Cheval Blanc is now three months old and has already become something of a cult classic in Moseley, bringing back the wine bar without the yuppy association of the 80’s and with a new dynamic; more vibrant and current in its approach. There is no pretence here, instead the team focus on delivering high quality wine and cocktails, with food that complements the drink, not the other way round. Its a lovely place to whittle away the hours and I often do. I write this on a Wednesday morning, my head still tinged from both Saturday and Sunday afternoons sat at the bar drinking too well for my doctors liking. It is safe to say that I am a fan.
But I am here now to mostly talk about the food, not my alcoholic tendencies. I was invited for the launch of the Autumn menu a week back and its clear that the food has moved up a notch in the short time they have been operating. Dishes are more complex, flavour profiles more pronounced. The head chef here is Cyd, a man so Gaelic I expect he cycles to work on a bike with a baguette in a basket up front, and more than ever this feels like his menu. Each dish we try has a confidence of a man who understands his native cuisine but isn’t afraid to take it elsewhere when required. The crisp balls of arancini which start are accurately seasoned so that the rice inside punches heavily with earthy mushroom flavour. A salad of crab is freshened by lime and grapefruit segments which could have lost the seafood flavour in lesser hands. Here it is balanced and well matched to a Australian Reisling that zings and dazzles.
A glass of Cab Franc from Australia’s Jamsheed is almost too quaffable, all light and refined with a back note of oak that works wonders with slices of venison carpaccio daintily dressed with blackberries and hazelnuts. A quail dish feels more substantial; pan-fried breast and confit leg with glass-like crisp skin. Fresh quince and poached grapes are seasonal and sensible choices for the needed acidity, whilst a celeriac rosti takes it in to more complete eating. In a menu of small dishes designed to be eaten in numbers, this feels like a small dish that could fill a hole by itself. Try it with the Rhone they suggest, high in tannin and savoury enough to pin down the fruit in the dish.
We hold fire on the last course and pause for a cocktail featuring chocolate infused bourbon, an idea that should be stolen and made compulsory for Christmas Day breakfast. The dessert is a mousse of chocolate and green chartreuse, a herby liquor that was new to me and vastly enjoyed, probably because of the 55% alcohol content. Its a classy way to finish, possibly a little to kitsch for my liking, but then most things are.
Yes, I do live 150 metres away from here, and yes, this evening was free. In an age when disclosure is paramount and every free meal that a ‘blogger’ (and how I hate that label) receives is scrutinised, it is questionable how much one can believe this write-up over, say, the one which is going to cost me two-hundred-and-fifty-quid this coming weekend. And for every complimentary meal I receive I always ask myself if I would come back or not and pay out of my own wallet. The answer to that with Cheval Blanc is I do come back, twice since this event last week and probably again this weekend. I spent my bloody birthday here, for Christ’s sake. I come back because I simply cant think of a nicer place to enjoy quality wine and casually pick away at well made plates of food. The team of Abi and Rory know their stuff and they have created somewhere special that never fails to deliver. I am fortunate to live in Moseley and have so many great places to drink and eat on my doorstep, but none of those places get me excited quite like Cheval Blanc.
I was invited to the above autumn menu tasting.