3 Stans Way, East Street

Horsham, RH12 1HU


The Food:

Cured venison/ pickled quince/ stilton crumble
Roast pheasant
Black tempura squid/ scallop/ ginger

Bouillabaisse/ red mullet/ sage & onion
beetroot/ truffle
Smoked turbot “bourguignon”
Stone sea bass with squid ink

Lamb/ Jerusalem artichoke/ juniper granola/ Darjeeling
Partridge/ Nan’s red cabbage & mince pie
Tikka monkfish/ burnt clementine/ prawn and pumpkin doughnut

Chocolate pain perdu/ hazelnut/ sea buckthorn
Cosmopolitan Mille-feuille
Lemon tart soufflé/ mulled mead ice cream
Selection of cheese with accompaniments

The Wines:

1970 Avery’s Bâtard-Montrachet Grand Cru NR
2009 Domaine Bernard Moreau Chassagne-Montrachet Chenevottes 1er Cru      89
1971 Domaine Henri Gouges Nuits-St-Georges Clos des Porrets 1er Cru 88
1971 Paul Bouchard Vosne-Romanée Malconsorts 1er Cru NR
1971 Maison Leroy Vosne-Romanée 91
1971 Francesco Rinaldi Barolo 90
1971 Giacomo Conterno Barolo NR
1971 Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco Riserva Rabajà 93
2001 Haut-Brion 95
1971 La Mission Haut-Brion 92
1971 Malartic-Lagravière 88
1971 La Lagune 91
1971 Montrose 92
1971 Cos d’Estournel 86


You’re weird.

You’re an oddball.

Your brain is wired in a different way to others…

Just like me. I’m no different. Most likely, even worse.

If we met, we would get along.

Wine-lovers, you and me, inhabit an alternative universe beyond the range of the James Webb telescope, where pruning techniques, picking dates, whole bunch additions and the cellarmaster’s inside leg measurement are matters of grave importance. To normal people’s ears, we talk gibberish. To normal people, we are like a five-year-old hyper-ventilating over the most mundane occurrence, our pulse quickens as heated debate eructs from trivialities that any sane person would laugh at.

Picture the scene. A local restaurant in the Surrey town of Horsham mid-December where tables throng with normal people enjoying dinner with a cheeky bottle of vino. Over in the corner, a table of eight “grown” men appear hellbent on drinking themselves into oblivion. It’s “La Grande Bouffe” relocated to Home Counties. It’s impossible to count the bottles strewn across the table that leave no room for something useful…like plates or cutlery. Normal people look on as if watching chimpanzees in a zoo. These dipsomaniacs spend more time discussing the wine than drinking it, swirling wine-glasses as if panning for gold, one idiot furiously scribbling in a dog-eared notebook. Every now and then, in some wasteful ritual, they unceremoniously pour the contents of their glass into a spittoon that soon brims over. What’s wrong with them? Why don’t they just go ahead and scrape the delicious food off their plates as soon as it arrives? Some of their oh-so-precious wines look like dirty dishwater. Judging by their expressions, they taste like it too. The hubbub gets louder and louder and when this whole charade is over, bottles are lined up along a zinc counter like some beauty pageant for decrepit vinous geriatrics. At this point, a couple of people from the normal world bravely enquire what is going on? The reply probably made little sense. They nod sympathetically and, sotto voce pray for our sins and our recovery.  

This particular dinner was for those who, like myself, turned half-a-century-old in the midst of lockdown. As this group lived within the ambit of the Surrey Hills, we sought a suitable restaurant outside the capital. We had intended to return to Sorrel; although, a sign of the times, the restaurant could not provide a table for a large group due to staff shortages. Therefore, we booked a table at “Tristan”, opened by chef Tristan Mason (ex-Orrery and Hare Restaurant) in 2008. I visited Tristan the previous May, just a week after restaurants re-opened after lockdown. Lunch was enjoyable. Yet, it was patently clear that the chef was a bit rusty. Culinary skill was evident, but the dishes lacked cohesion, over-ambitious in places, and the service was a bit scatty. Having intended to write it up for a Vinous Table, I decided it was unfair meting criticism when restaurants were clinging to survival and perchance needed time to get back on track.

