Bakers & Larners in Holt has returned to event season in some style, and at the end of July, they held their first Champagne Bollinger night. The evening provided a chance to learn the history of one of the greatest champagne houses, as well as enjoy a sumptuous dinner with champagne pairing. Samantha Mattocks went along to enjoy the Bakers & Larners Bollinger experience.
Arriving on a hot summer’s night, it struck me we were about to spend the evening in 450-year-old company, with Bollinger making its first appearance in 1829 and Bakers & Larners in 1770. The evening promised the very best of the best, and it did not disappoint.
Nick Baker, Director of Bakers & Larners, was there to welcome guests along with Antony Davis, Regional Accounts Manager at Mentzendorff, one of the UK’s longest-established wine importers. His knowledge of Bollinger, shared throughout the evening, was fascinating and he gave a great insight into champagne. The four-course dinner menu was designed by Bakers & Larners’ resident chef, Andrew Baker, and safe to say, he spoiled us! Completing the front of house team were wine buyer Patrick Sewell, who can read more about overleaf, and wine specialist Darryl Wardell.
On arrival, we made our way to the terrace at the Number Ten Café and enjoyed a glass of Bollinger Special Cuvée. In the hallmark Bollinger style, this champagne is a great all rounder and had notes of apple and brioche. Pairing with the Cuvée was an amuse-bouche of lobster bisque, full of the freshness of the sea and rich with flecks of lobster meat throughout.
Antony told us that Mentzendorff was founded in 1823 with the foundation of a distillery in the
village of Allasch by Baron von Blackenhagen, establishing itself with a reputation for its Kummel. The first sales went to the UK in 1851 when Ludwig Mentzendorff arranged for it to be exported under the name Mentzendorff Kummel. It was in 1864 that the Bollinger family joined Mentzendorff and, to this day; they remain a majority shareholder.
“The best champagne in the world is the one you enjoy the most,” said Antony before telling us that the House of Champagne Bollinger was founded in Aÿ, in the heart of the champagne region. Sill family owned, Bollinger is famed for its use of pinot noir in its champagne – for them, pinot noir is king!
“The Special Cuvée is the champagne a house wants to be judged on,” explained Antony. “It is their signature and in Bollinger, it is very much pinot noir based. The Bollinger Special Cuvée has grapes from across the 179 hectares of vineyards that the House owns, and is a blend of 60% pinot noir, 25% chardonnay, and 15% meunier.” He went on to explain that champagne is made with a base wine, the vin clear, which is the blend, and then the secondary fermentation takes place in the bottle – and that brings the bubbles.
Onto the starter, Jonas Seafood Cromer crab arancini with lemon aioli, served with Bollinger PN TX17. The arancini were delicious, very generous in size and perfectly balanced by the lemon. As for the PN TX17 – my standout of the night, but then pinot noir is my favourite wine! Pinot noir is the pillar of the Bollinger style, and the PN TX17 is 100% pinot noir. “They wanted to show what they could produce when not making the Grande Année,” explained Antony as Patrick and Darryl poured the PN TX17. Made from 2017 grapes, showcasing the characteristics of the Tauxières terroir, the main cru of its blend, this champagne was vivacious, with notes of apricot, peach, and acacia honey, and it worked well with the acidity of the starter.
It was then time for the main event, and we were very much spoiled in both food and fizz. Andrew and his team had prepared freshly caught Norfolk lobster with Norfolk samphire, buttered new potatoes, and a lemon butter sauce – an incredibly generous portion with a lobster each, and to get so many out at the same time was no small feat!
The pairing for this dish was the Bollinger La Grande Année 2014 – 61% pinot noir and 39% chardonnay, a blend of the grand and premier cru vines that Bollinger owns, and every bottle is hand disgorged. This was a serious champagne, and it was a real treat to try it. Elegantly balanced with a light acidity, the Grande Année was the perfect foil to the butter-rich lobster dish, and it had notes of cherry, lemon, and plum. As Antony said, there was a scent of sea air with this champagne and, together with the food, it was pure luxury.
Having truly enjoyed a taste of the sea, it was time for a taste of summer – Bollinger Rosé served alongside a summer fruit tart, with berries from Sharrington, and a mascarpone cream. A blend of 62% pinot noir, 24% chardonnay, and 14% meunier, this rosé was not sweet in style and is aged longer before pinot noir is added. Bursting with wild strawberries and cherry, there was a touch of spice to this fizz, and it paired brilliantly with the dessert, with the rosé and summer fruits balancing each other perfectly.
The evening came to a close, with coffee and petit fours of raspberry macarons. We had tried two vintage and two non-vintage champagnes, showcasing the four main offerings from Bollinger. It was a great night, and I have to say that Bakers & Larners really look after their guests. Everyone left with a smile on their face, and throughout the whole meal, there had been a great balance between the food and the fizz. Andrew created dishes that really complemented the Bollinger champagnes, and nothing overpowered.
The closing words must go to Nick, who summed the event up perfectly – “good food, good company, and great champagne!”