Pork and pepper burrito paired with Oakham's Scarlet Macaw

Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Done right, burritos are a wonderful all-in-one meal. Tender, spicy meat, soft beans, well seasoned rice and enough chilli heat and lime zing to keep your tastebuds firing and help the flavour rise above the rich stodge. Sadly, so many Mexican restaurants fall into the trap of laziness and everything ends up tasting like chilli con carne either wrapped, fried, smothered in cheese, or all of the above.

This recipe Is certainly filling and has all the comfort food satisfaction you love about burritos but with a fresh chilli kick, lime rice and smokey sauce that all combine to give a wonderful balance of flavour - perfectly suited to pairing with the fantastic Scarlet Macaw from Oakham brewery.


Ingredients (feeds 4)

Burrito sauce

  • 1 finely chopped onion
  • 1 finely chopped green chilli
  • 1 crushed clove garlic
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • Teaspoon cumin seeds
  • Tablespoon tomato purée
  • Tablespoon wahaca hot chile de arbol sauce
  • Teaspoon sweet smoked paprika

  • 3-4 pork shoulder steaks, thinly sliced
  • Drained tin of white kidney beans (or other)
  • 4-5 peppers, sliced
  • 1 crushed clove garlic
  • 2 teaspoons chilli flakes
  • 2 sliced ripe avocados
  • 100-150g grated mature cheddar cheese
  • 200g basmati rice
  • Bunch fresh coriander
  • 1 fresh lime
  • Plus 4 very large soft tortillas

Start by cooking your rice for about 2 minutes less than the packet instructions say, in plenty of well salted water. Drain and set aside to cool.

Next make your sauce by frying the onion and chopped fresh chilli with a good crack of salt and olive oil. Cover with a lid and sweat on a low heat until very soft and light golden. Add a little pinch of sugar near the end to help them caramelise a little. Next add the crushed garlic, cumin seeds, tomato purée and a good twist of black pepper, cook for another minute or so then add in the tinned tomatoes and wahaca sauce (if you can't get this then add 1 tsp of chipotle paste, one tsp chilli powder, 1 teaspoon ground cumin - but really, it's a hero ingredient and well worth seeking out) plus an extra half tin full of water. Let this bubble away then blend to a smooth sauce.

While your sauce bubbles away brown your pork on a high heat in plenty of olive oil along with the chilli flakes and salt and pepper. Once well browned add in your peppers and crushed garlic and toss until softened and a little charred.

Next deglaze the pan with a glug of water and scrape all the bits from the bottom, then add in 3/4 of your burrito sauce and the tin of drained beans. Stir until well combined.

Next the fun (and messy) bit! First add a handful of chopped coriander, fresh black pepper and the juice of half a lime into the rice, stir then spoon onto the four tortillas. Next top with a handful of grated cheese and a big spoonful of the filling mix before a final topping of sliced avocado. Wrap up the burritos and place (tightly packed ideally) into a greased baking dish before topping with the remaining burrito sauce and a final scattering of cheese. Bake on a high heat for 15-20 minutes until the cheese is melted and golden.

Not a simple recipe, but one I can guarantee you will want to make again. It even reheats brilliantly, so prepare to fend off jealous work colleagues loitering around the microwave.

Serve with a simple crisp salad and a large glass of the wonderful Scarlet Macaw.


The beer!

This Oakham beer is just a knockout combination with the burritos. Sweet and soggy hops sacks smack you round the head whilst perfectly judged caramel soothes the lupulin burn on your tongue.

Just when you think it's all over the hops make one last appearance, drying your mouth and leaving citrus peel zest tingling as you contemplate the next sip. Mango, apricot skin, and gooseberry vie for attention in this beautifully balanced beer.

With the burritos it just works, with the spice of the burritos bringing out the sweetness in the beer and the hops dovetailing nicely with the zesty lime of the rice.

Give this one a go guys!


Top five presents for foodies and beer lovers

Sunday, December 08, 2013
Buying presents can be a bit of a nightmare, particularly due to the amount of crap that floods the shops with panicked Christmas shoppers in mind - with row after row of celebrity endorsed Christmas recipe books and tv cooking show tie-ins making it almost impossible to separate the wheat from the chaff.

One thing that makes things instantly easier is to avoid anything Christmas themed. There are loads of good Christmas recipes online and lets be honest, it's one day a year, how useful is 'Gordon Ramsey does Xmas' (or whatever it's called) going to be in the grand scheme of things?

That said, a great food or recipe book is for a foodie a perfect gift. Not least in the sense that it gives you something to read once all the presents are open.

Beer lovers are even harder to buy for, but once again, I'd say avoid anything Christmas themed for a start. With that in mind here are my top five Christmas presents for foodies and beer lovers, in no particular order.

Fuller's Vintage Ale

These make an excellent gift. Well packaged, attractive beers that just look special, and even have a slight Christmas feel with their rich red box. Buy two vintages - perhaps the oldest and newest ones available - and give to any budding beer geek and you'll be extremely popular. A delicious education.

PIE by Dean Brettschneider

This is just a fantastic recipe book, beautifully presented. By focussing on pies rather than a variety of dish types the book is actually given freedom to pull in obscure combinations you might not otherwise have heard of. So yes there's a cracking beef Wellington recipe, but there's also a delicious looking chorizo and monkfish pot-pie and a pear and fennel tarte tatin - recipes which in a less focused book might not have got a look in.

Truman's London Keeper Stout

This stunningly packaged 750ml champagne style bottle would make a perfect gift. Ivory wax dipped and with a letterpress label hand printed by a small London based company, this is truly a thing of beauty - never mind the fact it is the first beer produced from the new home of the recently resurrected Truman brewery. It's a very special beer that any beer lover would love to stow at the back of the cupboard.

