Dinner & Wine Tasting At Maison Mes Amis
I love it when The Boy Wonder makes himself useful and discovers another relatively unknown Gem. This time he happened across an article for a monthly 3 course meal and wine tasting evening at £25 per person at Maison Mes Amis in Chesterfield.
We haven’t been out with the Tribal Elders for a wee while, so we gave them a quick chirrup to see if they fancied coming along. My Daddy Bird muttered something along the lines of “is the Pope Catholic? Of course we’ll come”, so the four of us flew over for a gourmet night out. We actually managed to get parked on the restaurant frontage, although there is parking along the road.
The venue itself is quite simply stunning, very Gallic chic, the wallpaper with its muted grey and cream hues even had diamante accents to it. In the front of the restaurant there is a large gilded Baroque mirror that could easily be in a fine ladies boudoir, and the bar and supporting pillar both have an exquisite pastel hand painted floral detail to them.
Each table had a fresh floral arrangement on it; ours centred on fragrant Lilies, and there were also candlesticks adorned with rivers of old wax that had lit candles in them. The ceiling was hung with ornate miniature chandeliers that glittered gently with the flickering candlelight to create a wonderfully intimate atmosphere.
As we settled into our seats the Sommelier for the evening came over and talked to us about the selection of wines on offer, depending on the dishes we chose. The restaurant works with about 60 different wines suppliers that only have wines from small family vineyards. The wines are made traditionally in each family, and the yields tend to be small in commercial terms, but the quality is always very high.
Myself and Daddy Bird had the Oak smoked Salmon, Wasabi and Avocado puree and Apple salad for our starters, whilst His Nibs and My Mummy Bird had the slow cooked Chicken terrine with Chorizo and Leeks, with dressed mixed leaves and pear chutney.
The terrine was a lovely chunky, hand pressed affair with an abundance of taste and texture to it that married beautifully on the palate with the sweet chutney. The Chorizo just added its own beautiful smoky spice hint to the dish – douse points from the U.K.
Daddy Bird and I were equally impressed with our starter, the Salmon was cut into lovely thick slices that had a joyous sweet smokiness to them, and the puree was a sublime union of creamy avocado with a hint of the slightly sour tang of Wasabi. The fine julienne Apple added the perfect amount of crunchy texture to the otherwise smooth dish; just heavenly. Both starters were packed full of taste but weren’t overly fussy or complicated, and obviously a lot of thought had gone into their production and presentation. Another top scoring dish in the Brits eyes!
Our wine for this course was a gorgeous Portuguese rose that had enough bounce to it to cope with all the starter options on offer that evening.
For the main courses Mummy Bird and I both chose the Moules Mariniere in a white wine and cream sauce with onions and garlic served with fries on the side (although I was sorely tempted by the Duck), and the Boys both went for the 8 hour slow braised Beef bourguignon with Thyme roasted onion, pommes puree and Green beans.
The Moules were an impressive size portion to say the least and the sauce was a master class in beautifully balanced flavours. In fact, it was so good that we asked for more bread to mop up the juices! Our server brought us separate shell dishes to discard the empty shells into and a finger bowl for cleansing messy fingers. The skin-on fries were expertly seasoned and actually went rather well with the Moules.
The Portuguese White wine that accompanied our dish was very fragrant and had enough body to it to cope with the creamy sauce but didn’t overwhelm the palate.
The chaps meanwhile were digging into their bourguignon with their customary fervour, and were delighted with the beef’s melt-in-the-mouth texture and its accompanying rich red wine sauce. Likewise, the pommes puree was receiving high praise, and the green beans were cooked to just- crunchy perfection. Their Austrian red wine went perfectly with the meat, so they were more than happy with their main courses.
For pudding we all chose different options, but the dessert wine was universally compatible with all the menu choices.
Daddy Bird had his favourite Creme Brulee with Raspberry shortbread, and gave me that all-knowing grin when he cracked the caramelised sugar top. Under the crisp cover lay a rich, velvety crème that caressed the tongue and taste buds with its gloriousness, and the superbly crumbly shortbread had delicious pieces of tangy Raspberry in it to offset the rich crème.
Mummy Bird had the classic Tarte au Citron with Pistachio crumble, Raspberries and Crème Fraiche, and said it was a perfect combination of zestiness and sweetness and she could’ve eaten it for pudding every day of the year and not tired of it.
His Nibs went for (surprise surprise) the Chocolate and Caramel mousse with Chocolate soil and Vanilla Ice cream. The mousse was a decadently rich affair with a perfect ratio of chocolate-to-caramel taste, and the soil was lovely and crunchy, almost biscuity in texture, and this provided the perfect partner to the smooth mousse. A nice quality ice cream also served to enhance, yet temper, the richness of the chocolate content.
Lastly, but by no means least, was my selection of the Cheese board with chutney, crackers and grapes for my dessert. There was a great selection of cheeses: Port Salut has a gorgeous mild creamy taste that would appeal to most tastes and has been made the same traditional way since 1816 and I found its creaminess went really well with the tangy chutney. The second cheese was called “Just Jane” and had a fabulous thick green waxy rind to it, which revealed a firm textured cheese that had a wonderful smooth, creamy taste to it, but packed a lovely strong punch on the palate.
Roquefort from the south of France was third on the agenda to hit my taste buds, and this Sheep’s milk blue cheese didn’t disappoint. It has a slightly moist crumbly texture to it that appears sweet and smoky on first impression before developing a deliciously tangy, salty finish. My fourth and final cheese was classic soft Brie with its familiar comforting creaminess.
The accompanying dessert wine was incredibly intense and fragrant, sweet but not cloying; but it was the way it is produced that intrigued me. Our sommelier told us that the vines are trained to grow vertically to a height of approximately 2 metres so that the leaves act almost like solar panels and concentrate all of the suns energy into producing exceptionally concentrated flavour grapes that have to be harvested by hand. The result is completely mesmerising, paling the other dessert wines I have tried into insignificance.
We finished with coffees, and it will come as no surprise for me to tell you that these too were perfect; there is nothing worse than finishing a meal that cascades with flavours with an insipid whimpering blend of coffee, and thankfully the team at Maison Mes Amis feel the same. The coffee was a deep rich roast that lingered in the mouth, but without any bitterness to its aftertaste, and just closed the evening on a blissful note.
The staff were all so lovely; very polite, attentive and smartly dressed. Nothing was too much trouble for them, and they checked several times that we were satisfied with our food. We enjoyed ourselves so much that we are itching to go back and sample the “every day” menu, so I think I can safely say Hot Wings ahoy to this talented team. If you haven’t been to Maison Mes Amis before, what on earth are you waiting for?