Tag Archive for: Burgundy

An image of the humble vol-au-vent dropped into my inbox today and I almost swooned, giving it some retro love. Surprisingly the dinky, filled puff pastry didn’t make it onto the buffet of Abigail’s Party, nor did it feature in Simon Hopkinson and Lindsey Bareham’s 1997 retro recipe homage, The Prawn Cocktail Years

Naff image, though? Yes. Yet it has never really gone away as a buffet stalwart despite often languishing in the unfashionable tray. Certainly no one’s going to blame you for buying in a batch of ready-made bases to stuff with chicken, ham or mushrooms in a creamy sauce. One big plus – unlike the prawn cocktail, it’s resistant to ‘deconstruction’.

Variations, savoury and sweet, have been myriad ever since the dish’s invention in early 1800s Paris, credited to the great Antonin Carême. Originally a larger pie, the smaller cocktail party version we now know as a vol-au vent was then called a bouchée.

A testimony to its lightness, the name translates as ‘windblown’. Mrs Beeton (1861) offers us her strawberry version; we’re in naffer territory with Constance Spry (1956), her curry powder and boiled egg filling constituting vol-au-vent à l’indienne.

I expect much better from Climat when it opens in Manchester on Monday, December 5 on the eighth floor of Bruntwood’s Blackfriars House. Suppliers of this morning’s succulent j-peg, this rooftop restaurant/wine mecca is trumpeting the vol-au-vent as its signature snack. Following in the footsteps of the gougère, which serves in the same capacity at the team’s original base in Chester, Covino. That savoury carb, flavoured with Comte cheese, is made from choux pastry like its sweet cousin, the profiterole (which is in The Prawn Cocktail Years).

Luke Richardson, exec chef of Covino and Climat, tells me: “We want to have a different signature snack at each restaurant we open. The gougère will continue to serve Covino, while we’ve opted to resurrect the vol-au-vent for Climat, owing to their complete versatility throughout the seasons. They can literally be stuffed with anything. Beef tartare, parfait, truffle and ricotta, to name just a few.

“Both myself and Simon Ulph (Climat head chef) have worked closely together to develop an opening menu we are both super proud of and we think does justice to the building and the surroundings. We believe we offer something completely different to the Manchester restaurant scene.” 

I can vouch for the quality of food and wine at Michelin-rated Covino. Check out my report on a September visit. The setting there is cosy bistro; Climat is an altogether different beast – major selling points being the ninth floor panoramic view across Manchester city centre and a 250-strong wine list that itself stretches across the horizon. A substantial chunk of these will be Burgundies, a passion of Climat owner Christopher Laidler. Magnifique, I say. Equally promising is the regularly changing ‘modern’ menu with influences from across the world, described by chef Luke describes as ‘Parisian expat food’.

Feasting sized dishes aimed at tables of three or more to share will be a prominent feature in the 100-cover restaurant. Think whole turbot, slow cooked lamb shoulder or ex-dairy cuts on-the-bone. Alongside, Climat will follow the Covino small plates formula. Besides the vol au vents, the snack menu could include fresh malted loaves, seasonal oysters and charcuterie to match that comprehensive wine list.

So what’s on that wine list? Asking for a friend…

The name ‘Climat’ derives from the term used to describe a single vineyard site in Burgundy, which has its own microclimate and specific geological conditions. It’s the region that 40 per cent of the wine list will be allocated to. From some of the world’s best Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs, to the region’s lesser-known varieties and appellations. Who’s for a cheeky Mercurey, Montagny or St Aubin? From elsewhere expect to find at least 15 different grower’s Champagnes and the exciting wines of Jura. 

Climat, Blackfriars House, St Marys Parsonage, Manchester M3 2JA. The restaurant will be open Monday, 5pm-1pm; Tuesday-Saturday, 12pm-3pm, with snacks available -in-between before the kitchen reopens 5pm-11pm. Sundays the kitchen will be open 12pm-8pm, with the bar remaining open until 10pm. To book visit this link. Soft launches will also take place on December 2, 3 or 4, where guests will receive 25 per cent off their food bill.

Up on an eighth floor rooftop with a leaden Manchester skyline all around I’m talking ‘terroir’ with Chris Laidler. He gives me Montagny; I raise him Mercurey. We both agree solidly on Macon in the search for affordable Burgundy wine regions. He confirms Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (average retail price price £25,000) won’t be on the 250-strong wine list planned for Climat, described by my esteemed and wine savvy oppo Kelly as “the most exciting opening on our horizon.” And who am I to disagree?

