REVIEW: COLCHIS GEORGIAN FOOD AND WINE TASTING MENU
Despite trying many weird and wonderful foods since becoming food and drink editor of BSF, Georgian cuisine has so far escaped me. In fact, I know very little about Georgia at all. I use Google to discover it shares boarders with Russia, Turkey, Armenia, and Azerbaijan; Christianity is the most practiced religion; and the ancient kingdom of Colchis (of Jason & the Argonauts fame) played an important role in unifying the Georgian state we know today. Of course none of this has anything to do with Georgian food, so when I was invited down to Colchis Georgian Bar and Restaurant in Notting Hill to try out their brand new food and wine pairing evening, I jumped at the chance.
On a cold February evening I arrive at the contemporary styled venue and my attention is immediately drawn to the Wall of Wines. I am then greeted by a svelte hostess who informs me that Georgia has over 7000 years of wine producing history which will be celebrated tonight with the special 10 course taster menu with 6 wines. When I heard this, I was instantly warmed up. Once sat down, we were introduced to Isabelle Legeron, the French master of wine who became a fan of Georgian wine while filming the documentary ‘The Crazy French Woman In…’ She explained that Georgia is the oldest wine producing region in the world and is unique in that they are fermented in huge clay vessels that are kept underground.
This love led her to create her own dynamic wines, Lagvinari, made in the traditional Georgian way and was served with the 4 starters served to us. I was ready to tuck into the various dishes; however before beginning we were informed that Georgian food uses lots of walnuts, so as a mild nut allergy sufferer, alarm bells began ringing in my head. Fortunately only 3 dishes on the menu included nuts, so I could not try the Roast Aubergine and Chicken Bazhe starters. However the Megruli Khachapuri, a traditional bread filled with egg and cheese was amazing, and reminded me very much of comfort food- it’s clear to see why it is one of Georgia’s signature dishes. The scallop with tomato and lime salad dish was cooked well, however was spoiled slightly by the tomatoes which were more like a red mush. The Lagvini wine was equally as interesting, orange in colour and had spicy notes akin more to a liqueur than a white wine.
Next up was the mains and I am pleased to say that all 4 dishes were delicious (and more importantly didn’t contain nuts). My personal favourites were the Khinkali, which is a Georgian dumpling stuffed with minced beef and pork, very similar to the Chinese dim sum dumpling and the Chanakhi (lamb stew with aubergines and potatoes). We were treated to 3 wines with the main and I adored the Slovenian Radikon as the rich flavour matched beautifully with the tender suckling pig.
As you can probably guess, nearly everyone in attendance was slightly squiffy after 5 glasses of wine, but there were still 2 dessert courses to follow and 1 more dynamic French wine. The Medoki honey cake contained nuts so I stayed well clear but the passionfruit jelly with vanilla panacota served as a well rounded end to a fabulous evening of great entertainment, unusual and exotic foods, and lots (and I mean lots) of dynamic wines.
Having come to Colchis as a complete Georgian food novice, the friendly waiting staff provided me with so much information that I now have a fair understanding of not just Georgian food, but also the culture. At £75 per person, the food & wine tasting menu is not cheap but does offer great value for the range of food and drinks provided, and as a first introduction to Georgian culture the only way you could get a more authentic experience is if you jumped on a plane. Highly recommended.
Colchis Bar & Restaurant, 39 Chepstow Place, W2 4TS. Nearest Tube: Notting Hill Gate.
For bookings visit www.colchisrestaurant.co.uk or phone 0207 221 7620