Douglas has been a professional food writer since 1986. He is also an award-winning actor and director in Community Theatre and has been for many years. His blog may be found at: www.urbaneguerilla.wordpress.com
Published March 18th 2017
Come in, sit down and draw a cork, let's talk
I am no stranger to long lunches. In the 1980s, before the FBT, lunches would merge imperceptibly into dinner, sometimes even into supper. But these were happenstance, not planned.
The planned long table, long lunch is a relatively new phenomenon in Perth, the concept being that a random group with just one, or perhaps two interests in common gather en famile at one long table and eat from communal dishes especially cooked as a many-coursed meal.
Lamb aranchini (Photograph by D Sutherland-Bruce)
Often there will be a speaker, or two and the whole concept is based on the goodwill and conviviality of those that attend. This would seem risky, but in fact is less than it would appear, since the sort of people that go are the sort of people you'd hope to meet.
Peter Forrestall holding the table spellbound (Photograph by D Sutherland-Bruce)
As an example, the series of 'Meet the Winemaker' Long Table Lunches skillfully organised by Fraser's Restaurant. They ran them last year, very successfully and a new series has just begun for this year, starting off with the winemaker from Paul Nelson Wines, Paul Nelson himself.
Paul Nelson with two charming diners (Photograph by D Sutherland-Bruce)
The host and facilitator is doyen among wine experts, Peter Forrestal, deeply knowledgeable and affable, Peter is the ideal choice.
We gathered, some dozen or so of us, total strangers (well, Peter and I know each other) caught up in the anticipation of the day. We sat randomly at a long table in a private room at Frasers overlooking a splendid view of Perth.
Mt Barker organic chicken roasted in duck fat with red wine jus (Photograph by D Sutherland-Bruce)
The table was glassy, black, tapered and decorated with fresh fruits and vegetables in a sort of rustic shabby chic. Peter gave a brief chat and the first of many Paul Nelson wines were poured - the 2015 Reisling, crisp, fresh and eminently drinkable.
Peter introduced Paul Nelson, the winemaker, a profoundly charming young man who's passion for winemaking began about 25 years ago when his parents purchased a farm in Denmark WA, which was planted to wine vines.
After university he hopped between hemispheres making wine for various wineries, both large and small. After fifteen vintages, eight countries, and meeting his wife, Bianca, they decided it was time to head back to Oz and put all of that experience into practice.
Nannygai ceviche (Photograph by D Sutherland-Bruce)
Paul and Bianca bought the old Karriview Winery, added land and planted more grapes and Paul Nelson Wines was born.
Over the course of the afternoon we tasted and tried a number of his wines, on at least two occasions also tasting the pure grape juice that the wine was made from, an absolutely fascinating 'before and after'.
South West Trout (Photograph by D Sutherland-Bruce)
He was also kind enough to let us taste some of the 1990 Karriview Chardonnay - contrary to the view that white wine won't age more than a few years this 27 year old wine is magnificent, subtle, rich, complex and has yet a few years left it it, I think.
Another of his wines is his rather interesting GMT - a Grenache, Mourvedre and Tempranillo blend. Deeply reminiscent of the great Rhȏnes and Riojas, a rich brooding wine oaked only slighty and fruit driven. If you get the chance, do try it. A wine of great character.
Glasses. Just waiting. (Photograph courtesy of Paul Nelson Wines)
The food that came out in a seeming endless array of sharing plates was the creation of Chef Tom Randolph and I found them imaginative, delicious, some even inspired. The Nannygai ceviche cured in citrus and served with shadow thin onion and radish in a lettuce cup was beyond praise.
I cannot readily recall an afternoon more pleasantly spent with great food, outstanding wines, informed wine talk and convivial conversation.
The cheese board (Photograph by D Sutherland-Bruce)
Thank you Fraser's, for putting this all together. At $120 per person, it is great value for money and as this was just the first of a series, I'd make sure to follow up for the next, which will be with Steve James from Voyager Estate on the 8th April.
You never know, I might see you there.
Very Highly Recommended Indeed.
Fraser's, Meet the Winemaker Long Table Lunch, Peter Forrestal, Paul Nelson, Tom Randolph