Still a cluttered ‘work in progress’ at the top of Bridgewater House when I popped up a couple of weeks ago, Chris’s £500,000 wine-friendly dream project, with equally stellar food, is expected to open mid-November. Across Blackfriars Street from where the Treehouse Hotel will sprout next year with a Mary-Ellen McTague helmed restaurant, which will provide a major shot in the arm for the Cathedral end of Deansgate. 

The old Renaissance Hotel that Treehouse will transform remains an eyesore, but the rest of the panorama is urban invigorating. Personal preference: I much prefer restaurant views from this height – Le Mont/Rabbit In The Moon, Manchester House – to 20 Stories.

Chris’s plan is to have 40 per cent of Climat’s list sourced from Burgundy – reds (Pinot Noir and Gamay), whites (Chardonnay, Aligoté) and some surprisingly sophisticated sparklers. Unlike at Chris’s Michelin-rated Covino in Chester, there will be an actual wine list on the website and maybe in print. Rather than scanning the range of enticing, price-tagged  bottles ranked in country order on a ledge up near the ceiling.

To check out the whole project’s credentials we made the pilgrimage to that cosy but cool wine bar on Northgate, the city’s foodie main drag. Think Porta (now extended into what was Joseph Benjamin), The Cheese Shop, Francis Thomas greengrocer’s, Jaunty Goat Coffee.

Covino’s chef Luke Richardson (in the main picture) has moved up to be exec chef across both sites and while Chris enthuses about wine, his forte is food sourcing. Maybe a recent foraging foray into beech sap tapping has yielded a scant bounty, but there’s quality guaranteed from his regular commercial suppliers – Cornwall’s Flying Fish, Growing @Field 28 from up the road in Daresbury and one of my personal faves, Swaledale Butchers in Skipton.

I didn’t ask, but presumed our hogget had come from there. Everything we tried from the reassuringly compact menu was a delight, but this t-bone of teenage lamb was sublime, paired with crisped komatsuna, that mustardy Japanese green and barbecued cucumbers (£16.50). It bookended a meal that began with the fleshiest of Ortiz sardines, spinkled with dried wild oregano flowers and doused in olive oil (£10) and a (very) special of pink cod crudo (£14.50) served with creme fraiche and tiny flavour bomb elderberries. “Hard labour to gather. but worth it,” lamented Luke, standing in front of house. A debutant fellow server, up from London, told me had been recruited for Manchester and was very excited.

There was a pollock’s head dish on the specials board but we chose to order their other take on that undervalued fish. Two taut fillets on a bed of kuri squash were given some punch by a chimichurri sauce (£15.50). For 50p more a roast whole quail was more satisfying, if a little challenging to dismember to its bloodied core.  

My cold rice pudding with sticky damson jam was challenging in that it was such  substntial dollop. The works though was the Valrhona chocolate ganache with plums, the tiny morsel I was allowed to taste from across the table. Each cost £7.50 on a bill that mounted up but felt value. After two glasses of properly dry German Riesling we spent £43 on a bottle of Olga Raffault Chinon Les Barnabes, my kind of go-to late summer red, earthy and smoky. Vinous temptations were all around, a foretaste of things to come in Manchester.

So what to expect from Climat?

Well, a 100 cover restaurant is a big leap upwards (literally) from Covino, which started life as a 300 sq ft wine bar/shop in 2016. It soon expanded, moving site in 2018 to set up on Northgate Street adding small plates to its menu. They were matched by over 130 bottles from around the world ranging from the classics to the funky naturals. Holder of a wine degree, Chris may lean towards classic Burgundies but his 250-strong Manchester list should also reflect mutating wine trends.

As we surveyed the cityscape from the ‘bioclimatic pergola’ (it’s a feature of the terrace, whose plants will service resident bees in four hives on the actual roof) Chris told me: “It’s great to get our foot in the door in Manchester. It represents a big step up for us. The site has so much to offer and we’re going to add something special to a great city. The space will be unique to others with its panoramic views and we can’t wait to share our progress during the build leading up to opening in autumn. Ultimately we want our guests to have a great dining experience and come and share our passion for really good food and drink.”

The addition of Climat caps the final stage of Bruntwood Works’ multi-million-pound renovation of its Blackfriars site. The 1920s-built edifice has been transformed to accommodate workspaces of varying sizes, an auditorium, podcasting studio, ground floor lounge area and coffee shop.

