Whenever I hear of the Champagne Ayala, I instinctively move the Y-sound and think of the French fashion designer, Azzedine Alaïa. This is the designer loved by 1990s supermodels: all black, super tight, super sexy clothes. To my mind, this Champagne is not dissimilar in style: elegant, sensual yet precise.
Ayala is not just a miserable step-child of Bollinger. When Bollinger acquired Ayala in 2005 it put money where it was needed and then left it alone. It’s remained a Grand Marque in its own right. One of the original “drier styles” of Champagnes developed in the 1860s. Both Bollinger and Ayala are neighbours situated in Aÿ, an area known for its Pinot Noir, but this is where the similarities between Bollinger and Ayala style end.
What is the difference between Bollinger and Ayala? To keep the 1990s fashion theme going, Bollinger is to Ayala as Georgio Armani is to Azzedine Alaïa. And Ayala (and Alaia) is less mainstream and well-known. For me, I love Bollinger but sometimes it has to be Ayala Champagne Brut Majeur NV for its slightly drier and lighter style.
At Hook Camden, the lovely Dublin lads created special fish dishes to match Champagne as chosen by Wine Trust. For the Ayala Brut Majeur NV it was lemon and fennel panko-crumbed sea bass with an oyster and sorrel sauce.
The crunchy and light breadcrumb of dehydrated lemon and fennel seeds ground to a powder was deliciously spicy on this sea bass – move over KFC for the crunch -and the 40% Pinot Noir component of the Ayala Brut Majeur NV could handle the big flavours easily.
When you have rich flavours, that’s the moment to reach for this style of Champagne. Don’t forget the flavours in the sauce, too. Ayala Brut Majeur NV danced all night like Naomi with the saline buzz of the Oyster and Sorrel sauce.
About Hook Camden:
This is a place I’ve been wanting to try since it opened on busy Parkway in Camden – I’d heard about their first pop up in Dublin pushing mackerel and then their following huge success in Belgium. This is what Camden needs, especially after a few post-gig drinks, a place where you can have excellent fish and Scottish potato chips with sherry vinegar (applied with precision atomisers). Although I suggest not to go window shopping for Azzedine Alaïa afterwards.
Warning: If you plan to go – and I highly recommend you do – don’t be deceived by the beach-shack-look, this is not your average fish and chip joint. If you go to Hook Camden looking for classic cod and chips, you won’t find it. Not that you would be disappointed with what you’d find.
About Wine Trust:
Sitting next to Nick Adams MW from Wine Trust, previously Armit Wines, I learned how this online wine company chose the wine for the night. All of the wines were chosen blind and then correlated back to the price. They want to present wines that showed typicity of style but also good value for the quality. This is advice is gold when we live in a murky world of Champagne pricing with its false discounting and powerful brands. .
Unless you have fish that is very simply and naturally done – such as at this seafood restaurant in Sydney – then don’t forget to think about the batter and sauce. If you want classic fish and chips with a Champagne? To be brutally honest, the best match is a cup of strong Yorkshire tea. But if you genuinely want to taste exciting flavour combinations, go to Hook Camden for an amazing array of fish, batters, and sauces. This will definitely go with a glass or two of Champagne (preferably Pinot Noir based).
Hook Camden – 63-65 Parkway, Camden Town, London NW1 7PP
Ayala Champagne Brut Majeur NV
£29 per bottle