The entrance to Theo Randall’s restaurant in the Intercontinental Hotel, bang in the centre of London, may be discreet but within we discovered good food matched with lovely wine, which celebrates Randall’s seasonal delights.
Theo Randall was head chef at the River Cafe before opening Theo Randall at the InterContinental ten years ago. He had also spent a year working with the legendary Alice Waters at Chez Panisse. His aim is to produce ‘simple’ Italian food, but with style and panache.
Every so often the charming and gracious head sommelier Vittorio Gentile hosts a small dinner at the sommelier table. Tucked in one side of the restaurant amid the wine fridges, the high table accomodates just six people making for an intimate event. The raised table also means that the sommelier is not talking down to you…
Divided into winter, spring, summer and autumn, the list promises heavier wines to complement the rich, warming foods of the colder months and light, elegant flavours to celebrate spring and summer.
Spain has tapas – Italy, especially Venice, has Chicchetti.
To accompany the chicchetti, our evening started with the excellent, dry Metodo Classico sparkling wine, Villa Sandi Opere, named as a tribute to Venice and made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grown in the new appellation Serenissima DOC. Created in 2011 the DOC covers an area called “Pedemontana”, designating specific hilly parts throughout the Veneto region.
The first course denoted Spring and the dry, stony, salty Aurora Offida Pecorino, Fiobbo 2014, a Pecorino from the Marche, was a good match with the beautiful burrata (a fresh Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream) with red peppers.
Then came the best dish and possibly the match of the day. Handmade pasta with fresh spring peas and broad beans, smoked ricotta and mint with the Guido Marsella Fiano di Avellino, Summonte, Campania 2011. Made with Fiano grapes grown at 650 metres in Campania, it is a gentle giant of a dry white wine that exentuated the summery notes of the dish.
Vittorio decanted the wine and served it with panache:
Autumn’s mellow fruitfulness was personified by the lamb with its vegetables accompanied by the Lino Maga Babacarlo, Lombardia 2005. From the southern part of Oltrepo Pavese this heady red is made from a mix of grape varieties, aged in botti (large oak barrels) until the spring following the harvest when it is bottled. A robust match for the lamb, it wore its decade of ageing well.
Theo Randall joined us to say how much he enjoyed the Seasonal Wine List and praised Vittorio for his enthusiasm for presenting the wines by season.
The Sandro Fay, Sforzato della Valtellina, Ronco del Picchio 2010 hit the spot with the selection of Italian cheeses, because of the richness of the wine. Made with 100% Chiavennasca (the local name for Nebbiolo), grown at 700 metres in the Shangri-La region of Valtellina which abuts Switzerland, it is made a little like an Amarone – the grapes are left to dry for two and a half months before fementation, then aged in barriques.
Vittorio presented three vermouths to accompany the Piatto di Dolci, a selection of desserts, which was a delight to complete a delicious meal.
Ah, “vermouth with pudding?” I hear you say. Well, there is an inherent sweetness in the vermouth but the intriguing different bitter notes add a quirkiness to the match.
Mauro Vergano Chinato, an elixir made by the addition of quinine to Barbaresco; Cocchie, Vermouth di Torino, a classic from Torino, the home of vermouth for 120 years; Luigi Spertini Belle Epoque vermouth.
A restaurant well worth a visit, you too can enjoy Theo Randall’s Seasonal Delights. The restaurant offers a number of special wine and food events:
To honour the capital’s diverse wine scene, Vittorio Gentile, has partnered with select wineries to host a series of ‘Dinners with the Winemaker’.
Available for up to 12 wine enthusiasts, the wine experience is accompanied by dishes from Theo Randall, and offers guests the chance to dine with the winemaker to learn the stories behind the wine. Priced at £105pp, the next event will take place on the 20th of July starting at 7pm with Bellavista & Petra followed by the 11th of October with G.D. Vajra (£115pp).
Theo Randall’s neighbour, Number One, London, Apsley House. We did leave quietly…
This article was written by Brett Jones and Wink Lorch