This month seems to have been one for well known chefs. Last week it was the Sweet Mandarin sisters, then Aiden Byrne at his new venture, 20 Stories, and to end the weekend, Sunday saw myself and Mr GFB dining at Don Giovanni, on a menu created by Jean Christophe Novelli.
Obviously everyone else was as excited to see JC, as we arrived a smidge early to find an already fast filling venue. Perhaps a little excitement to meet the man himself, and perhaps a little about the menu. After all, it was a secret supper club and none of us had seen the menu.
All was to be revealed when we sat down. G&T from Manchester Three Rivers in one hand, menu in the other, eyes peeking above trying to see if the man himself would pop out at some point (which of course he did).
Ahead of each course, Jean Christophe spoke to us all, to tell us about the dish and where he’d taken influence from. In the case of our starter, direct from the city he was in. Red mullet was cured gently in Three Rivers Gin, before being served with a salad of charred cucumber, monks beard (agrette – similar to samphire) and pea shoots. Light, fresh, and clean, it went well with the gin tonic, but less so with the paired wine – a Grillo light floral and citrus notes – which dominated the dish a little too much (though was still rather delicious).
For our second course, there was a dainty caprese. An intense tomato gel sat on top of a light pesto, topped with a gentle hunk of mozzarella, a pipette of extra virgin olive oil, and tiny drop of balsamic vinegar.
Served with a glass of Castel Firmian Sauvignon Blanc, this was such a simple dish (I’d have been happy without the pipette, though the science geek in me was a little giddy) that I could have eaten on repeat. The olive oil was so deliciously deep, with just that hint of sweet acidity pulled it back from being overly rich.
Onto the meat course, and this was quite honestly my favourite of the night.
Rose veal, celeriac puree, chanterelle mushrooms, and garlic shoots. For the cost of the ticket for the whole event (£50) the cut of meat was huge. Not only that, it was tender, tasty, and the whole dish was a play on rich earthy flavours, with an astringency from the garlic shoots. Now my only grumble was that for me the shoots were simply too much (I have a sensitivity to astringent flavours) but had they been a little softer, I’d have licked my plate clean. This was served with a Prunotto Dolcetto d’Alba – a grapey, gently fruity red – I’d happily eat this over and over again.
But our fourth course beckoned.
Home made ricotta, pine nut brittle, charred tenderstem broccoli, pear, and quince jelly. Everything on this plate worked for me, except for the broccoli. I understood the thought process, the bitter green with the light fresh ricotta, the soft sweet quince and the pear, but though it was tasty, I could have happily left it to one side.
The wine however, I need a couple of cases of, or at least a bottle or two. It was just stunning (as soon as Mr GFB sipped it, he said ‘this is a you kind of wine’). Pecorino Fattoria La Valentina. It’s peaches and apricots, and stoned fruit, and a little salinity and citrus and lingered beautifully.
Finally, all too quickly, we reached dessert.
Blood orange with mascarpone and dark chocolate gelato. The plate was dotted with cinder toffee and this bitterness with the sharp orange, and the rich mascarpone was delicious. I’ll admit, I didn’t eat everything together (I have rules for fruit and chocolate, and yes I know I’m weird, but I just can’t) and ate the gelato purely on it’s own, right at the end. It was everything I’d have wanted in a gelato. Richness, almost bitter chocolate, intensity. I’ll have a tub of that to take away on a Friday night, thank you.
The wine paired with this was a little sweetie. Only 5% abv, it was a Moscato d’Asti Prunotto – a gentle sweetness, florals, and a little honey, it’s hints of orange blossom worked well.
Now. I’d like to say we met the man himself. That we chatted the night away, and stayed til the early hours talking food, and wine and gin and Manchester.
Sadly, this was a Sunday night and, we were subject to the usual public transport issues. Our last bus home being ten minutes after we finished dinner. Enough time to give love to friends we’d spotted in the restaurant, to say thank you to our hosts, to pay, and to grab our coats.
Sigh of frustration.
Next time JC. Next time.
Our attendance at this event was at the invitation of Don Giovanni. Wine drunk during the event was purchased by ourselves.