The Oriental Restaurant at the Dorchester in London has had a makeover of makeovers. It’s on the wine list that the changes are most evident, as it comes skidding into the 21st century with a challenging line-up of wines – from Austria’s Wachau and New Zealand’s Central Otago to wines from Carneros in California and the Stellenbosch in South Africa.
Chinese food is not the easiest of cuisines to match with wine. If you’re Ken Hom, you’ll like a drop of Latour with your Peking duck. But this is Ken Poon, and his cooking is a tad more delicate, or “multi-layered” as he likes to call it. The Oriental’s executive chef has introduced some interesting new dishes to the menu, which require wines with some finesse but with a sinewy strength – dishes such as chicken broth with green mustard and salted egg; steamed prawns and glutinous rice with garlic, herbs and Chinese wine sauce; saut‚d lamb and bitter melon with black bean sauce; and stir-fried pea shoots in crab meat sauce.
There’s no room for wimpy wine lists here, and the new list’s creator, Peter McCombie MW, has gone for gold. It’s particularly good to see a sizeable showing from the New World, with a fair chunk from McCombie’s New Zealand homeland. There’s top Gewürztraminer from Huia, which is less in-your-face than some Alsace versions (£37.50 for the 2001); limey Riesling from the Clare Valley (Grosset, 2001, £49.50); shiitake mushroomy Pinot Noir from Martinborough (Martinborough Vineyards, 2000, £78); plus Old World muscle represented by the likes of wines from the Veneto (La Grola, Allegrini, 1999, £50) and Rioja (Rioja Crianza from Artadi, 1998, £52).
And for £70, there’s a glass of wine matched to each course from a selection off the list, including 1991 Riesling Clos Sainte Hune from Trimbach and 1990 Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Way to go, Dorchester.
You’ll need to install extra support to your wine library for two new wine tomes recently published. The first is Oz Clarke’s Wine Atlas (£40, Little, Brown/Websters), which has been fully revised since the original edition was published seven years ago. The Atlas now contains 77 panoramic maps, showing official wine areas, classification systems, leading wine villages and top wineries, as well as pretty pictures and wine labels galore.
Just to show you how much has changed in seven years, Australia’s maps have increased by a whopping 50%, and 16 new pages have been added for six new maps, covering areas such as the Russian River Valley in California, and the Rapel Valley in Chile.
Wine doorstep number two is Michael Broadbent’s Vintage Wine: fifty years of tasting over three centuries of wine (£30, also Little, Brown) – which does exactly as it says on the tin, as they say. Broadbent’s first major book for more than a decade is packed with detailed analysis, with tasting notes on more than 10,000 wines dating back to – wait for it – 1653.