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Clarendon Street, L/Derry, N.Ireland.

of the University of Ulster

Recently I had the pleasure of being invited to a superb gourmet evening held at Mange 2 and sponsored by Classic Wines, the main supplier of wine to this up and coming restaurant. I looked forward with anticipation to discovering why Mange 2 had become one of its area’s leading dining destinations.

I was greeted by proprietors John and Laurie O'Connell, by head chef Ciaran McGuinness and by Ciaran Myler from Classic Wines. The welcome was warm and an apperitif was served to all guests as they arrived. This was an Australian sparkling wine, Yaldara Cuvee Reserve Brut, from Darragh Cartmill which is an exceptional blend of Chardonnay(70%), Pinot Noir and Semillon, its balanced fruit giving a slightly toasty rich bouquet with delicate flavor and finesse.

After mingling with Mange 2’s regular clientele we were invited to take our seats and the gourmet menu was presented. I was surprised to see such an extensive and exquisite menu on offer to a very busy restaurant, six courses in all, allowing guests to choose from a selection of tantalizing starters and innovative maincourse dishes created by the chef. Each dish was superbly matched with an appropriate wine choice.

To start with, the natural flavours of bruschetta with pesto, tomato and mozzarella were matched with a Marlborough Fairleigh Estate, a single vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2003 produced by Witherhills Vineyard of New Zealand giving luscious gooseberry and nettle herbaceous aromas and flavours, high in acidity, to cut through the powerful mozzarella.

Delicate, crispy salmon fish cakes was complemented by a South African Chenin Blanc 2003 from Lutzville situated on the banks of the Olifantsriver. It had rich ripe tropical, subtle fruit flavours with hints of lime which gave perfect balance.

A classic caesar salad was accompanied by Chileno Chardonnay 2003 from Chile, offering a complexity of passion fruit, pineapple and banana aromas blended with natural oak.

The soup course was potato and leek. I expected a heavy, cream-based soup but instead it was light and almost translucent, a showcase for the tender bits of leek and potato floating in a tender, deep rich broth. Raspberry sorbet was then greatly welcomed to refresh the palate.

An exceptional array of main dishes were presented and married with some unusual but superb wine combinations which reflected the depth of food and wine knowledge of Ciaran Myler of Classic Wines. Spiced roast duck and poached baby pears with a thyme and redcurrant jus was served with an Australian Highwood Shiraz which delivered a powerful full-bodied aroma of spicy black pepper and Bournville chocolate.

Caramelised pork fillet, sweet potato mash, red onion marmalade and baby apples were accompanied, unusually, with a red wine, Sierra Cantabria Tinto 2002 from Spain - Tempranillo and Garnacha-based with a soft, jammy character and excellent fruit, balancing acidity with hints of vanilla spice. The balance of sweet caramelisation, sweet potato and onion marmalade with the soft jammy characteristics made this an exceptional combination and perfect match.

The chicken dish had a mediterranean style, with roast peppers, red onion, basil, mozzarella and Hoi Sin vegetables generously served with Marlborough Fairleigh Chardonnay 2002. This full-bodied single vineyard Chardonnay was barrel- fermented and had tropical and passion fruit flavours with a soft velvety texture.

Sirloin steak with a rich pepper sauce and saute onions was accompanied by Vina Corral Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2002 from Colchagua region in Chile, matured in French and American oak. It was a bright, vivid, ruby red with cherry, chocolate and pepper aromas lingering endlessly on the palate.

The delicate dill-marinated salmon course with basil mash, wilted spinach, yellow pepper and dill sauce was beautifully presented and appropriately married to a classic Chablis from Joseph Drouhin. This was a steely, dry chardonnay with apple and pear aromas and slight vanilla and floral undertones.

To finish, a selection of cheese with Port was served concluding the breathtaking banquet. The food was superb, the wines magnificent. With unobtrusive yet efficient service, and the company of my good friend Sean Owens, proprietor of Gardener's Restaurant Maharafelt, my visit to Mange 2 was extremely memorable.