Peter Calder knows how to review a meal without being the slightest bit pretentious. So does Simon Wilson. I am sitting at a long table in Clooneys about to begin a whisky degustation and I am thinking to myself "Whatever I write about this, I intend to make it as interesting and unpretentious as Peter Calder or Simon Wilson would." So I turn to the diner on my right and ask: "So, Simon, what do you think of it so far?"
I know he has already found it amusing because his greeting was something like: "So, what was it? They looked around Auckland for a writer who likes whisky more than breathing, and here you are?"
Oh, let me tell you. If you like whisky with your dinner, this is a treat. Let me also tell you: if you can't think of anything less appealing than whisky with your dinner, think again. It's a five course degustation. In your glass, Glenfiddich of a certain age; on your plate, something astounding. Every moment better than the one that preceded it.
Yes of course I'm singing for my supper. My malt of choice is Laphroaig, but hell, there is not a single malt I've ever disliked. The Larry Sanders Show had a great line about this. Artie, the producer, is describing what happens when you come at last to the Pearly Gates. St Peter shows you into the office. God beckons for you to take a seat, leaning forward in his leather executive chair, firm hand outstretched. On his breath - says Artie - you will notice the slightest trace of Glenfiddich.
The landscape of malt whisky drinking is blotted with snobs. Glenfiddich might be a single malt, but it's more U2 than hip, obscure indie band. U2, of course, sells more units, and gets plenty of good reviews. Here, try the 15 year old Glenfiddich. You simply will not believe how well it complements the seared deep sea scallops accompanied by a foie gras mousse and Iberico brioche crumb. Indeed, you may find yourself unable to resist turning to Simon Wilson and declaring the flavour to be sublime. If, on the other hand, drinking a lot of hooch is what matters to you most, it has a very mellow kick, it will go nicely with your cigar and it won't fuck up the flavour of your wedges.
I could not have enjoyed myself more. We worked our way up from the 12 year old, through 15, 18, 21 and finally a 30 year old that was so smooth you could have named it Bill Clinton.
We had Duck Consomme, we had Cervena Carpaccio. The chef, Des Harris appeared at the end of each course to a talk a little about what they'd done to marry the flavours of the whisky and the dish. We complimented him many times. We had Slow Roasted Duck Breast with Veal Sweetbreads, Confit Chestnuts, and Medjool Dates, and we had a Brulee that no mortal could fault.
And so can you, at Clooneys next Monday 7 September, but only if you're quick, because most of the tickets have already been sold.
What's that you say? Wellington? Christchurch? But of course.
Christchurch – 8 September at Crumpet Club
Wellington – 9 September at Martin Bosley's.
For Labour Weekend I will be going to Feilding. It is quite unrealistic to hope for a Cervena Carpaccio with an Oloroso Sherry Jelly. But I know where I can get some Glenfiddich.