Sherry – particularly Fino sherry – (the white dry kind, not the one that smells of Christmas pudding) is currently undergoing something of a renaissance having been relegated to the drinks cabinets of a slightly more senior clique since the 1980s.
Is it another fleeting fad designed by the public relations sector to boost sales of a flagging product? Perhaps, though to me, this felt more like an underrated drink being given the recognition and attention it deserves rather than a flash in the pan ‘trend’.
Sherry actually works surprisingly well with a good meal, which is exactly what Tio Pepe were hoping to prove with a dinner they held on Wednesday night with help from one of London’s better known supper clubs – the Disappearing Dining Club.
We sat down to a four-course meal, each course carefully selected to complement the drier Fino variety on show at the club’s weekend Town House on Fournier Street – a home-turned-antiques shop across from Spitalfields market.
First came a small white bean and truffle soup amuse-bouche, warming and moreish and complemented by the sherry’s earthy salt notes. Intrigued by the pairing, this disappeared quickly.
Next, a four-piece tapas starter featured a wild mushroom Arancini with a lemon and chervil emulsion that when enjoyed in combination with the sherry brought out the dry fruity notes. This was followed by a smoked black bean and sweet corn ceviche – an interesting take on the Peruvian dish – that boasted an interesting combination of sweetness and acidity that livened the palate.
The other two starters on the platter – potted meats and fish and smoked squid, prawns and mussels, introduced a more familiar Spanish style with a north-western European twist – potted ham and salmon replacing Iberico jamon and white fish, served a la Greque.
Again, the dry sherry complemented the sharper ingredients in a way that I could honestly only describe as completely
uncontroversial. It was pleasant and cleansing, yes, but it lacked the intensity of a typical white wine accompaniment.
The main course was a delight – succulent poached chicken in an Earl Grey and truffle broth (yes, more truffle, but no complaints from me on that front) served with green beans, carrots and a potato fondant. The dish complemented the sherry brilliantly – the sweetness of the carrots and Earl Grey accentuating the Fino’s citrus notes.
The syrupy sweet flavour most of us associate with sherry came towards the end of the meal in the form of the raisiny, darker and better known Methusalem – 25 per cent Pedro Ximenes grapes blended into the Palamino – served with a chocolate tart topped with orange and vanilla creme fraiche.
Though the Fino served over the main was more interesting to the palate – perhaps as it was unknown to me before – the dark was my highlight.
Seasoned sherry drinkers will surely look down their noses at my naiveté – but now that I know what to expect from the drier variety, I’ll feel a little more excited next time I happen upon it.
Sherry paired with food wasn’t a complete revelation – and I probably wouldn’t swap my usual glass of wine for a glass of Fino – but now and then with the right food sherry makes a great accompaniment. You should try it yourself (but not with Granny’s stash).