If you’re like me, you’ll love planning where to go out and eat but it’s a bit of a minefield and there’s so much choice, especially in a city like Bristol. So, a couple of years ago I decided that every time I wanted to plan a special meal in the city, I’d turn to social media to ask ‘where should we go?’ I was living in London at the time and didn’t get the opportunity to go out in the west that much so when we did have the chance I was keen to make it as special as possible.
Every time I sent a message on Twitter I was bombarded with great suggestions and Lido, tucked away in Bristol’s Clifton Village came up time and time again. For some reason, it took a while for me to get to the poolside restaurant, always resorting to other suggestions. I wonder if I was slightly put off by memories of eating a packet of crisps in the café over looking the pool at Thornbury Leisure Centre after an exhausting swim. Silly I know – I mean the didn’t even have a wine list and certainly weren’t even into seasonal cookery. The best thing you’d get was a Slush Puppy. Whatever the reason, I couldn’t put my finger on why I never chose to dine there. Then in May 2014, with my 37th birthday looming I decided to get in contact with Lido’s Executive Head Chef Freddy Bird and booked for my family and I. I was conveniently coming up from a Saturday Kitchen shoot in Totnes and stalled my return to London to visit the restaurant at Lido. Freddy and I sat and chatted over a cider before my family arrived and in that 30 minutes it was clear that a more passionate forager, chef and beer & wine lover it would be hard to find. Former Moro chef and native Bristolian Freddy and I connected on many foodie levels and the meal that followed was an exquisite journey through Freddy’s imaginative seasonal passions. It was so easy to fall for Freddy, The Lido, the food, the drink and the great service. Over our many visits since, amongst other delights, Freddy’s variations of Iberico pork and the exquisite scallops are hard to beat. These, coupled the reasonably priced wine list are the reason I often end up leaving the place full and not as sober as I should be!
Every time I’ve eaten there I’ve endured a kaleidoscope of delicious originality over many courses and it was after a visit last Autumn that Freddy and I decided to put our heads together. The baked crab with hot buttered sourdough toast I tried was the ultimate culinary experience. So it is with great pleasure that I announce our first collaboration of food and wine. So while Freddy cooks… I’ll fetch the right bottle!
The dish incorporates the freshest white and brown crabmeat with lightly caramlised fennel, garlic, rich shellfish stock and cream for a luxuriously hot dippy-sharey course (that’s what I call it anyway) that will be vividly emblazoned on your mind forever more. But what to choose? As the shellfish isn’t smoked, I instantly thought about Chablis. The unoaked splendor of Chardonnay would be the perfect foil for the many shellfish, but unfortunately a drop such as this just doesn’t stand up to the texture and flavour here. Young examples are far too crisp and light and even an older ones don’t quite cut it. I considered new world Chardonnay (I’ve tasted some great Chilean and South African ones of late and I’m a big fan of some of the harder to get versions from California) but I felt I needed to look a little closer to home. I’m a huge fan of white Burgundy and wondered if I could be a bit more adventurous with my choice but when I tasted the Domaine Jomain Bourgogne Chardonnay 2011, I knew I’d found the perfect match. The grapes for this elegant white Burgundy come exclusively from vines bordering the appellation of Puligny-Montrachet which explains it’s comparatively bargain price tag compared to those from P-M’s heartland.
The wine has poise and depth and there’s a sophisticated minerality with a roundness that is both perky but comforting. On the nose there are hints of buttered apricots and there’s more tropical fruit on the palate along with a creaminess with a scattering of toasted almonds thanks do some really subtle oak – perfect for the fennel and cream. There’s also a velvety texture and vibrancy that is wonderful with all that delicate crabmeat. Because of the price tag, I limit the amount of Puligny-Montrachet I open at home but the Domaine Jomain Bourgogne Chardonnay 2011 can be yours for £12.99 or £10.99 as part of Majestic Wine Warehouse’s Mix 6 deal – Great as this wine will age beautifully in the bottle. So, if you can’t get to Lido, try the recipe and treat yourself to a luxurious bottle of Domaine Jomain Bourgogne Chardonnay. You won’t regret it.
And as if by magic, here from the hand and mind of Freddy himself is the recipe:
Baked crab, hot buttered sourdough toast
I’m never too sure what part of this recipe most excites our customers – I’m sure it’s the crab but every time I use the words ‘hot buttered toast’ everyone’s inner school boy can’t resist it!
This is a slightly lengthy recipe but well worth the effort. At the restaurant we would boil and pick fresh crab meat and use the shells and body to make stock. To save time at home use prawn heads to make the stock (save the bodies for another day) and buy fresh crab meat, ready picked. Of course if you do go the trouble of cooking your own crab the results will be always be better! My only caveat – never use pasteurised crabmeat – it’s utterly tasteless! My recipes are never precise, they rely on regular tasting and personal judgment. Following a recipe to the letter rarely makes a great dish
For the ‘stock’:
A couple of large handfuls of prawn heads (or crab bones if using)
1 stick celery – roughly chopped
1 onion – roughly chopped
1 carrot – roughly chopped
3-4 cloves garlic
Large knob of butter
1/2 tin of chopped tomatoes
1/2 stick cinnamon
1/2 star anise
a few black peppercorns
a couple each of tarragon and dill stalks (you’ll use the leaves at the end)
a small slug of brandy and a small slug of Pernod
Fry the prawn heads in the butter until lightly browned. Add the chopped vegetable, garlic and spices over a low heat until the vegetable are softened. Next add the booze and cook out until almost evaporated. Then add the herb stalks, tomato and cover with water. Simmer gently for around 35-40 mins. You want to be left with an intense shellfish stock. This is the key to the dish – a limp flavourless stock will create a limp flavourless dish!! This needs to be gutsy!
Strain and set aside.
For the dish:
1/2 fennel bulb, very finely diced
1/2 red onion, very finely diced
2 cloves garlic, very finely diced
Butter for cooking
A dessert spoon of equal quantities of chopped tarragon and dill
The prawn/crab stock
A couple of teaspoons of Dijon mustard
A small slug of double cream
1 x 450g pot white crabmeat
1 x 225g pot brown crabmeat
Sweat the fennel, onion and garlic in butter until soft and very lightly caramelised at the edges. Season to taste.
Poor in the stock and a little cream. You’ll need approximately two cups of liquid to carry the amount of crab. If necessary reduce the liquid a little over a low heat. Whisk in the mustard and add the herbs.
Tip in the crab meat, mix, taste for seasoning.
Transfer to portion size, oven proof, serving dishes and refrigerate until you need them. If serving them from hot just pop them under the grill until golden and serve immediately with hot buttered toast. If you’re preparing them earlier and keeping in the fridge. Bake in a hot oven (I’m lucky enough to pass them through the wood oven to lend a delicate smoky flavour) until golden and bubbling.
Well worth the effort, Freddy promises… And I wholeheartedly agree. In fact, when we ate this dish for the first time overlooking the pool, our friends remarked that if the meal ended with this dish, they wouldn’t have complained, they enjoyed it so much. It’s a true star!
Read Freddy’s blog on the Lido website: http://www.lidobristol.com/blog/ or on twitter @freddy_bird
You can find Lido at Oakfield Place, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 2BJ
Spa reception: 0117 933 9530 / Restaurant Reservations: 0117 332 3970
Domaine Jomain Bourgogne Chardonnay 2011 is available at branches of Majestic Wine Warehouse nationwide and at www.majestic.co.uk
Photography of the recipe and Freddy by the incredibly talented Andre Pattenden. Contact Andre here: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Instagram @andrepattenden (Other photography by Alan and I!)