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A tale of woes

Published:  18 January, 2007

It struck me that for my last column of the season I should send readers off on their summer holidays full of the miseries of my year. Here are three particular low points:

The occasion was a celebration of the wines of Grard Bertrand, the Midi producer of often richly rewarding red and white wines. Alas, the food was a joke and I left well before the end. The pretension of the place, and lurid atmosphere, made this diner feel bilious. My notes, scribbled at the time, read as follows: The starter of white bean velout with shellfish and toasted hazelnuts is stunningly show-offy yet jejune - a pointless display - a collusion of unnecessary elements. This is a pity, as the wine, 2002 Hospitalet Blanc Vin de Pays d'Oc, is beguiling. The most interesting wine, though, is the 2002 Domaine de Villemajou Corbires Rouge, ruined by being paired with a piece of beef with caviare thrown over it. As another, very distinguished chef at my table points out: "If the chef's trying to achieve a salty effect, which is all he has done here, why doesn't he use salt instead of hugely flashy and ludicrously expensive caviare?"'

I left soon after making these notes, nipping out during a break in proceedings, so I cannot reveal what Pierre Gagnaire's chocolate tart with coffee syrup and ginger confit, quince jelly, Szechuan pepper ice-cream with caramelised prunes, orange and figs, with a glass of Rivesaltes 1959, might have been like. Sickening probably. (And honestly, cross my heart and hope to die, I did not make that dessert up. Monsieur Gagnaire did.) Happy holidays!