Now I don’t know the first thing about new world wines, nor about port, but thankfully one of my friends does and inducted us into the pleasures of The Don- a restaurant owned by the same folks as the Trinity Hill wine producers and the closer-to-home Bleeding Heart restaurant. The building itself is another one of those exciting finds tucked away where you least expect it in the city, on the site of historic port cellars.
The staff were friendly and flexible, managing to accommodate some unexpected extra covers at our table, and quickly rearranging the furniture. The inevitable gluten free request was initially met with a quizzical look from our French-speaking waitress but dealt with deftly by her colleague, who indicated that most of the dishes were suitable for me (though didn’t mention the tortellini as not – must have been an oversight). Curiously I was unable to eat the Scallops en Coquille, but when they arrived it became clear this was because the shell had been beautifully sealed with pastry to steam the shellfish inside.
I was happy to leave the wine choice to my friend and concentrated on the more pressing issue of talk and eating – a fusioning of those kiwi wines with some very European food. My scallop jealousy was forgotten as I started with a deliciously flavoursome peppered beef carpaccio which arrived thick and tender piled with delicate rocket and flakes of earthy Parmesan. Keeping it carnivorous, I continued with the signature ‘Bigorre Black Pig Three Ways’. Each of the three ways was meltingly executed, but on a monday night definitely needed the spinach accompaniment to return some virtue to the dish in face of the fat.
After this atypical Monday feast, I settled for a little taste of my friend’s spot-on creme brûlée with some rather plump raspberries rather than a dessert of my own, but was not immune to polishing off a giant vanilla nougat of homemade white chocolate with my peppermint tea.
All in all, the only thing really not going for The Don as a personal choice is the inevitable clientele of besuited city-types, all of whom had left by 9.30pm. This makes it fine for a nice work dinner, but for an outing with friends I would choose the Bleeding Heart.