Although my last visit to Pike & Pine wasn't too long ago, I returned for one of their first events, a collaboration with Ridgeview, one of our best Sussex wine producers, as part of the Brighton Food Festival. Although paired wine dinners are nothing unusual, it was clear even from the radical menu format that this was going to be something else.
Instead of a typical food and drink flavour pairing, the concept of the dinner explored the growth cycle and environment of the vines, from the chalk and soil to the leaves and fruit. And tonight, Pike & Pine brought it with elegance, glamour and delight throughout.
We started with the foundations - chalk - which some believe that the fact we share the same chalk as the Champagne region is why we're able to produce great sparkling wines in Sussex. One of Ridgeview's signature wines, the NV Bloomsbury Brut was perfect with the scallop; clean, fresh, mineral flavours with a coil of nutty celeriac remoulade and a sweet hit from the corn.
The "soil" course worked hard for the theme in taste, texture and visual. Earthy notes ran throughout the dish naturally in the parfait, Beetroot, mushrooms and rolled duck prosciutto as well as a technical crumbled "soil". This was served with the toastier, richer Cavensish Brut 2014 to carry all of those bold flavours.
The chicken in the "Roots" dish was so tasty; sticky, tender and sweet. Charred salsify had been cut and arranged to look like roots, and remaining with the underground theme was king of earthy vegetables; artichoke, in puree and a perfectly prepared half heart form. By now I had given up on sipping my wines as they were far too good and enjoyed the entire glass of Blanc De Noirs 2103. It's made using black skinned grapes, but pressing gently so the colour from the skins don't taint the golden colour.
The next course showcased my personal favourite in the Ridgeview collection - their Blanc De Blancs. Unlike the Blanc De Noirs, it uses only light-skinned grapes and is 100% Chardonnay. If I come into serious money, they will find me on their drive with a van to take away their annual stock of this, believe me. And until then, the occasional £45 bottle will have to do and is always money well spent.
I have a savoury preference so maybe it's the slight saline notes in this wine that make me adore it but it's so creamy and fragrant too. Pike & Pine did this justice with their clean and delicate Leaves and Flowers course; a succulent crab beignet, cod, lime spheres, samphire, charred leek and a thin dehydrated seaweed shard.
Dish of the night though was the venison for "Young Fruit". The haunch and loin were beautifully treated and I think it's certainly one of the best venison dishes I've ever had. Any sadness for the end of summer were swept away by this autumnal celebration - with squash, elderberry, chestnut and surprising addition of pickled grapes. The 2008 Knightsbridge Blanc De Noirs was extra special too - a bottle from the Ridgeview archives, so they were clearly out to spoil us.
Although the pre-dessert gave us a reluctant, yet needed, breather from the wines, this was one of the best plates conceptually. It reflected the development of the grape in colour and taste from the tart pale apple gel to sweeter flavours and intensifying hues. An impressively thin sesame tuille contrasted, so rich and almost fragrantly burnt, maybe to represent the bitterness of grape pips?
We ended with show-stopping magnums of Rosé De Noirs which was an ideal end, with its beautiful pale pink colour and notes of berries and honey. It's no wonder the dessert had so many red fruits and juicy flavours to showcase this wine so well.
Now Pike & Pine has had time to settle, it's great to see them incorporating special events. Their creativity and take on the food was surprising, smart and fun and was one of the best supper nights I've been to for a while. I'd love to see them collaborate with other key local producers, and although I was a big fan before, has certainly made me see Ridgeview in a differently light too. I can't wait to see what they come up with next.
You can sign up for notification of future Pike & Pine events on their Facebook page.
Pikeandpine.co.uk - Ridgeview.co.uk
I dined as a guest of Pike & Pine, Ridgeview and Brighton Food Festival. Words and thoughts, as always, my own.