Big Poppa’s Cheese Club
August 19, 2018
The result of separating the curd of milk from the whey.
Recurring, insistent beat patterns providing both the foundation and counterpoint for boastful rhyming patterns intoned by a vocalist.
In layman’s terms “cheese”, “drinks” and “rap music” - who’d have doubts that the melange of the three would make for a geschmaecklerisches, sparking restaurant / bar?
The trio of themes the Certainly not the founding fathers of Big Poppa’s Lewis Jaffrey (ex-Shady Pines, The Baxter Inn) and Jared Merlino (Lobo Plantation), who centered their empire around aforementioned trio of themes.
The name of the haunt being a thinly veiled homage to Notorious B.I.G., the boutique-y dark wooded upstairs bit of the two-storied affair on Sydney’s Oxford Street in the old Hello Sailor digs is dedicated to Italian cuisine under the guidance of executive chef Liam O’Driscoll and its yang is the moodier, candle-lit cocktail den downstairs with an expertly curated bar, cocktail menu, cheese plate menu and an international wine list to match.
Musically, visitors are serenaded by, guess what?
Hip Hop. You got that right, Sherlock. Exclusively, if the name of the etablissement did not give it away already.
Now, cheese is of major importance within the confines of Big Poppa’s with it being omnipresent not only on the main menus but also alongside about twenty-five cheeses to indulge in before, during or after dinner.
Big Poppa’s Cheese Club is a monthly curated affair, which shows Big Poppa’s exploring pairings in the beverage world with cheese under the curation of Kieran Took.
Enter Ruinart Champagne - founded in 1729, it is the oldest Champagne house yet definitely not the most prominent one. This might be due to the fact that after World War II. Ruinart almost disappeared and struggled decades building itself from the ground up again by focusing on the local French market, where it became a respected brand yet was dwarfed on international terrain by the other giants under the umbrella of LVMH, the entity that it owns Ruinart these days, which is not further wondrous given the small production.
Tonight’s tasting of Ruinart’s impressive line-up of cuvées gave indication of a discreet expansion on terra australis with a focus on outlets that afford exposure to discerning consumers with sophisticated, developed palates who pay more attention to what is in the bottle than on the label – and in the bottle are bubbles of exquisite quality:
Garth Foster, a charismatic man wearing many hats who tonight incarnated as the Brand Ambassador and conferencier for Ruinart, MC-ed in his trademark knowledgeable yet accessible manner through the evening, proffering three kinds of Ruinart Champagne, which were accompanied by three French cheeses, hand selected by Big Poppa’s executive chef Liam Driscoll and elaborated on by turophile par excellence Kieran Took.
The proceedings were started with Ruinart’s pale yellow Blanc de Blanc, which is crafted from 100% Premier Cru Chardonnay vineyards producing a simple yet elegant, accessible yet delicate wine with a very fine bead and a borderline fruity lemonade-y appeal courtesy of nine grams of residual sugar. A more than suitable companion to the creamy, soft and bulging off-white Brie Fermier Cow’s Milk from Ile-de-France as it highlighted its vegetal flavours.
Things were taken up a notch with the next course: A blend constructed on the marriage of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, resulting in the pomegranate pink coloured Ruinart Rose. Its delicate fruitiness, which runs the gamut from more exotic kinds to red ones was quite something to be tasted alongside Comté hard mountain Cow’s Milk from the Jura Massif. A cheese that depending on where it was tackled unfolded quite a range of taste sensations, e.g. the parts closer to the rind were crystalline in nature, nutty and earthy while moving towards the centre was a transition into softer, more creamy brown buttery territory with a sweet finish.
Next up was my favourite Ruinart: The signature Brut blend comprised of Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes. Sustained effervescence is always something I hold in high esteem when it comes to Champagne, which in this case is underpinned by a fruity nose and a hint of butterscotch and brioche on the nose. With its long finish and the Chardonnay component being the dominant part, it accentuated one of the oldest French cheeses, i.e. Fourme D’Amberts’s creamy Auvergne farmhouse buttery blue cheese.
With the evening being framed in a bit of light-hearted education about both the bubbly emissions and the rationale behind matching them with the respective cheeses, it made for an engaging event that was rounded out with a delicious Champagne based Old Cuban cocktail, showcasing the mixology skills of Big Poppa’s bartenders.
Not married to merely wine or bubbles, fromage lover Kieran Took alluded that great things are in the making, which piqued one’s curiosity and desire to learn about Big Poppa’s next instalment of its cheese club.
While a visit to Big Poppa’s should be mandatory for your Sydney and specifically Oxford Street visit, the monthly Cheese Club events should earn themselves a place on everyone’s culinary calendar whose fancy is remotely tickled by the prospect of consuming carefully chosen cheese and quality tipples in an enjoyable atmosphere.
Photos by @k.a.vv