It may seem that all we do here at Gallery HQ is swan around living the highlife, which whilst on a few occasions is true, it isn’t always the case, especially not at 1am when we’re working hard to put the most recent issue to bed, like a small child it is sometimes reluctant to comply!
So, when an email drops into our collective inbox and requests the company of one of us to come along and be the guinea pig for a new surprise seven course tasting menu, with wine paring, out comes the hat and in go our names. In this instance I was the name lucky enough to be drawn, so off I and a partner in crime went to Tassili at Grand Jersey one Friday night last month.
The evening started with us enjoying a drink on the beautifully refurbished Terrace, listening to the resident DJ spinning fitting tunes for a Friday night. We were introduced to Oana, who would be our host and sommelier for the evening and escorted into the small and intimate dining room, with a table with views over to Elizabeth Castle.
As this was a surprise tasting experience we weren’t greeted by a menu, instead it was explained that executive chef Nicolas Valmagna, who joined the Michelin starred Tassili at Grand Jersey in January, had chosen his favourite dishes from previous menus, to create the delights we would be eating. The theme of the menu was one of land and sea and each course would alternate between the two, and would be fittingly paired with a wine chosen to complement each dish.
Now the tricky thing is, as this concept is a break from the normal approach to a tasting menu, I don’t want to spoil the surprise element, although we have been told that the menu changes every day. So instead let me talk you through just a few dishes, so that you can get an idea of how your evening might shape up.
To begin with the seven courses were preceded by not one, but two delightful amuse bouche, one to cleanse the palette and the other to start us off on our journey, an excellent piece of delicately smoked salmon topped with roe and complemented with flavours of watercress. Next came the first of the starters, a zesty and zingy crab dish, both light and delicately flavoured with a kick that came from the yuzu gel that sat alongside it, this was paired with a light and crisp ‘White Blend’, 2010, A.A. Badenhorst, Swartland, which complemented the flavours perfectly.
Of the two main course dishes the one I’ll focus on was simply named Pork, ‘Classic Herd’ pork belly was cooked to perfection and accompanied by braised cheek, black pudding and an incredible compressed apple “cracker”, which on first glance looked like something you’d not be surprised to see at a Chinese restaurant, but its delicate texture melted in the mouth and tasted exactly as it was described, there was also a cheeky bit of summer truffle. Served on a bold red plate this one of my favourites.
The dessert was the stuff of a sweet lovers’ dreams. Chocolate and orange are two flavours that marry together beautifully in most guises, but this was a whole other level. The homemade cardamom popping candy, a literal flavour explosion, was my highlight of the dish which was paired with a Pedro Ximénez ‘Don Pedro’ Gran Reserva, 1983, Toro Albalá, Montilla Moriles. The final course of the night was a delightful return to the savoury, but I’ll not ruin that for you, but lets just say it came rounded off the meal perfectly and came with a glass of exceptional Port.
Having never been to Tassili before this really was a lovely way to spend a Friday evening, the service was smooth and the atmosphere within the small dining room, once it filled up with more diners, was relaxed and the right side of informal.
The successful wine pairing was perhaps the most notable part of the evening, but that will come as no surprise to most of those who know me, all of those chosen really did complement each dish brilliantly.
The surprise tasting menu changes daily and costs £87 for the seven course menu only and £130 with the wine flight. Tassili is open, Tuesday to Saturday.