I’m glad that I never published the original review. Returning a few months later, the standard of cuisine was on another level. There was more cohesion to the dishes. The menu conveyed a sense of confidence in the kitchen. Staff were well-drilled and efficient. On this occasion, I am not going to analyse all the dishes because at time of writing, Tristan is temporarily closed, thankfully not due to a pandemic, but because the interior is undergoing refurbishment and the menu undergoing redesign. According to their website, Tristan is due to re-open its doors imminently. Assuming they maintain the standard I found in December, who knows - it might be even better.

What I will do is post images of the dishes. There were numerous courses and there was hardly a weak one amongst them. 

On the left: Smoked turbot “bourguignon”; On the right: Stone sea bass with squid ink

Two fish dishes here, turbot and stone bass, were beautifully presented, the additional dish of stone bass particularly flavoursome and combining supremely well with the squid ink.

On the left: Partridge/ Nan’s red cabbage & mince pie; On the right: Lobster/ beetroot / truffle

Difficult to recognize as partridge! Yet this deconstructed festive dish worked a treat. The lobster, beetroot and truffle looked like a pretty splodge, yet the combination was a success.

On the left: Cosmopolitan Mille-feuille; On the right: Lemon tart soufflé/ mulled mead ice cream

The Cosmopolitan Mille-feuille was irresistible, whilst the souffle was as good as anywhere I have eaten in London, this lemon tart souffle was light as a cloud, the mulled mead ice cream innovative in flavour and a superb match.

This was an occasion when we knew in advance that some of these bottles would be past their best. So what. Let’s just try them, and if they were no good, then another would be waiting to take its place. As it turned out, whilst a few Burgundy 1971s were suitable for necrophiliacs only, we enjoyed a pretty decent run with a few welcome surprises along the way.

The first white is dead on arrival. Old vintages from Avery’s, the Bristol wine merchant, can be well worth seeking out, but the 1970 Bâtard-Montrachet Grand Cru belonged to a morgue and not our table. Instead, we poured a 2009 Chassagne-Montrachet Chenevottes 1er Cru from Domaine Bernard Moreau. Lucid in colour, this has a lovely honeyed, white cotton and fig-tinged bouquet, unable to disguise the warmth of the growing season and slightly masking the terroir. The palate is fully mature with fine acidity, quite rich and decadent in style and maybe missing the nerve one finds in more recent vintages. It was decent enough, but I would not cellar bottles for a long time. Next was a bottle of 1971 Nuits-St.-Georges Clos des Porrets 1er Cru from Domaine Henri Gouges, a wine that I encountered twice in a single month and probably from the same source. I felt that this bottle lacked the calibre of one poured at Noble Rot. Fully mature with degraded russet rim, this felt a bit smudged on the nose with loamy, smoky scents slightly obfuscating the fruit, a hint of lavender with time. The palate is sweet on the entry, pretty with a tart and welcome bitterness on the finish. The 1971 Vosne-Romanée Malconsorts 1er Cru from Paul Bouchard is a little corky on the nose; nonetheless, the palate still comes across as enervated and bereft of fruit. We swiftly move on to the next wine. The 1971 Vosne-Romanée from Maison Leroy is a joy. A winsome bouquet that exudes just pure Pinoté, this still has a skip in its step with Morello cherry and light rose petal scents. The palate is built around a core of sweet red fruit, impressive weight for a Village Cru with a fresh, almost Barolo-like finish. Excellent!

