May 2010


We’ve recently returned from a week at Soneva Gili, our second trip to the Maldives resort owned by the Six Senses group. It’s testament to how much we loved the place, that we went back a second time, but this time our holiday exceeded all our expectations.

Six Senses aim for ‘intelligent luxury’ in all their resorts. A great deal of thought has been given to the villas (all of which are over water) and they are consequently well-equipped and very comfortable. Unlike most resorts you could quite happily spend the week in the villa and never leave, as many visitors seem to do.

Anyhow, aside from the snorkelling, the diving, and general lazing about, we found ourselves there – completely by chance – in a week when there were not only two visiting wine producers, showcasing their wines, but also a visiting chef. Perhaps not suprisingly, we were in seventh heaven, and I’ll be posting my notes from these events over the next couple of weeks.

Overwater Bar at Soneva Gili

Even without special events, the food and beverage experience at Soneva Gili is excellent, especially given the location of the island. The brand strives to minimise the environmental impact of its resorts, as far as possible, and much of the fresh produce is grown in house. We had a wonderful lunch one day in the vegetable garden, selecting the leaves for our salad ourselves.

The selection of wines on offer is broad, and eclectic, with many bottles under $100, but a suitable number of classed growths at the other end of the spectrum. The sommelier, Jasper, was extremely helpful during the week, providing an interesting lesson in pairing wines with Asian flavours. The 2007 Toru from Te Whare Ra – a lovely crisp blend of Gewürztraminer, Riesling and Pinot Gris – from Marlborough, was a particularly good example.

The wine cellar itself is underground, and also houses a cheese cave. It has been fitted out with a table (fashioned from a tree trunk washed up by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami) in order to cater for wine dinners.

Underground Cellar at Soneva Gili

As repeat visitors, the staff laid on a wine dinner in the cellar for the two of us. The menu and pairings are outlined below, but particular highlights were:

Section 94, Dog Point 2007, Marlborough, NZ
I’ve written elsewhere about Dog Point’s main Sauvignon Blanc, but this is a fascinating example of a wine produced from grapes grown in a small section of the vineyard. The wine has extended lees contact in old oak barrels, which gives it a real complexity. Very fruit driven with strong notes of apricot.

Pomerol, Château de Clèmence 1997, Bordeaux
A wonderful accompaniment to beef. Predominantly Merlot, but dominated by black fruits with soft, silky tannins.

Pinot Noir, Pegasus Bay 2006, Waipara NZ
I confess I’ve not yet caught the Pinot bug, except in Blanc de Noirs champagne. However, this really opened my eyes to the possibilities. Vibrant red fruits, particularly cherries and raspberries, with a hint of caramelised toffee. My favourite of the night.

The menu was as follows:

Amuse:
Olive yoghurt ball, black forest ham, melon chutney
NV Champagne, Ruinart Brut, Reims, France

Soup:
Essence of tomato with scallop and lobster
2007 Section 94, Dog Point, Marlborough, NZ

Appetizer:
Chilli caramel Maldivian yellow fin tuna
2005 Savennières, Les Vieux Clos, Nicolas Joly, Loire, France

Refresher:
Champagne sorbet with pomegranate granita

Main:
Cumin scented Black Angus beef with almond rouille and sauteed rocket
1997 Pomerol, Château La Clèmence, Bordeaux, France

Selection of cheese
2006 Pinot Noir, Pegasus Bay, Waipara, NZ

Desert:
Tropical fruit ‘carpaccio’
2006 Lilly Pilly Noble Blend, Riverina, Australia

Advertisements

The threatened train strikes just before Easter encouraged us to take to the skies to visit relatives over the bank holiday. I wouldn’t choose to fly too often but, not only was it significantly cheaper than travelling cattle class on the train, the whole experience was much more pleasant.

Husband booked a table at Gordon Ramsey’s Plane Food in Terminal 5 at Heathrow. The restaurant has had mixed reviews, but on the whole our experience was very good and we both agreed that it was a nice start to our long weekend. Although the spectre of the teething troubles at Terminal 5 refuses to go away, on the few times I’ve travelled through there, I’ve found it considerably lighter, brighter and lot less stressful than the other terminals at Heathrow.

The restaurant is at the rear of the terminal, facing a glass wall that fronts onto several flight gates, so the view is perfect if you’re a plane spotter, or – like me – partial to dreaming of jetting off to exotic locations. Consequently, the restaurant space is pleasantly light and airy too. We were seated at the back by the windows because we’d booked, I think, which is worth knowing for the future, as the other tables in the main part of the restaurant were packed in close together. That said, even at 18:30 on Maundy Thursday, it certainly wasn’t busy and we could easily have got a table without booking.

We travelled to the airport separately after work, so I ordered a G&T which I have to say was one of the best I’ve had recently. The service was pleasant, but not particularly speedy – we had to ask several times to order and pay, which was frustrating, especially as they weren’t particularly busy. I was also a bit surprised that we weren’t asked to confirm our flight time, but this wasn’t a huge problem as we had left plenty of time.

Husband and I both ordered off the a la carte, which includes 7-8 main courses. Unlike the rest of Ramsey’s empire, there’s nothing fancy on offer here: just good honest pub classics with a twist. Roasted cod, polenta chips, peas and spicy ketchup (£12.95) or Suffolk pork cutlet, black pudding and an apple compote (£12.50), for example, both of which seem fairly priced, especially given the location.

Dedham Vale Steak

I ordered the Dedham Vale rib-eye steak (£21.50) which was served with red wine shallot butter and onion rings. Sadly the steak wasn’t really warm enough to melt the butter, which I had to smear on the meat, but the onion rings and the accompanying tub of excellent chips (crispy outside, fluffy middle, perfectly seasoned) more than made up for this.

All deserts are priced at £5.50, and we both ordered the Champagne Yorkshire rhubarb fool with short bread. As you can see from the picture, it looked too good to delay eating and tasted just as good. Sometimes the simple things are the best: this was probably the highlight of the meal.

Champagne Rhubarb Fool

The wine list includes a good number of bins available by the glass (175ml), seven whites and seven reds ranging from £4.50 to £8, which is always encouraging to see. Although there are no 250ml glasses on offer, all these wines were also available in a 375ml carafe, an excellent option if – like us – you’re just grabbing a quick meal before a flight and don’t want a whole bottle.

As it happened, we both fancied different things. The Tinpot Hut 2009, Sauvignon Blanc, from Marlborough accompanied Husband’s salmon perfectly. It had a lovely minerality and herbaceous notes, balanced really well with ripe tropical fruits which I wouldn’t necessarily expect to see at this price point. The “Crozes Hermitage 2006, Jaboulet, France” (no more details given) was rich, silky and dominated by black fruit.

If you’re passing through T5, give it a go.