Cider, however, instead of beer opened up the evening as glasses of Aspalls’ Premier Cru were handed out as an aperitif before the dining room yawned chasm-like to swallow the diners.
To begin at the beginning there were three starters which each table were encouraged to share: mosaic (ok terrine) of rabbit in beer jelly, along with pickled Scottish girolles and cabbage, cooked in Sunshine from Monty’s Brewery, was paired with Otley’s O-Garden, whose jingle-jangle of spice got the terrine’s spice and sweetness singing along with the unity of the Millennium Stadium as they watch Wales surge forward time and time again. Treacle cured salmon with a beer glaze of Ola Dubh 16 was a tough call and I found the O-Garden bowing down in surrender before the oiliness of the fish (restrained as it was); it was almost as if the beer and fish cancelled each other out and all I was left with was a memory of the texture of the superbly cured salmon. Harmony reigned supreme however with the third starter Cornish Blue cheese, cobnut caramel and beer roasted shallots (Riggwelter). It was almost as if the cheese could not wait to wrap itself around the beer and announce to a waiting world when the baby was due.
Mains: squab pigeon pie with spinach parcels and butternut squash cooked with Hobsons Old Henry. This was served alongside Purple Moose’s Dark Side of the Moose, which all dark chocolate flavours that encircled themselves around the dark meat and added another layer of flavour, almost as if acting as a sauce. This was a good one. However, I had issues with the roasted sea-bass that had a Quickes Vintage Cheddar and herb crust. I loved the accompanying Bristol Hefe beer broth as the light bitterness of the Hefe meant that there was just enough in the foam-a-like broth for it to work like the sort of dream you don’t want to wake up from. The accompaniment was Bitter & Twisted, which I felt lost out to the cheese and herb crust; my thoughts were that there wasn’t enough carbonation to cut through the dairy-like fattiness of the cheese.
Then it was all the way to the puddings, three of which each table had a taster of: the Beer float Dark Island Reserve was divine when drunk in conjunction with the Ola Dubh 16 as all manner of dark flavours plus a vanilla smoothness and tobacco box adulthood encouraged an air of contemplation. The chocolate, prune and ale brownie (Old Engine Oil) also flew in the face of the oft-repeated assertion that dark beer and dark dessert shouldn’t be on the same table. Rhubarb crumble with beer jelly (Meantime London lager) was a welcome surprise, as the zinginess of Schiehallion lifted the flavour of the crumble and spun it into another dimension of being (and that’s saying something for me as due to being afflicted with a lot of it when young I’m not the greatest fan of rhubarb).
Verdict: a fabulous menu, another step forward for beer and food though a fellow beer-writer made the point to me that maybe it’s generally accepted that food and beer works, and now it’s a question of what beers to use? I thought of Byron Burgers and their craft beer selection for starters. This is thoroughly recommended bit of upscale dining with beer on the table — why not treat yourself?
The menu is priced at £18 for one-course; £23 for two-courses; and £28 for three-courses and will run until the end of September 2012. There will be an ongoing beer theme running at Great Taste at The Cadogan for the rest of the year, along with the usual wine list.