A little French in the city

Picture it; Christmas week in London’s Soho. The streets are heaving with shoppers and party-goers as I make my way to Randall & Aubin on Brewer Street.

Read my full review at Seen in the City.

The artisanal food culture of Aube Champagne

Champagne. The epitome of all that is refined in the world. A word that triggers feelings of joy, jubilance and victory. A drink that has become so synonymous with better living that it’s almost impossible for others to vie for a brush of its limelight.

If wine is the pilgrimage then the region of Champagne-Ardenne is its high altar. This department located in northeastern France is the modest home of the most renowned sparkling wine. The town of Les Riceys, in Aube Champagne, is the only town with three AOC-certified wines. There are certainly fine Champagne Houses in the region which may more than fairly be described as artisanal producers. Champagne Gremillet, Rémy Massin & Fils are family-owned vineyards unquestionably worth visiting. Rémy Massin & Fils, a fifth generation producer since 1865, with 20 hectares of vineyard harvests grapes without the use of herbicides to benefit from the region’s characteristics. Champagne Gremillet produces just 500,000 bottles in its cellars per year from 42 hectares. The House adheres to the purest traditions and blends exclusively from first pressings.

So what of other produce in the region? If the terroir is capable of delivering the most prestigious wine of the world then surely it should follow that it is just as contributory towards other foods. Well, I found out that it happens to be just so. The region produces ham, cheese and truffles.

The town of Troyes also produces a gourmet drink that barely leaves its boundaries. This is mainly as much of the small batches produced are bought by the town’s residents and whatever is left might be sold to visitors.

Alexandre Krumenacher

Prunelle de Troyes is the name of the drink and it has been distilled in Troyes since 1840. The liqueur is developed from the stones of blackthorn fruit which grows in the region. Records show that in 1900 the recipe was awarded the gold medal at the Paris Universal Exhibition. At the time the drink was named Champagne Prunelle but renamed Prunelle de Troyes, in 1995, at the request of the Champagne Winemakers’ Committee. Cellier Saint-Pierre which produces the drink is located at 1 place Saint-Pierre – 10000 Troyes and it would be foolish to visit Troyes and not visit the cellar.

Philippe Formont runs the house which was purchased by his father in 1933. Alexandre Krumenacher is in charge of the distillery where he’s been employed for 15 years where the entire process happens by hand. “Our process is from the 19th century and it is the story of the birth of La Prunelle de Troyes. If we change the process, it won’t be the same story. Today the distillery is at its maximum production with only 13,000 bottles per year,” Alexandre tells me.

The small distillery occupies a historic building in Troyes which sits opposite the regal Troyes Cathedral. “Our cellar is the oldest building in the city. It was used to store a tenth of the harvest which was always given to the church. Then the Canons lived in the house which occupied the space where our shop now is.  Afterwards, wine merchants occupied the cellar to store their wines and also built the distillery,” explains Alexandre.

Stéphanie

The next stop on this artisanal journey was the charming village of Chaource renowned for its floral crust cheese. Fromagerie de Mussy at 30 Route De Maisons-Les-Chaource – 10210 Chaource is the unassuming dairy belonging to Stéphanie and Christophe who together produce the only cheese in the region permitted to carry the artisan label. “I bought the fromargerie in 1995 when I was 23 years old and single. It has always been owned by women. Then I met my husband and he is now the main cheesemaker,” Stéphanie adds as she walks me outside the cold room where milk becomes Chaource cheese in just five days. Once that happens it’s wrapped, labelled and delivered to Paris and other major cities.

All of the milk required for the cheese-making comes from within 15 kilometres and in 2018 Fromagerie de Mussy produced 62 tonnes of cheese between just six people. As well as the signature Chaource Stéphanie also produces cottage cheese, cream and 13 other regional specialities. Locals and passers-by bring empty pots and leave with exactly the amount they might need. It would not do to waste artisanal produce.

As I concluded my journey it had me thinking. With the festive season approaching it may bode well to skip the conventional Christmas markets and delve a little deeper in favour of an artisanal food road trip through Aube Champagne. Champagne, liqueur and cheese all hand-made by people you’d meet face to face. If nothing else think of the stories you could tell around the dinner table.

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Getting around: The best way to get around Aube Champagne is by car. Information on car hire can be sought at the Tourist Information Centre in Troyes located at 16, rue Aristide Briand – 10000 TROYES. You may also telephone them on: 03.25.82.62.70

Shangri-La Hotel At The Shard hosts pop-up for Sri Lanka

Easter Sunday had a different meaning for Sri Lanka this year. In one of the worst attacks the world has seen an act of terrorism devastated the country, on 21st April, killing 258 people and injuring over 500. Two months on and the nation is slowly recovering from the tragedy. To help Sri Lanka on its journey Shangri-La Hotel At The Shard, London will host a charity pop-up in collaboration with Sri Lankan seafood restaurant Ministry of Crab. Proceeds from the evening will be donated to those affected.

Kumar Sangakkara, Darshan Munidasa and Mahela Jayawardena at Ministry of Crab.

The event will be held in Shangri-La At The Shard’s Sky Lounge on level 34. Be sure to add 5th and 6th of July in your diaries. The pop-up will also celebrate the island’s other true love; cricket. The ICC Cricket World Cup will be screened while we dine. On a side note I’d like to add that this is exactly how I grew up in Sri Lanka. Cricket everywhere. Even during dinner.

The menu (£85 per person) includes two appetisers of light avocado and crab salad and Sri Lankan baked crab. The main course will be Ministry of Crab’s Dharshan Munidasa’s signature Garlic Chilli Crab. It’s a fusion of flavours marrying Sri Lankan and Japanese food philosophies which pay homage to Dharshan’s dual heritage. A second dish of Pepper Crab seasoned with hand-crushed black pepper, red pepper corns and pepper stock will follow. Dessert is expected be pandan leaf rice pudding served with a light mango sorbet. Tiger and Tsingtao beer as well as a selection of signature cocktails, created by the hotel’s bar team, will be available as extras.

If you’ve ever had the good fortune to dine at Shangri-La At The Shard’s Sky Lounge you’ll know that you’re in for a treat. Views across London from here are mesmerising. It’s common for first-timers to stare out of the windows as others attempt to make polite conversation. Add to this Shangri-La’s impeccable service, the great cause and responsibly-sourced Sri Lankan food and the evening will unfold like a dream.

There will be six sittings in total for the pop-up on Friday 5th July and Saturday 6th July. On 5th July the first will be at 6pm and the second at 8pm. On 6th July there will be two lunch sittings at 12pm and 2pm. Dinner will be at 6pm and 8pm respectively. You can reserve a table for any of these options by emailing SpecialEvents.SLLN@shangri-la.com or by calling 0207 234 8067.

For an ever more luxurious experience you can book a package including two tickets to the ICC Cricket World Cup match between Pakistan and Bangladesh at Lord’s, two tickets to dinner the pop-up on the 5th July plus an overnight stay for two including breakfast and early check-in. For more information and reservations email reservations.slln@shangri-la.com or call 0207 234 8088.

Booking period for this event is between 4th June 2019 – 2nd July 2019 inclusive. Only stays on the night of 5th July 2019 correspond with the match date. Price start from £2,685 based on a one-night stay for two and two tickets. Terms and Conditions apply. For more information on terms and booking visit: www.shangri-la.com/london/shangrila/offer