An Evening of Laurent-Perrier at Stratos
23rd March 2017
As the only revolving Lounge Bar and Grill in Abu Dhabi, Stratos at Le Royal Meridien Hotel has come to epitomize tasteful luxury where the food & beverage offerings match the hype that surrounds the restaurant.
The moment I take the elevator up to Stratos on the 26th floor, there is already a feeling of exclusivity – there is one elevator dedicated to taking you up all the way. Perfect low light creates the ambience that permeates Stratos. Through the night, though, the light changes constantly, but not in a disconcerting way. Stylish lounging seat options as well as traditional dining options are presented. As I look at the Abu Dhabi skyline, I see cranes in one corner, but I know this will change soon as Stratos revolves. The bright lights of the city centre come into view as the resident DJ plays a remixed version of a Bruno Mars song – but a really pumping version.
Stratos is opulent and luxurious, but not over the top. Erase from your mind bling and anything ostentatious you may have seen about The Middle East on some BBC special. Stratos is indeed unashamedly luxe, but the service and conversational manner of staff keeps it grounded, if you will.
Before the first course, we indulge in Sturia caviar served the traditional way and in expression of luxury, it is placed on the table in a golden egg. We start with the Laurent-Perrier Ultra Brut, NV. Of course Champagne and caviar, regardless of the pairing at times, is one of those pleasurable matches to be enjoyed in this life and again and again.
The Ultra Brut has a high percentage of Chardonnay, meaning it is a reliable option for seafood, which marks the first course. As its name suggests, it is extra dry, so no additional sugar will interfere with the paring with seafood. Pan seared Scottish langoustine is served. The langoustine, notwithstanding caviar purée and dill emulsion on the plate, still smacks of nature and is not overwhelmed at all by these elements. In fact, if anything, it results in a very balanced dish. Overall, the Laurent-Perrier Ultra Brut retains its own integrity and structure.
It is citrusy on the nose and on tasting, it is very dry on the palate, with lime coming through, making way for something heavier in citrus. The finish lingers.
Following this, we prepare ourselves for whole roasted lobe of Foie Gras and to drink, Laurent-Perrier Grand Siecle, NV. This evening’s Grand Siécle is a blend of 1997, 1999 and 2002 vintages from 11 highly respected crus. Also, the grape juice of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir is fermented in a way that ensures maximum aromatics and taste. It is so called because it recalls Louis XIV’s ‘great century’. The special bottle places this sumptuous Champagne in that era. It is elegant and refined Champagne, beautifully structured. Hints of honey meet the palate and leave a long taste in the mouth.
The chef comes tableside, presents and cuts the lobe of foie gras. This is Stratos at its best – it is theatrical, decadent and indulgent. The challenge in pairing foie gras with bubbles is that it is so fatty and then of course to balance that there is also sweetness from pineapple chutney on the plate. The foie gras does bring out the mousse of the Champagne rather nicely. Overall, this is where the versatility of Laurent-Perrier and in particular the Grand Siécle, is revealed.
The resident DJ, meanwhile, has cranked it up a bit as she moves effortlessly into some mild house mixes – toe tapping stuff as the next Champagne is opened. The Laurent-Perrier Brut, NV is a fine entry level Champagne. It is made of three varietals: Chardonnay 45%, Pinot Noir 40%, Pinot Meunier 15%. On pouring, you can appreciate the fine, elegant and bubbles. Notes of apple and pear welcome your palate in what is really a lovely NV Champagne. We have it with roasted Dover sole served along with Scottish scallops, asparagus and a Champagne and caviar beurre blanc. It is an exquisite dish with beautiful balance again. The Champagne sauce counters the light saltiness from the sole, with the poached asparagus providing the bridge between the two. Yet, for me it remains a dish of subtle flavours, which makes it an ideal pairing for the Brut.
For our 4th course, we are served fillet of John Stone beef with carrot purée and artichokes. John Stone Irish beef is growing in popularity. In a world where people are becoming more conscious of how food arrives on the table, it is an alternative to grain fed beef. I for one am thrilled about this. Surely cows would rather eat grass? It seems so natural. The Irish climate with its rainfall in particular, is conducive to grass fed beef.
Feeling the moment demands it, we have our Laurent-Perrier Rosé, NV, a throwback to the past with a coupe. Yes, it goes against conventional wisdom these days with most believing that flutes allow for the bubbles to live and stay colder for longer, but there still remains elegance about the coupe glass. It feels like stepping back into a time of garden parties, women in flowing dresses and men in linen suits in Summer. Very Gatsby-like!
This is a daring Champagne. Introduced against the grain in 1968, this 100% Pinot Noir creation remains the benchmark for Cuvée Rosés. With its captivating salmon-pink colour discernable even in the dimmed lighting in Stratos, it is quite a pretty Champagne. A nose of red currant and strawberries make it the best pairing with beef of the Champagnes enjoyed this night. It is a gorgeous Champagne, with fine bubbles that linger and of course a mousse to savour. It is crisp and fresh with a gorgeous salmon-pink colour. A winner.
Now, one of the challenges facing restaurants in Abu Dhabi is to find service that matches the fine ingredients sculpted by chefs into wondrous culinary art pieces. A big missing element in most restaurants is a product knowledge that further complements what Chef is doing in the kitchen. There are no such shortcomings this evening as the restaurant’s manager is in his element. It is the respect and ceremony with which the manager, with a penchant for fine wines and bubbly, treats the Champagne that engenders even more respect. He describes the bubbly, in sync with the Chef de Cuisine who comes out and describes his dishes, with an almost youthful infectiousness. If it is true that we dine with our ears, then you would be satiated listening to them.
Finally, dessert to end the 5-course dinner is a dessert that in many ways is so simple, which serves to privilege what has preceded it, but simple as it is, the soufflé can so easily flounder. Just ask Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina. The Soufflé Maltaise is served with caramelised kumquat and vanilla bean ice cream. But tonight it has risen to just the right level. The final Champagne for the night is Laurent-Perrier’s Alexandra Rosé, Grand Cuvée, 1998. After it is poured, the very tiny continuous bubbles entrance me. Persistent they are, but really mesmerising and hypnotic because they are so gentle, almost apologetic as they move in a very structured manner. Just watching them is a sensational experience. With 7 vintages in 28 years: 1982, 1985, 1988, 1990, 1997, 1998 and 2004, it reflects the care and time taken to find that perfect year. There is romance and intrigue around the name when any of Bernard de Nonancourt’s (the late Head at Laurent-Perrier) two daughters could carry the name of the cuvée, but in the end only one could be chosen and since Alexandra was to be married that year, it was named after her. Isn’t it so much more meaningful when the bubbly you are drinking has a rich story, a slice of real life contained in those bubbles?
The lights on the Abu Dhabi skyline become fewer as we pass midnight and this affords me a moment to reflect on the evening as the last remaining guests depart from Stratos. It has undoubtedly been an evening of finesse, grace and elegance, allowing the senses to rejoice in the glow of Laurent-Perrier. The bottles that stand on a side table will be photographed and the images saved – but what those images will not show is how inexorably life and bubbles are linked. As I enjoyed each of the 5 different Laurent-Perrier Champagnes this evening, I knew at that moment that the memory of the evening, like some of the Champagnes, would linger long. If we look at the joyous times, especially, in our lives, how often haven’t there been bubbles? If there are not many occasions, why not start right now? Life is for living.
Written by Brandon Stoltenkamp
Glass of Bubbly
Executive editor of news content for the website Please enjoy the articles that we share - We hope you find our love for Champagne & Sparkling Wines both interesting and educational.