We moved away from Burgundy for a flight of 1971 themed Italian wines. We commenced with the 1971 Barolo from Francesco Rinaldi. The nose on this bottle comes across rather fatigued with faint aromas of ash and mocha. The aromatics are deceptive because the palate is far better. Simple but fresh with lightly spiced red fruit, touches of allspice and pain d’épice. This gains depth towards the finish that exerts a gentle grip that is respectable given its age. A delight, though I would not leave cellared bottles too much longer. The 1971 Barolo from Giacomo Conterno felt musty on the nose with excessive volatility on the palate. We said bye-bye to that quickly and moved on to the next wine, one of the highlights. The 1971 Barbaresco Riserva Rabajà from Produttori del Barbaresco is simply fabulous. Leather and cigar box on the nose, a sprig of wild mint mixed with Medjool dates, this delivers satisfying fruit given its age. The bouquet whisks you away to those Piedmont hills. The palate is well balanced with substance and grip, lightly spiced and unapologetically rustic. It offers orange rind and white pepper-laced black fruit towards the finish that, if you are going to quibble, just seems to be drying with age. But this deserves a round of applause.

There was one anomaly in the line-up, a failsafe bottle just in case all the 1971s had been found decrepit. You cannot really go wrong with the 2001 Haut-Brion, which showed similarly to the one tasted just a few weeks earlier. The bouquet positively gushes with black cherries and violets, incense and here, a little more black olive. The palate is medium-bodied with firm tannins and sweet ripe black fruit laced with graphite, blood orange and hints of Provençal herbs on the substantial finish. It is drinking now but will give pleasure for 20-30 years more.

We kept the clarets for the end of the meal. The 1971 La Mission Haut-Brion punches above expectations, given my limited experience with previous bottles. Fresh and vibrant on the nose with tobacco and cedar, there is just more vigour than I have encountered elsewhere, delivering elegance and transparency. The palate is beautifully-balanced with classic Graves notes of tobacco, Earl Grey and red fruit. The finish is poised and delineated, not persistent yet it keeps beckoning you back for the next sip. Perhaps there is a great deal of bottle variation with this particular vintage? The 1971 Malartic-Lagravière comes directly from the château reserves, the penultimate bottle in their cellar. This has more fruit on the nose compared to the 1971 La Mission, though without quite the same level of definition. Pinecone scents emerge with time, fading a little in the glass. The palate is framed by soft tannins, leathery and a little monotone, yet balanced with a harmonious close. It is just beginning to show some dryness on the finish, so given the impeccable provenance of this bottle, drink up soon. Next up, the 1971 Pichon-Baron. Apologies, but I have parsed this out for a forthcoming retrospective of this Pauillac estate. Look out for that in the future. The 1971 La Lagune is another wine that cropped up twice in a matter of weeks. It’s a lovely Claret, a hidden gem. This example was fresh and slightly peaty on the nose with tobacco and pine emerging with time, mulch-like scents after five minutes. The palate is medium-bodied with lovely balance and is well-defined and harmonious. Pencil lead and cedar infuse the light red fruit on the finish. It punches above expectations, though provenance is crucial.

We finished with a fascinating juxtaposition of two wines from Saint-Estèphe. The 1971 Montrose is a vintage that I have drunk a few times, and this (again) is the best example that I have encountered. Vibrant black fruit on the nose, Earl Grey and graphite scents, this contains more vigour than previous bottles. The palate is well balanced with fine purity, taut and fresh, a Saint-Estèphe that has a breezy nonchalance, linear yet quite long. I must confess that I have written off this vintage in the past, however, this example provides evidence that there are good bottles out there. The 1971 Cos d’Estournel is similar to a couple of previous showings. Smudged compared to the 1971 Montrose, this feels earthy and perhaps heavily chaptalized. The palate has a sweet core of rustic, ferrous red fruit that is completely degraded with a rather monotone finish. Not undrinkable by a long chalk, though on this occasion, put in its place by the Montrose.

This was a suitable epic dinner. It was pleasing to see Tristan recovering from the pandemic and firing on all cylinders. God knows what fellow diners thought about the performance in the corner table. But hopefully they could see that we were enjoying ourselves, something that had been denied so many of us in previous months.

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