There are a couple of things I am always slightly apprehensive about telling people. Firstly, I absolutely hate Strictly Come Dancing. Secondly that I really don’t like French food.
The former is because I always get the impression that not liking the programme is not only illegal, but makes me out to be some cruel heartless b*stard who doesn’t bathe in the warmth and good feeling of this irritatingly smug show that is camper than a handbag full of rainbows.
The latter, because being in the wine trade, it makes me sound like a culinary and cultural philistine and therefore what would I know about wine. The truth is I would rather spend an evening with a roomful of Frank Spencer impersonators than have a slap up French meal in front of “Strictly”.
On a recent trip to France, I was delighted to find a Franco/Japanese Michelin starred restaurant deep in the heart of Burgundy called Le Charlemagne. In London, Japanese fusion food is represented by Nobu, which is Peruvian/Japanese; although I don’t know what the Peruvian influence is as my request for a Wasabai Guinea Pig was met with a call for security. Nonetheless it remains one of the best meals I have had in my life. I love this style of food and was therefore finally excited about going out for a meal in France.
I had deliberately read nothing about Le Charlemagne, apart from the address, as I find, in matters gastronomic, that the element of surprise is two thirds of the satisfaction.
Le Charlemagne is in Pernand Vergelesses, hiding behind the Hill of Corton, this pretty little village produces some of the best value Burgundies on the market. Someone once told me that sommeliers never list them as they make customers uncomfortable ordering as it is so hard to pronounce, but I urge you to overlook your pride and order a bottle of Pernand Vegerleseseseseses …….remember you will never have to see them again.
The restaurant design itself certainly bows to the East. Minimalist Japanese furniture, well designed and very welcoming with a huge panoramic window overlooking the vineyards. I was showed to my conspicuously raised table for one and immediately had flashbacks of Valentine’s Day.
I ordered the 55 Euro Menu and bottle of 2004 Pernand Vergeleles En Caradeaux, by the great Frank Follin. The vineyard was directly beneath me and I could see him working his vines not 50 yards away. The Wine was very good, although I still think in general the 2004’s need a more time to blossom. There are still some hard edges to them that will soften out but I am sure they will provide some very good drinking in 5 – 8 years time Although at this time, I am not convinced they will be keepers for the longer term so keep an eye on them in your cellar.
The food was sensational. Six courses of beautifully presented, imaginative and most importantly absolutely delicious food. It combined the warmth and cosiness of many French ingredients with the artistic fresh light touch of Japan. There were no clumsy combinations, the fusions all worked perfectly. The trio of Vanilla puddings was the finest desert I have ever eaten and was worth the drive alone.
I left feeling privileged to have eaten there and I recommend anyone to visit when they are in Burgundy or driving past on the A6…………If it was a dance, it would be a striptease by Rachel Stevens and I would give it a 10!!