There’s pork scratchings and then there’s pork chopolates. Several dollops of what looks like curled up chocolate sit on my plate. Appearances deceive. One bite and several sensations car-crash on the palate: salt and sweet, bacon and dark chocolate. It’s delicious if weird in a Heston Blumenthal way. These chopolates are actually pork scratchings dipped into chocolate and served alongside vanilla ice cream and a glass of Mackeson’s venerable Milk Stout. It’s a gastronomic universe of weirdness but actually works.
I was at the White Horse pub in Parsons Green, West London, where food and beer dinners are the norm, but this is something else. Prior to the pork chopolates the biblical sounding Ram’s Horns and crunch scratchings plus guacamole dip was served with the tropically fruity golden ale JHB — the beer’s intense fruitiness fire-fought the guacamole’s chilli spiciness and lifted the salty pork flavour. A spicy Belgian wheat beer Blanche de Bruxelles was an elegantly accompaniment to Ram’s Horns and a gooseberry dip, while fish pie topped with gratinated pork scratchings devilishly did the tango with Goose Island’s 312 Urban Wheat Beer.
The whole event was the idea of beer evangelist and Beer Academy founder Rupert Ponsonby who began the evening by declaring: ‘this is a slightly loony idea’. Minus mad-scientist laugh he detailed the styles of Black Country pork scratchings: ‘single cooked’ has a luscious layer of fat; ‘double cooked’ is crunchy and salty; ‘crunch’ is double deep-fried (think Prawn Crackers minus prawns); there was also a curry spiced crunch. Finally, for scratchings connoisseurs there’s leaf. This is pure fat —my poor arteries screeched in protest.
Who needs designer crisps when you’ve got these tapas of our beer and pub culture?