They’re one of the most rare, expensive and sought-after ingredients money can buy. But what’s the big deal about truffles?
If you’re a fan – or should that be addict – the unique allure of freshly shaved truffle will need no introduction.
Just the mention of truffles causes the heart to beat faster and the pupils to dilate. The aroma itself is so heady and intoxicating, it’s lust at first sight.
I was recently in Alba in northern Italy for the annual white truffle festival. With whole streets lined with stalls and alfresco menus full of prized white truffles, the deep and dizzying scent filled the entire town.
They take truffles seriously in Italy. Rightly so. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about a heavenly bowl of fresh pasta tossed simply in butter and generous shavings of the eye-wateringly expensive fungus, washed down with a glass of Barolo in the Piedmont sunshine.
But I’m home now. I need another fix, and fast. Step forward 20 Stories.
Manchester’s highest restaurant understands the appeal of truffles. They’ve created several seasonal dishes centred around the luxury ingredient, available for a limited time only.
Wide-eyed and giddy, we went to check it out.
The first starter features another much-loved ingredient: scallops. Plump, juicy, lightly seared specimens are dressed with ceps, Noilly Prat vermouth and earthy, freshly shaved autumn truffle (£14). It’s pure elegance.
The sommelier pairs it perfectly with Nyetimber Blanc de Blancs, a crisp vintage English sparkling wine made from Chardonnay with a taste of buttered toast. It’s grown in the same soil as Champagne, and last year beat the real deal at a tasting in Paris.
The second starter packs more of a punch.
A smooth terrine sees Yellison goats cheese from Yorkshire blended with wild mushroom and black truffle (£9). It’s full of powerful flavours – musky truffle, tangy goats cheese – and topped with pickled mushrooms and a mushroom sauce with more fresh truffle.
The wine match is an unusual Sauvignon Blanc with a smoky flavour, off-dry with a little sweetness of tropical fruit to balance the intensely savoury goats cheese.
Truffle lovers will need to pair up for the main course: Goosnargh truffle chicken to share (£50).
The burnished bronze bird is served whole and carved theatrically at the table. Would we like the skin? asks our server. That’s a trick question, right? It’s the best bit.
The skin is crisp and delicious, the meat gloriously tender and juicy, with a hefty hit of black truffle infusing the whole thing. It’s served with sides of tender stem broccoli and a celeriac and garlic puree topped with more truffle shavings – because you can never have too much of a good thing.
We try two different wines with the chicken using the Coravin preservation system which allows premium wines to be served by the glass without pulling the cork.
Both wines are Pinot Noirs: a complex French Gevrey Chambertin (served from a magnum – the decadence) with blackberry and plum flavours, and a Californian Santa Rita Hills from Sandhi with flavours of spice, savoury fruit, and a hint of rose petal.
This menu is an absolute treat for truffle fans. But you’ll have to be quick – it’s only on until the end of November.