Portuguese Food and Wine – The Next Big Thing

Peter Morrell has dinner at Portal Restaurant organised by Taste Portugal, an exciting initiative to showcase the quality of the country’s cuisine

Antonio Lopes - Ricardo Costa - Antonio Correia

Antonio Lopes - Ricardo Costa - Antonio Correia

Crispy Cooked Bisaro Pork

Crispy Cooked Bisaro Pork

The Yeatman Game Sausage

The Yeatman Game Sausage

The Bisaro Belly Pork

The Bisaro Belly Pork

The Portuguese Stew

The Portuguese Stew

The Abbey of Priscos Pudding

The Abbey of Priscos Pudding

I have been an enthusiastic supporter of Portuguese cuisine and the quality of its chefs for years. So I was was pleased to get the opportunity to sample a tasting menu prepared by one of the country’s shining stars, Ricardo Costa. He is the executive chef at the beautiful Yeatman Hotel, located in Vila Nova de Gaia, the hotel offers unrivalled views across the River Douro to Porto and Ricardo’s cooking skills at the restaurant have been rewarded with a Michelin star.

The meal is one of a series of events being run as part of an initiative called Taste Portugal, this involves a number of top class chefs from the country featuring in UK based events. The menu for the evening was centred around Bisaro pork, this is a breed of pig indigenous to Portugal which has been rescued from the brink of extinction.

We started the meal with a saucer sized piece of crackling dressed with a sauce, it was satisfyingly crunchy and complemented by a refreshing aperitif of Taylor’s Chip dry white port with tonic and orange zest.

The next course, the only one not featuring Bisaro pork, was a game sausage from The Yeatman. This was highly spiced and resting on a finger of country style bread. The accompanying cup, containing a raw egg yolk and a sauce, was too tempting was not to dip our meat and bread ‘soldier’ in to. The result was an explosion of powerful, punchy flavours, the type of experience that foodies live for.

The matched wine with this course was the Principal “Tête De Cuvée” 2010 Rosé, an ultra dry pinot noir which went well with the complex food. It offered hints of raspberry and a fresh vibrancy on the palate.

Next up was belly of Bisaro suckling pig with cardinal prawn slices and a mixed herb sprout salad. The meat had a delicious melt in the mouth texture, which contrasted with the firmer shellfish, and the herbs gave the dish an interesting additional dimension. The wine paired with this was the Campolargo Pinot Noir Brut Rosé, very elegant and sparkling . Tiny bubbles brought cherry notes and yeasty toast to the nose and on the palate its dryness tempered the richness of the pork.

We moved on to the traditional Portuguese Bisaro pork stew. This had an element of deconstruction, the meat studded with caramelised pistachio nuts was served and a Madeira wine sauce added separately. Again strong flavours were married into one harmonious partnership. The power of this combination needed a wine to match and the Meandro 2012 from the Douro proved its worth. Made with a backbone of the Touriga Nacional and Franca grapes its deep red colour was a clue to what was on offer. Intense red fruit and vanilla on the nose progressed to dry, complex tannins on the palate and a long finish.

Our final course was Abade de Priscos (Abbey of Priscos) pudding. This gave us a citrus sorbet with slivers of cured ham made from Bisaro pork which added subtle elements of salt. This was a sweet confection and needed something that was its equal. This was provided by the Barbeito Verdelho 10 year old reserve Madeira. Aged in French oak casks for more than a decade had resulted in a beautiful wine. It gave contrasting notes of citrus, flowers and honey, had a good mouth feel and a very persistent finish making it a fitting end to a faultless meal.

The meal was at Portal restaurant in Farringdon, which is one of the best Portuguese restaurants in London. The matched wines for the meal had been curated by their sommellier António Lopes, who is currently short listed for a major award. He selected the vintages from the cellars of Portal, which holds the largest collection of Portuguese wines in the UK. This collection has been built over years by the owner of the restaurant Antonio Correia who personally visits the winemakers and imports the wines directly from the vineyards.

This really was a great showcase of Portuguese food and wine which is still relatively unknown in the UK. So if you want to experience new taste, texture and flavour sensations then you must discover Taste Portugal

Useful links

Taste Portugal Events and News – www.tasteportugal-london.com

Portal Restaurant – www.portalrestaurant.com

The Yeatman – www.the-yeatman-hotel.com

Wines of Portugal – www.winesofportugal.com/en

Visit Portugal – www.visitportugal.com/en

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