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.

Advertisements

There is a pub near us which intermittently has a board outside, advertising the fact that they have Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc in stock. It saddens me firstly that a pub, in a beautiful location alongside the Thames, feels it needs Cloudy Bay to draw people in, but most of all what a draw Cloudy Bay has become.

I’m not necessarily knocking the wines (although I wasn’t bowled over by a recent tasting of the 2009 Sauvignon Blanc), but I will happily stick my head above the parapet and claim that there are a whole host of other New Zealand Sauvignons out there that are not only better, but also much better value. I’m personally don’t think Cloudy Bay delivers enough to justify its £17.99 price tag.

In certain circles, Cloudy Bay seems to have become a benchmark for the Marlborough region. However, it’s debatable how much of its cult status is more the result of clever marketing: the brand was bought in 2003 by ‘luxury goods firm’ LVMH (Louis Vuitton Möet Hennessy).

Anyhow, below are notes on a couple of NZ Sauvignon Blancs from the Marlborough region that we first enjoyed on a trip to Auckland last year. Both are available in the UK, and well worth trying as an alternative to Cloudy Bay. Over the coming weeks, I’ll also be adding notes on other New Zealand wines, made from grape varieties other than the ubiquitous Sauvignon Blanc.

Clos Henri Sauvignon Blanc 2007
We first tried this, drinking out of mugs in a wonderfully chintzy motel near the Bay of Islands, to the north of New Zealand. Perhaps an illustration that a great wine will shine through, despite! Clos Henri was established in the Wairau Valley in Marlborough by the family of Henri Bourgeois, the renowned Sancerre producer. The first vintage was produced in 2003.

Clos Henri Sauvignon Blanc 2007

Although this bottle was almost three years old, the wine had lost none of its freshness. A powerful nose of mango and papaya, which was also reflected on the palate. A wonderfully complex wine with intense flavours of mango, papaya, gooseberries and green pepper, with a crisp minerality on the finish. Overall, a well balanced wine, with lovely well-rounded fruit and a zippy acidity. (18/20)

The Ned Sauvignon Blanc 2009
We came across this one in the bar at the top of the Sky Tower in Auckland, where we enjoyed spectacular views across Auckland Harbour to Waiheke Island. The vineyards of the Ned are located on the southern side of the Wairau Valley and the mouth of the Waihopai Valley. The wine is named after one of the tallest peaks to the south east of the vineyard, and 2009 was just the fourth vintage to be produced.

The Ned Sauvignon Blanc 2009

A very pale wine, with a classic NZ Sauvignon nose of grapefruit and tropical fruit. Crisp minerality on the palate, with hints of passion fruit, lime and gooseberry. Lovely clean finish. Excellent value. (15/20, Waitrose £9.99)

All these wines can be sourced via www.wine-searcher.com