Club de Cena – Supper Clubs at Tapas Brindisa – We went to a dinner party this week. Well, it was actually a supper club, run by Tapas Brindisa in Richmond. We learnt so much more about a hitherto relatively unknown part of Spain called Castile-La Mancha. We tasted its wines, and its wonderful food, and met an interesting group of like-minded foodies, many of whom are regulars to these events.
On arrival, there was already a gathering of folk at the bar. We were shown into the private dining room, where two long tables were laid up. We introduced ourselves to the other diners and studied the menu and leaflet about Castile-La Mancha that was helpfully placed on the table. Home of sunflowers, Manchego cheese and Don Quixote’s windmills, New Castile, or Castilla La Mancha as Spaniards call it, is the huge inland region just south of Madrid. It encompasses five provinces: Albacete, Ciudad Real, Cuenca, Guadalajara and Toledo.
We were each presented with a very interesting-looking cocktail and Roberto Contento, the events manager for Brindisa, introduced himself…and the drink. It was a Manchego Rusa Blanco cocktail: certainly different, as it was made with vodka that had been marinated with Manchego cheese, mixed with Tia Maria, and grated Manchego, then topped with whipped cream! It was weirdly delicious, and a great indicator of the calibre of our meal to come. If I’m honest, I would have preferred to enjoy it at the end of my meal, as it was rather rich.
The supper club format, we discovered, is to put plates of food on the tables for people to share. My husband has a horror of sharing food, but actually it was fine and added to the atmosphere and general camaraderie. The starters were Pisto Manchego (tomatoes, onions, aubergine courgettes, green and red peppers, and olive oil – served with crusty bread, seasoned butters and ‘picos’, mini breadsticks). There was a gazpacho as well, made with Manchego and chocolate, as well as a Sopa di ajo (garlic soup). The latter wasn’t at all what I had expected, but it was, nonetheless, really good. We were served Ponce wines to pair with each course. Roberto explained that the vines are biodynamic and grow with very little water, and the first one was incredible. It was a very dry white, from volcanic soil, and had stacks of minerality.
The piece de resistance (or should I say ‘pieza de resistencia’) was baked lamb of Albacete, dressed with potato, onion and peppers. It was superb, as was the stonkingly good red wine – Bodegas Ponce. It was spicy, beautifully balanced and had great length and paired beautifully with the lamb.
We were then given ‘Four Ages of Manchego’ served with cubes of membrillo. Roberto showed us the order to taste the cheeses and we were given a card with more information. I was delighted to have this, as I will know which to order online from Brindisa. Another Ponce wine – Clos Lojen – was the perfect accompaniment.
To finish, we were served Alaiu & miguelitos, crema pastelera. Reader, these were little pillows of flaky puff pastry, topped with ‘creme pat’ as it’s also known). Light as a feather, they were the ideal finale.
Brindisa’s supper clubs take place every month. They highlight a particular region of Spain with seasonal produce and speciality dishes. Tickets are £60 per person including the meal and wines. Aragon is featured in October and Andalucia in November. We will be back and will hope to meet some of our lovely dinner companions there again.