Tom Flint: Celebrating Beaujolais Nouveau in style

Wine was flowing to celebrate the new vintage at Hotel du Vin, Brighton
Wine was flowing to celebrate the new vintage at Hotel du Vin, Brighton

People who are passionate about food are often quite sentimental souls. Food is inexplicably linked with traditions and practices that we often observe without question. I know that I can be stuck in my ways when it comes to food even going against my own wishes if they are at odds with tradition. I will not make Yorkshire puddings if roasting a chicken for example and get quite upset about excessive condiment usage, especially where ketchup is involved.

One of the most famous food and drink traditions is Beaujolais Nouveau day. Celebrated across France on the third Thursday in November it marks the release of the latest batch of Beaujolais wines. These young fruity reds are not exactly the most elegant wines to come out of France, or even the Beaujolais region, but their light easy drinking style appeals to a mass market.

I have been aware of at least one Beaujolais Nouveau celebration in Brighton for some time. This year I was invited to attend one at Hotel du Vin arranged by the Brighton and Hove Food Festival. One of the great things about the region the wine comes from is that it is near Lyon, the food capital of France, which makes it the food capital of the world.

Upon arrival I was handed my first taste of this year’s wine. Served slightly chilled it is very different to what most people expect from a red and goes well as an aperitif or with a cold starter; which is good because we started our meal with a hearty rustic style terrine. This sizeable starter with a side of pickles might not have been the most refined terrine you will find; but the meaty texture and flavour was a great introduction to the meal. For main we would be treated to a choice of two classic dishes. Casseroles of Coq au Vin and Navarin of lamb are placed in the tables with a side of roast vegetables and mash potato. These classic dishes are all about simple cooking that comforts the body and the soul. The standout dish was the Coq au Vin which had delightful smoky lardons and a rich and intense sauce. I ended up going back for seconds even though I knew I shouldn’t, but this is a dish that you cannot resist .

We finish the meal with yet another French classic, tarte tatin with Chantilly cream. Having overdone it on my main this should have been a struggle but it disappeared off the plate with barely any resistance. Sweet syrupy fruit and flaky crisp pastry is never going to be a problem no matter how full I think I am.

I might have to make a habit of celebrating Beaujolais Nouveau from now on. Based on the quality of the food on offer I will return to Hotel Du Vin to try out a few more dishes from their French inspired menu. The service is impeccable and I felt that the newly decorated dining room was more attractive than some people had given them credit for. With an excellent wine list and a comfortable bar area to boot there are certainly worse places you could spend time keeping out of the winter weather.