Let’s get fizzical
Published 28 November 2019

We look at where, when and how to enjoy France’s best-loved export

Champagne! Does any other drink capture a festive mood better? Flat is the party without bubbles dancing chilled and fairy-light in a flute – even the word fizzes expectantly with the promise of celebrations and fun. So get a bottle or two on ice, gather friends and family (for Christmas, New Year, or just because…) and pop some corks!

Or have someone else pop them. The ‘press for Champagne’ button at ever-sparkly Bob Bob Ricard and its ‘glamorous and glittering’ City sibling, Bob Bob Cité, takes things to next-level showmanship, and keeps those cut-glass flutes brim-full of Bolly at this joyfully bling Soho restaurant. There may be no button, but there’s theatre galore at the extraordinary Sketch Lecture Room and Library where Champagne is poured with practised panache from a tableside trolley; ditto at Berners Tavern, Midsummer House and Restaurant Story where trolleys of fizzy delight glide across dining rooms with discreet ceremony, allowing sleek front of house and first-rate sommeliers to do what they do best.

Bob Bob Ricard

Why keep Champagne just for dinner though? Add a glass to elevate afternoon tea egg sandwiches and fairy-light Victoria sponges to something more memorable; do the same with a lingering weekend brunch. Top hotels carry these meals off in fine style – think The Ritz or The Corinthia in London, The Midland in Manchester, or Gleneagles Hotel in Auchterarder.

Champagne raises its lively head throughout The Good Food Guide with chefs lavishing a splash or two on some of the best dishes encountered this year. Inspectors couldn’t, it seems, get enough of Peter Sánchez-Iglesias’ cured and steamed hake served with a sabayon-style Champagne cream at Casamia, or the Champagne and ginger liquor that surrounded a piece of charred mullet at The Dysart Petersham. There was much love for the Champagne aïoli served alongside tempura oysters at Covent Garden’s The Oystermen, so too for the classic beurre blancs (yes, with Champagne) spooned around the freshest line-caught Cornish cod at The Harrow at Little Bedwyn, or served with local bass, crabmeat and buttered samphire at La Frégate in St Peter Port.

Champagne has an obvious affinity with desserts, and chefs take full advantage. Rhubarb is poached in fizz in a ‘hard to fault’ trifle at The Lamb, Crawley, ditto one at The Parsons Table, Arundel; and it’s the lively note in a delicate summer granita served alongside macerated strawberries and strawberry sorbet at The Goring. Head to deepest Devon and The Old Inn, Drewsteignton, where a Champagne abayon dresses a satisfying rice pudding and rhubarb in delicious, party-ready flavour.

Enjoy Champagne in all its wonderful guises. After all, ‘tis the season to do just that…