Just as the right sauce can make a dish so the service can make a meal.
At the Peninsula Restaurant in North Greenwich, assistant manager Ucha Jalaghania made mine.
Having taken on the role of sommelier a few weeks ago he spent the night of my visit fizzing with barely contained joy, charming me, my fiance and, seemingly, all the other guests in the room.
From his first gracious entrance alongside the seven-course tasting menu’s opening gambit – a beef briquette with caviar beef jus and pickled horseradish strands – he excelled.
There were artful flourishes, especially pouring a zingy green garlic veloute over salted cod with radish scales.
I found myself gazing at the dainty morsels willing them to be sublime so I could truthfully tell him so.
Fortunately chef Tomas Lidakevicius did not disappoint, serving up a selection of well balanced dishes.
But when Ucha began to talk about pairing the wines the evening came to life.
Originally from Georgia he proudly told us of the great wine tradition in the eastern European country and how he inherited his passion from his father.
He said he was able to pick a handful of wines in his head to pair with any new dish Tomas creates despite there being more than 350 wines the restaurant’s cellar.
For the crab course he chose a low tannin Fernao Pires Quinta Do Alqueve he said had “vegetable” flavours and it proved refreshing.
The beef short rib came with a memorable Ruca Malen Petit Verdot from Argentina. A departure from the set wine flight, it nevertheless went perfectly with the richness of the meat.
Throughout the meal he earnestly furnished us with facts (you never get a 100% Merlot), elevating a the delicious meal further with each snippet.
Ucha’s enthusiasm was infectious and I left buoyed not only by the food and alcohol but also his joie de vivre.
The tasting menu at the Peninsula Restaurant costs £72 per head – an accompanying wine flight is £60.
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