dines at the Alan Murchison pop-up in Terravina...

I'm fortunate to live part of the week in the New Forest, with its outstanding produce, gorgeous landscape and free roaming pigs, ponies and cattle.  There's an increasingly significant food and wine scene developing here, with a notable number of fine hotels and food festivals.

One of the most interesting is the boutique wine hotel Hotel TerraVina established by Gerard and Nina Basset. Gerard co-founded the Hotel du Vin chain, has an enviable international reputation as a sommelier, and has represented the UK on several occasions, winning the Best Sommelier in the World award in 2010.  Gerard is also a Master Sommelier, a Master of Wine, and was awarded an OBE in 2011 for services to the hospitality industry.  His wife Nina is equally talented and became an AA hotel inspector at the tender age of just 21.  They worked and met at Chewton Glen, another New Forest stalwart, and the opening of Hotel TerraVina saw their welcome return to the Forest.

When I heard that Alan Murchison, the michelin starred executive chef of L'Ortolan and the 10in8 Group was doing a pop-up at TerraVina, I knew I had to be at that dinner! Alan, Gerard and Nina are old friends, and between them they devised a menu which would showcase the talents and skills of both establishments.

We began with a glass of champagne, always a civilised way to start and evening and then Game Consommé: a good parsley tortellini filled with rabbit (I think), celeriac cream, a game consommé, and to my chums delight, little spheres of near liquid sherry.

Textures of Duck, Cherry and Mango: even the simplest looking dishes at this level are actually several days worth of work.  First the duck breast is hot smoked with star anise and orange; the foie gras is marinated in port, cognac and maderia; and the duck confit is seperately marinated in thyme, cloves, bay leaves and garlic before they're cooked. The resulting dishes are then layered in alternate strips brushed with melted foie gras, inside a parma ham lined mould.  The terrine is rested in the fridge for 24 hours before being served with cherry, mango and lambs lettuce... The terrine managed to retain each of the three textures and flavours of the duck, but melded together perfectly.  With a disk of brioche served in it's own stand to keep it crisp, the cherry sauce and cherries were tart and offset the richness of the duck.  The mango was a fine sliver of mango jelly, adding symmetry to the dish.  Pinot Noir, from the Land’s Edge Vineyard was jammy and rich, and not overwhelmed by tannin.

Goats’ Cheese, Salted Crumble, Celery, Apple and Walnut: Alan's goats cheese is made by the lovely Sarah Hampton at Brock Hall Farm in Shropshire. Made with the milk from her pure Saanen goats, the perfect cylinder of curd was gently sour, but slightly savoury, and very creamy.  It was coated in a salted crumb which intensified the savouriness of the cheese.  It was served with a tiny variation on a Wardolf salad, with crisp apple, slivers of celery and walnuts, with tiny cubes of grape jelly and coriander cress.  There was also a drizzle of the most intense truffle honey I've ever tasted, overpowering on its own, but good with the curd.  Gros Manseng, from Domaine des Cassagnoles was green, flinty with grapefruit notes.

Red Wine Poached Halibut, Tempura Oyster and Surf Clams: the halibut was perfectly cooked, the red wine poaching only covering the outer layer of the fish, it broke away into huge, fat, perfectly white flakes.  There was a rich and savoury shallot and onion puree, intensified with with madeira and brown gravy, with a roast onion rose, and umami-rich shards of braised oxtail.  The whole dish had very good savoury mouthfeel, but the umaminess didn't overwhelm the halibut. I didn't have the oyster I'm afraid, I do like oysters, but they really don't like me.  It's a shame as there was an oyster panna cotta made with mascapone and cream that I'd have love to have tried, and saw being prepared in the kitchen.  Pinot Gris, from Te Whare Ra was good, with some weight and just a hint of tannin, it stood up to the depth of the dish, and the lightness of the fish.

Smoked Sirloin, Bone Marrow, Kale, Garlic Cream: the smoked sirloin was prepared in a Big Green Egg which Alan had brought with him.  The flavour was complex, but delicate, and served with a rich jus, iron rich curly kale, a bone marrow croquette and a rich garlic cream. There were fine slices of barely raw cauliflower, and a rich cauliflower cheese too, and tiny jelly cubes of consommé, I think.  The garlic cream was incredibly flavoured, but very moreish and held its own against the other flavours on the dish.  All in all a very strong combination of powerful and rich flavours which managed to support rather than compete with each other - a delicate balance but one achieved here.  Château Lassegue, a Saint Emilion Grand Cru, was warm, rich, and complemented the rich savoury flavours of the dish.

Coconut and Mango: was a variation of the El Bulli reversed poached egg (which is cooked in a sodium alginate bath). I've had a couple of versions of this dish, but actually I prefer this one.  Instead of the entire egg being cooked in the bath, only the mango yolk was, and the coconut element was actually a coconut espuma.  It tasted of desiccated coconut (though I think made with coconut cream), and had an incredibly nostalgic flavour, it reminded me of the Spanish Gold sweet shredded tobacco we used to eat as children.  The yolk poured onto the espuma and my chum was highly amused, she thought it was great fun. Botrytis Riesling, from the Kayena Vineyard was sweet, light and clean, with notes of melon and lychee - it cut through the intense sweetness of the mango.

Chocolate truffle with peanut butter and ice-cream: A cube of chocolate mousse with a swathe of peanut butter cream, which more intensely of peanuts than I would have imagined.  It was served with a mascapone ice-cream, it was delicious, smooth, sour, creamy, it perfectly offset the richness of the peanut and the chocolate.

Chocolate, Lime Sorbet and African Amber Tea: the chocolate fondant was was served with a sorbet, shredded lime, a white chocolate sauce and tiny jelly cubes that I though tasted of Thai basil, but could just have easily have been the Amber tea.  It was refreshing, with a densely chocolate hit only achieved by a 70%+ cocoa chocolate.  Dolce Mataro, from Alella was rich, sweet, intense, and reminded me of some of the Sardinian dessert offerings.  My chum found it far too sweet and strong, but you needed something this big to stand up to the bite of the chocolate.

Overall the menu was carefully devised and built up the intensity of the flavours. There was a good combination of very traditional and modern techniques, and given the restrictions of working in an unknown kitchen, the team managed to deliver a very varied and delicious meal.  The wine pairings devised by the equally fabulous Hotel TerraVina team ratcheted up the enjoyment levels, and it was an excellent opportunity to have dinner devised by a michelin starred chef, and the worlds best sommelier.  


Hotel TerraVina
174 Woodlands Road
Hampshire SO40 7GL

Church Lane
Berkshire RG2 9BY

L'Ortolan on Urbanspoon

Champagne Moët & Chandon Rosé Impérial, Brut, France, NV 

Dinner Menu 

Game Consommé 

Textures of Duck, Cherry and Mango 
Pinot Noir, Land’s Edge Vineyard, Hartford Court, Sonoma Coast, California, USA, 2007 

Goats’ Cheese, Salted Crumble, Celery, Apple and Walnut 
Gros Manseng, Domaine des Cassagnoles, Côtes de Gascogne, France, 2011 

Red Wine Poached Halibut, Tempura Oyster and Surf Clams 
Pinot Gris, Te Whare Ra, Marlborough, New Zealand, 2010 

Smoked Sirloin, Bone Marrow, Kale, Garlic Cream 
Château Lassegue, Saint Emilion Grand Cru, Bordeaux, France, 2004 

Coconut and Mango 
Botrytis Riesling, Kayena Vineyard, Tamar Ridge, Tasmania, Australia, 2009 

Chocolate, Lime Sorbet and African Amber Tea 
Dolce Mataro, Alella, Spain, 2009