Ye the Climat site really stands out, primarily being constructed of metal and glass, with  limestone floor that yearns to suggest a North Burgundian ‘climat’. Like me, Chris is a Chablis lover and bemoans how global warming is diluting the flintiness of this most mineral of whites. Yes, you can tell I’m really gearing up for this particular Manchester arrival.

Climat, Blackfriars House St Marys, Parsonage, Manchester M3 2JA.

Cut the mustard, keen as mustard – it’s certainly a condiment that keeps upbeat. But so often, from rustic wholegrain to the most delicate of Dijons, it’s a disappointment. ie. they don’t cut the mustard. For all the artisan labels you’re mostly getting an industrial product. Not as bland as supermarket bread made from the Chorleywood process or all those international beers that delight in being Lite. Yet when you’ve tasted the real thing…

My Mustard Damascus Moment came in a small factory tucked away in downtown Beaune. I was in Burgundy’s epicentre to taste the wines (naturellement) but the true lipsmacking legacy was Edmond Fallot’s speciality Dijon mustards.

A shady courtyard leads to the Fallot Mustard Works

Dijon, 30 miles to the north, was the centre of medieval mustard making (must was often included) and was granted exclusive naming rights in the 17th century. The basic method is not complex – a combination of mustard seeds, white wine or wine vinegar, water and salt. A 1937 decree ruled that ‘Dijon mustard’ can be used as generic designation and has no link to a specific terroir.

Nor is there a stipulation about sticking to traditional methods. That’s what the Fallot family, unlike their rivals, have been doing in Beaune since 1840, today under the stewardship of Marc Désarménien, grandson of Edmond. They still go down the traditional route. Using antique millstones, they grind high quality brown mustard seeds mixed with verjuice, extracted from Burgundy grapes.

May I interest you in a sample of our typically Burgundian moutarde de yuzu?

After which they are at liberty to widen the palette. In their colourful tasting room/shop I worked my way through flavoured mustards that ranged from truffe de Bourgogne to cassis (blackcurrant), Espelette pepper to Madagascan green pepper, samples of which I brought home. There’s even a yuzu version (which I didn’t).

The one that won my heart, though, and remains the base for my Béarnaise and Poulet à L’Estragon is the Tarragon Mustard. Of all the flavours beyond the basic Fallot it is the easiest to source. It is made from black and brown mustard seeds blended with fresh tarragon leaves, giving it an extraordinary aroma and texture that also adds oomph when a powerful vinaigrette is called for.

The good news? You can buy a 310g jar for £6.50 at Harvey Nichols in-store or online. A good introduction to its joys is this simple Burgundian dish from Fallot’ own website:

A good introduction to its joys is this simple Burgundian dish from Fallot’s own website:

Chicken Fricassee with Fallot Dijon Tarragon Mustard

1 chicken (around 1kg)

30g flour

80g butter

100g small white onions

200ml chicken stock

fresh mixed herbs

100ml fresh cream

2 tbsp Fallot Dijon Tarragon Mustard

minced tarragon

salt and pepper.


Cut the chicken into pieces. Season and dust the pieces with flour. Brown them in a large casserole dish with hot butter. Add small white onions. Moisten with the chicken stock. Add mixed herbs. Bring to a boil. Cook for 35 minutes. Set aside chicken and onions in a dish. Keep them warm. Allow the sauce to reduce. Add cream and mustard. Bring to the boil. Season according to taste. Pour the sauce over chicken pieces and sprinkle with minced tarragon.

My wine recommendation is any affordable red Burgundy from Santenay or Marsannay.

Mustard cultivation is on the increase in Burgundy

A potted history of Mustard in Burgundy

Until the Second World War Burgundian woodland was where mustard was cultivated. Discarded ash from charcoal burning was rich in potash, perfect growing material. When the plants were mature the charcoal makers sold the strong and biting seeds on to the mustard manufacturers of Dijon and Beune.

Then the demand for charcoal waned, so those manufacturers were forced to look elsewhere in France, eventually outside to the United States and Canada. Recently, though, Burgundy Mustard Association, in which Fallot plays a major role, is giving new impetus to cultivation across the region again.

That has been boosted by the approval in 2009 of PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) status. So locally specific Moutarde à la Bourgogne can distance itself as a quality product, separate from the generic name Dijon Mustard. Think specific ‘West Country Cheddar’ as opposed to all those global takes on that cheese’s noble name. Tarragon mustard with Montgomery’s or Aged Keen’s. Must try.