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