Hilliard is a small cafe-bistro, just off Fleet Street. It’s an oasis of quality and personality, amongst Fleet Street’s sea of tiresome chain eateries. I eat lunch there a few times every week, which always brightens up the day. Well executed, unfussy food, with careful sourcing and interesting twists. By way of example, today’s lunch special was Scallops, with Pancetta, cherry tomatoes and salad, all for a fair £6.25. Delicious!
My eye has been drawn several times to the inviting wine selection, available to drink on the premises or as an offsale, with 25% discount in the latter case. Today, I managed to track down co-owner Frances, who explained that her husband Spenser is the man behind the list. Mr Hilliard (For it is he) sources small parcels of interesting wines (mostly from classic old-world regions) by buying at auction, or from other obscure sources. So, today I decided to take the plunge with an attention grabbing 1996 Beaune Premier Cru (Les Coucherias). The producer, Comte Senard, was not known to me before but on this showing is definitely worth a look in the future.
1996 was a standout year in Burgundy, producing wines with excellent aging potential and balance. This example still seems remarkably youthful, with only its rather watery rim to suggest much age. The nose still has lots of fresh red fruits (strawberries, predominantly), together with just a hint of mushrooms or truffles and an appealing smokiness. The fruit is sweet, with a nice tangy attack, and whilst this is a light wine, there is enough weight to lend some gravitas. All in all, not a profound Beaune, but a very charming one. Maybe this was even more delightful 5 years ago, but age has certainly done it no real harm.
I get the feeling I’ll be posting more about Spenser’s wine choices, it’s a tempting list to work through, and anyway, the staff are equally charming and well worth a return visit.