Thursday, 16 August 2012

Beer and food once more

Come and enjoy a gastronomic beer menu said the invitation. Come and enjoy a menu worked out by Pete Brown and Charles Campion (see below for a few words from him to the night’s MC Nigel Barden) at Great Taste at the Cadogan, a plush old school hotel in the middle of Knightsbridge. Come and enjoy some of the stars of the recent Great Taste Awards. Come and enjoy food and beer in a place where wine is the preferred tipple on the table most of the time. And so I went to the press launch of a menu that included beer in both the dishes and as accompaniment on the table.

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.

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10 comments:

  1. "...it’s generally accepted that food and beer works..."

    Yes! Like a law that is brought in but actually addresses no mischief, so to the cause of beer and food had no opposition or even no lack of history. As a movement mainly formed to advance the movers more than that which they sought moved, it is really more time to let it go and admit that no one really had a quarrel with beer with a meal at any time, you know, the history of the western world. Causing inflationary pressure on the price of beer by attaching it unnecessarily to swanky arsed food? Now that is another matter.

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    1. admit that no one really had a quarrel with beer with a meal at any time
      I wish I could. But most restaurants I go to still have shitty beer lists compared to the wine offer.

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    2. In the UK sometimes they have shitty beer lists because shortsighted licensees/restauranteurs compare how much they get for selling wine and how much for beer so they go for the easy option especially if their wholesaler can sell them one-dimensional beer alongside readymade gravy and frozen coq au vin

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  2. or to put it another way, maybe there has been too much defensiveness around food and beer, either Uriah Heep like in timid assertions of beer and food’s eligibility or Barnum T Bailey’s bellowing through a microphone about beer’s right to be at the table. Time to move on up, it’s here and it’s beer.

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  3. Shitty beer lists do not have anything to do with the concept that food and beer are age old partners. That just means you are dealing with a crap restaurants. Wine lists are generally crappy (and over priced) too. Maybe what is really being identified as those who hold themselves out as knowledgeable restaurant owners worth following don't know as much as they are taken as knowing. So, if the beer list is bad maybe the cheese tray is, too... or the ketchup sucks... or the salad's unimaginative. The placing of beer v. all of food makes less sense than beer as one part of all food. Me? Me, I rarely go out to eat for the superior food experience. But I come from a family that had chefs in it so am quite handy in the kitchen. I go out as much for the joy of good service.

    At no time in my life have I lacked access to a happily acceptable beer and food experience either in the pub or in the home. Do I have access to saison in every joint? No. But I don't care and find advocacy for this somewhat precious and needy because it fails to acknowledge how any substantive disconnect between beer and food pre-dated current beer nerdism and was concurrent with prior (and likely more sanely reduced) states of obsession with food generally.

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  4. Guess I'll have to agree to disagree on this. I know a great many people -- mostly but not exclusively a generation or so older than me -- for whom quality food and wine are very important but have no appreciation of beer beyond the hot-day refresher. These are the people for which the restaurants I'm talking about cater; indeed I imagine they're the owners and managers.

    And it's not just beer. My acquaintances in coffee geekdom tell me their situation is the same, if not worse. The vast majority of quality eateries appear to think that a big shiny Italian coffee machine is all that is required for a quality coffee offer. Not so, I'm told.

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  5. But doens't that mean that nerdism is what it is? Like, say, an audiophile who has to have 1976 speakers and amp to listen to 1976 lps, is it maybe the case that the enemy of the good is in fact the excellent and we have allowed ourselves to be overrun by excellence? Why must the world bow to the particular form of nerdism that we love?

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  6. Isn't the flip side of that "We should be happy paying for crap"?

    What we're seeing with the whole beer-with-food thing is an example yesterday's nerdism going mainstream.

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  7. The flip side is that we are happy to have good beer where it is to be found. That's what I do. There are enough good sources of supply to meet demand. I don't need a barrel aged raspberry soaked brett infected imperial stout everywhere I go. Even in my dead end of the western world I can manage my access to good beer quite nicely. I could not say that five years ago.

    And it is at a price I can afford. 75$ dinners for tiny plates and 4 oz glasses of craft beer don't help me and, in fact, hinders as paying what is asked for those partial portions of beer is a falsehood upon the marketplace and my wallet. Making good beer swank arsed is a means to allow too many to make too much on it - meaning I am asked to spend too much of my money. I like my money more than that.

    I really think all we are seeing is describers describing that something is changing implying a major shift where the actually change is so tiny as to be unidentifiable. This is along the line in the US of all those PR releases from trade associations about how craft beer has broken the 5.75778% market share wall and now sits at 5.75779% of overall beer sales. More valuable to those proclaiming the dawning of the new era than anything else. Sadly, a new too highly priced era at that.

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  8. I can see both angles. Firstly, this all sounds lovely, but yeah..It's a shame that some pubs have to have 'themed nights' , when it could be just a matter of course that they serve beer and food. I've been to some lovely meals, but at wallet-raping prices. Overall, however, this really made me salivate.

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