Features

The wine guy: long time no sea

by Andy Clarke

30 July 2019

Our drinks columnist takes a trip to the seaside to gather inspiration for this month’s food and wine match

The sun is high in the sky, the heat is delightfully strong and my cider-flavoured ice lolly is melting at a rate of knots. The Clevedon waterfront is bustling with people and I’m rolling my shorts up to maximise the rays on my skin. No, I’m not talking about this summer, but going back to the mid-1980s when I was a kid on a family day trip to this fab seaside town.

Over the last few years, Clevedon has gone through a renaissance. The pier has been tastefully restored, Marine Lake has been rejuvenated and the town boasts parades of independent businesses, one such being Hill Road, a great stretch of shops, bars and places to eat. Nestling on one corner is Puro, a modern British restaurant founded by Dom and Alex Lamy. The couple, who have over 25 years experience in hospitality, decided that Clevedon needed an upmarket but unpretentious restaurant and so this place was born in June 2017.

Dom met Puro’s head chef Nick Fenlon when they both worked at Bristol’s waterside institution, The Pump House. Nick was born and raised in the Chew Valley, like so many of the West’s finest chefs, and eventually followed Dom to Puro. Nick’s a keen forager with a love of shellfish and game, which comes through in Puro’s varied menu (the wild rocket on their tomato salad is picked by Nick on his way to work, even). In fact, Nick’s menu has to be one of the best examples of relaxed, fine-dining in the region. 

The pan-fried fillet of hake with hake croquette, mussels, cannellini beans and sea herbs is sublime. But one dish that stands out for me is the hand-picked Dorset crab with cucumber crème fraîche, rice cracker, apple and parsley oil. Pure shellfish pleasure. The way the crab is complemented by its plate mates is magical. Luckily, this beauty is on both the tasting menu and a la carte, but if you fancy giving it a try it at home, I have some West Country sips to serve alongside it.

The delicate nature of the crab, along with the streak of green apple, desires a local wine like Smith and Evans Naturally Fermented White 2018 from the heart of Somerset. It has an onion skin hue when you look at it and a gently floral nose – not elderflower, more summer meadow – which comes into its own alongside the mixture of meat, crème fraîche, mayo and lemon juice.

Get the recipe here: hand-picked Dorset crab, cucumber, crème fraîche, rice cracker, apple and parsley oil

The wine has a gentle spritz and delicate minerality, a bit like a good Grüner Veltliner, that teases the cracker and the crisp apple. There’s also subdued stone fruit on the palate, with white pepper warmth on the finish that mingles delicately with the parsley oil. 

If a fuller, more robust wine is what you desire, Three Choirs Bacchus 2017 from the wilds of Gloucestershire is what you need. It has a bold and rich nose, like baked apple in the setting of summer farmland, thanks to the gentle oak (it’s aged for six months in one-year-old French oak barrels). The flavour of lemon zest-flecked gooseberries is incredible with the Granny Smith and gives enough weight to stand up to the delicately flavoured yet rich crab mixture. But this wine has a Vinho Verde fun-like quality to it which is fantastic with all the green elements here. Definitely a food wine, its long finish does the whole shellfish masterpiece justice.

As tempting as it is to leave a coastal visit until the temperatures are up and the sun is shining, there’s really no need to wait until you fancy an ice cream or a flutter on the slot machines to visit Clevedon, as long as food like this is being served there.

Andy is a freelance food TV producer and writer; follow him on Twitter @TvsAndyClarke

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