By George Stewart

One of the long standing traditions at Cru is our irreverent, raucous series of Bring Your Own dinners hosted by our legendary Fine Wine Director, Ben Collins. For the latest instalment we went to Clarke’s Restaurant on Kensington Church Street near Notting Hill Gate and with a cast of 18 people and 20 wines the evening turned out to be one of the best in recent memory.

This isn’t exactly a civilised sit down over pleasantries and talk about the merits of each wine. There is an element of competition to it all with prizes awarded at the end of the evening for wine of the night and Lemon (an actual lemon being presented to the unhappy individual to bring the last place bottle).

Whites to Start

We started off the night with some Louis Roederer Champagne (just the NV, nothing fancy) before moving onto the Raveneau Chablis Grand Cru ‘Blanchots’ 1999 and Jean-Louis Chavy 2008 Puligny-Montrachet from magnum. With the first course we had the stunning Zind Humbrecht Pinot Gris Clos St Urbain 1996. Honeyed and deep it was succulent and absolutely delicious.

Red Burgundy Steals the Show

Moving onto the reds we were spoiled by a range of superlative Red Burgundy. Starting with the Mugnier 2004 Clos de la Marechale Nuits-Saint-Georges, we were off to the races. Following on with a magnum of Florent de Merode Corton Clos du Roy 2006 (a running joke throughout the evening played on the fact that Merode’s bottles do not have any vintage statement, either on label or on the cork – “Corton NV, anyone?”). An absolutely stunning magnum of Ghislaine Barthod Chambolle les Cras 2000 turned every head at the table and a bottle of Nicolas Potel Grands Echezeaux 1999 had enough power to set us up nicely for the transition to the Rhones.

Rhone Duo

It was about now that the most velvety, rare cut of veal arrived for our main course. Along with the perfectly cooked winter root vegetables and a magnum of Chateau de Beaucastel 1999 Chateauneuf-du-Pape, many were on cloud nine. Following on, the Rene Rostaing Cote Rotie ‘Cote-Blonde’ 1998 was smoky, earthy and beautiful and emerged as an early contender for ‘Wine of the Night.’

Australian Cameo

After a brief foray into the new world with Clarendon Hills Astralis and Jasper Hill Georgia’s Paddock Shiraz, both 1998 we were astonished by the volume of ripe new fruit and the weight of the wines even after 17 years. It was always going to be hard following up such mighty wines however our guests and friends found a way.

Bordeaux: Mature Flight

Three vintages of Bordeaux; Leoville-Barton 1994, Leoville las Cases 1985 and Grand Puy Lacoste 1982, brought us back to France and for those restrained with the mains, these each paired marvellously with the veal. The ’94 faced a tough audience but I think was pretty good for the vintage, and the Las Cases and GPL showed marvellously.

Bordeaux: Flight 1998

By sheer coincidence, the evening evolved at this point into a shoot-out between 1998 clarets with a Mexican standoff of La Mission Haut Brion, Montrose and Vieux Chateau Certan. Served as a flight of three, this proved to be a divisive subject for the night, but it seemed that the VCC emerged as the victor of the three (and another contender for wine of the night) with the La Mission and Montrose battling for second place.


We wrapped up with a fantastic cheese plate before a poached pear dessert (the order of these two caused further controversy – Where are we France?) and paired with 1997 Coutet and 2006 Lang Trockenbeerenauslese. This brought us to a heated debate over coffee.

Wine of the Night

Ben presided over the assize for wine of the night and the already raucous table erupted into chaos. Some clamoured for the Barthod 2000, others declared for the young pretender of the Astralis. Seasoned voices at the table pronounced the Vieux Chateau Certan to be the one true king, however in the end it was the Rostaing Cote Rotie which was crowned lord over them all.

And the Lemon Goes To...

Selection of the ‘Lemon’ caused further upheaval as it was one which some nominated the best. However, a small yellow citrus thrown in the direction of Cru’s own Alice Sheppard (for her offering of the Astralis) declared her new world experiment the ‘Lemon of the Night.’ A difficult moniker to swallow, considering the good reception the Astralis received at the table, but among such a crowded field, the distance between 1st and 20th place is not so far!

As the dust settled and the ruinous remnants of the evening became clear, the competitors-ahem-diners looked about and declared the evening a resounding success. A well-merited applause to the staff and kitchen of Clarke’s restaurant rounded off the night and we eagerly look forward to the next instalment of the Cru BYO Dinners.

To express interest in future BYO dinners, e-mail or ring 0207 235 2100

Wine List

Louis Roederer Brut NV, Jean-Louis Chavy Puligny Montrachet 2008, Raveneau Grand Cru Chablis Blachots 1999, Zind Humbrecht Rangen de Thann Pinot Gris Clos St. Urbain 1996, Jacques Frederic Mugnier Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru Clos de la Marechale 2004, Prince Florent de Merode Corton Clos du Roy 2006 (allegedly) Magnum, Ghislaine Barthod Chambolle Musigny 1er Cru les Cras 2000 Magnum, Nicolas Potel Grands Echezeaux 1999, Clarendon Hills Astralis 1998, Jasper Hill Heathcote Georgia’s Paddock Shiraz 1998, Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape 1999 Magnum, Rene Rostaing Cote-Rotie Cote Blonde 1998, Grand Puy Lacoste 1982, Leoville las Cases 1985, Leoville Barton 1994, Montrose 1998, Vieux Chateau Certan 1998, La Mission Haut Brion 1998, Lang Trockenbeerenauslese 2006, Coutet 1997.