We’re gearing up for Christmas here at Bel Canto, and the first step is inaugurating our new Christmas menu! Forget stale stuffing and dry turkey though – this Noël, not Christmas, and we are celebrating it à la Française with the finest food and the loveliest music.
Starter - Duo de Saumon. Home-cured Gravlax and Smoked Salmon with warm blinis and crème fraîche.
Now, before you start thinking “That doesn’t sound very French”, you should know that Christmas food in France is quite different to what we eat for Christmas here. Although turkey with chestnut stuffing is fairly similar, and foie gras is not too far off, the real difference is that French Christmas normally involves a lot of fish or seafood. Oysters are a seasonal staple, as are scallops, lobster is another festive favourite along with smoked salmon, which is normally enjoyed at the beginning of Le Reveillon- the French Christmas dinner which is commonly held on the 24th.
To drink - Riesling ‘Bel Canto’, Pegasus Bay, Waipara, New Zealand 2014
Main Course - Filet de Bœuf en Croûte. Fillet of Beef baked in brioche with wilted spinach, sautéed mushrooms and truffle jus.
This fabulous, decadent main course is warming and luxuriant – perfect for Christmastime – and bears a very close resemblance to what we call Beef Wellington! In fact, research would suggest that Wellington was a re-naming of this popular French dish, but why it was renamed no one actually knows! The first reliable reference to it was from a 1939 guide to dining out in New York, but many believe it was named after the first Duke of Wellington in the 1800s, possibly after the Battle of Waterloo. Others have posited that it was named after Wellington in New Zealand, due to a civic reception there. In any case, there are no doubts over the provenance of boeuf en croûte, it is a French dish through and through – and a very tasty one at that!
To drink - Château de Ricaud “Reserve des Coteaux”, Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux, 2011
Dessert - Bûche de Noël. Chocolate Christmas log with crème anglaise.
Another French Christmas tradition, the Yule log may no longer be popular in this country, but it is the Gallic equivalent of our Christmas pudding and no festive French celebration is complete without one. Back in pagan times, it is believed that a cherry log would be decorated with holly, ivy and pinecones, sprinkled with wine and spices and burnt to cleanse the air of the previous year’s events and usher in the spring. Based on this traditional Yule log burnt in the hearth, the Bûche de Noël is a roulade of sponge cake, covered in chocolate icing and decorated to resemble a log, often sprinkled with icing sugar snow, berries and holly.
To drink - Maury Grenat Mas Mudigliza 2013
So why not book a table and come celebrate the Christmas season in true French form?