A wonderful al fresco wine dinner was served last week in the cosy garden setting at Talisman restaurant in Karen, providing a welcome respite from the August cold.
Warmed by Jikos surrounding the outdoor tables, guests enjoyed a gourmet meal with paired wines complementing each of five courses. Upon entering Talisman, we were welcomed with a glass of hot mulled wine which warmed us up for the sumptuous meal.
As we sat, we were treated to a starter of salmon, expertly cured and smoked in-house with Leleshwa wood and served with a watercress cream and mustard-dill sauce. A Mulderbosch Chardonnay enhanced the dominant flavours in the salmon and creaminess of the sauces with its fruity and fresh aroma, and crisp citrus and tropical fruit notes.
Tokara Elgin Sauvignon Blanc was chosen to complement the Malindi Soft Shell Crab, served with chilli-mango kachumbari and accompanying coulis. The chilli added just the right spike of heat and spice to counter the sweetness of the mango, and the crabs were perfectly cooked.
The sauvignon blanc offered aromas of sweet tropical fruits and tart passion fruit. The wine was somewhat overpowered by the mango and chilli flavours in the dish, though its light and fresh taste gave way to good acidity and minerality with a long finish.
One of the most inventive dishes was the Duck Confit Crouton, served with a slice of bak kwa pork (a popular Chinese snack of dried, spiced pork similar to jerky) with beetroot and a mulled wine glaze. Though the dish did not lack flavour, the confit crouton missed some of the fat which would have countered the full body and tannins in the Meerlust Merlot.
A sorbet course followed, to cleanse the palate and prepare us for the rest of the meal. Unfortunately, the addition of baobab in the lemon sorbet made it somewhat chalky in texture, though still refreshing. It provided a pause between the intricate and inventive flavours of the first courses, and the more traditional and decidedly rich main course of ‘Old School’ Beef Wellington.
The Beef Wellington, with its perfectly buttery crust, was surrounded with a delicious red wine and beef stock jus. The meat itself was served well done, and could have benefited from a steak knife; otherwise, the beef had solid flavour and was overall a fine dish. DeGrendel Shiraz seemed a bit flat at first taste, but came through with a bit of pepper in the finish.
For dessert, we were treated to Crepes Suzettes, with traditional orange-flavoured sauce and a creamy vanilla ice cream scoop which brought perfect contrast in flavour and temperature.
Paul Cluver Late Harvest Riesling, with its orange rind flavour and delicate sweetness may have been better appreciated with a simple vanilla ice cream or even a cheese course. Still, both the wine and the crepes provided a suitable close to a well-conceived and executed fine dining experience.
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