Hamburger America

This book is so much more than a guide to the best burger joints in America, it's a poignant history of small town America combined with an at times heart breaking cross section of the changing nature of roadside USA. It genuinely knocked me sideways. So sweet, so personal, and with a genuinely touching story to tell of the mom and pop burger joints across America. So much more than a road guide.

A curated selection of beers

Any beer lover will like to receive interesting beer for Christmas, but it's hard to know what to buy. Though as a rule, nothing in a ' Christmas gift' package. There are lots of great online sellers and some worthwhile shops, so choose a curated, interesting selection, with a theme. The three beers shown are a British imperial stout (Harvey's) a smoked German Marzen (Schlenkerla) and a big, thick imperial stout from Denmark (Mikkeller Black). All big, strongly flavoured and perfect for winter. They fit well together, and I'd day a small considered selection with a theme makes a wonderful gift, as opposed to something a little less personal.


So there you have it. My top picks of presents that are sure to impress.

Merry Christmas!

B.O.B's Lobster at The Rising Sun

Tuesday, November 26, 2013
I’ve been hearing great things about B.O.B’s Lobster for a while now, with their converted VW campervan popping up at Borough Market and street food events throughout the summer and serving up much lauded toasted brioche lobster rolls and their now famous lobster mac ’n cheese.

Now, as winter rolls in thick and fast they have taken things indoors with a new residency above The Rising Sun half way between the Thameslink (overground) station and Blackfriars stations, utilising the upstairs space to great affect to create a modern, somewhat shabby-chic yet cosy environment. If that sounds pretentious then be assured it isn’t, the place is welcoming and thoughtfully done and the staff are enthusiastically friendly to the say the least.

First things first, those looking for a ‘residency’ in the style of The Sebright Arms in Hoxton, where a huge range of quality beers can be purchased with your Lucky Chip Burger, should look elsewhere. Bob’s is very much separate to the pub downstairs and even has it’s own separate side entrance. Furthermore you can’t order beers from the pub downstairs (which isn’t really that great for those looking for good beer) and the selection at Bobs was disappointing, bottled Peroni and Estrella only.

This really did frustrate me. A restaurant with food as good as this, which I’ll talk a little bit more about after my rant, really has no excuse in offering such lazy beer choices. Everything else on the menu was extremely well chosen, so why not give beer the same respect? A small selection of four or five seafood complementing beers would have been great, particularly if London breweries were used, I could suggest something along the lines of: A Saison from Partizan, a hoppy pale ale from The Kernel, a decent lager such as Meantime Pilsner, a nice fruity wheat beer such as Camden Town Gentleman’s Wit and maybe a smooth darker beer such as the excellent Weird Beard Decadence Stout.

Bob’s, if you’re listening, give me a shout and we can chat beer!

Anyway, on to the food.

The menu lends itself towards sharing so the best thing to do is order a few smaller plates to split and something more substantial each, we went for spicy pig’s cheek tacos, Lobster mac and cheese, and a lobster roll each. What we didn’t realise was that the Lobster rolls, delicious buttery toasted brioche filled with cold lobster and eggy homemade mayo, actually come with fries – making their £15 price tag a bit of a bargain.

We ended up with slightly more food than we needed but it all tasted so good we didn’t really care. The tacos were first to arrive (the ‘sharing’ philosophy means dishes arrive somewhat at random rather than all at once) and were a great palate awakener, with soft confit pig and smokey paprika given zest with the addition of pickled celeriac.

The lobster mac and cheese arrived next and is comfort food heaven that flies in the face of the ‘never mix cheese and seafood’ rule, with a typically American brashness. It’s full-on flavours from start to finish with a rich yet true-to-its-roots mac sauce spiked with just a little herb, a crispy onion, breadcrumb and cheese top, and some very tender lobster. All-in-all an absolute dream to eat - I could have polished off three bowls of this to myself.

Next came the lobster rolls, which are fantastic, though I would have liked just a little more of that moreish homemade mayo, such is its quality. That said, the restraint with the condiments did give that beautifully cooked lobster space to sing. I’ve sometimes found Burger and lobster to overcook their crustaceans, but none of that at Bobs – every piece was tender, full of flavour and obviously spankingly fresh.

Get the beer sorted and this place would be perfect. As it is, it's still well worth a visit.


Oh and I forgot to mention, you can book a table so no queuing, the luxury!






The Devil's Cut

Friday, November 22, 2013
There’s a beautiful synergy between my previous post The Angel’s Share and this piece on “The Devil’s Cut”, which I wish I could say was planned.

In fact this partner piece came about as the result of a generous invitation* and lucky good timing, but don't all good things have an element of Devine intervention about them?

The Devil's Cut is a term coined by the Jim Beam distillery to describe the bourbon absorbed by the wooden casks during ageing - so as “The Angel’s Share” is the whiskey lost through evaporation, “The Devil’s Cut” is the whiskey lost to the wood.

As anyone that has tasted a bourbon barrel-aged beer can attest, there is a lot of woody, vanilla rich bourbon character left behind once the whiskey itself is removed from the cask, and it’s this trapped spirit that Jim Beam have utilised to great effect in their new whiskey of the same name.

The bottled “Devil’s Cut” Bourbon from Jim Beam is a combination of a 6 year aged bourbon and the intensely flavoured spirit extracted from the wood of the emptied barrels – a novel idea that you could pass off as a marketing gimmick if the end product wasn’t such a vast improvement on their standard offering.

Jim Beam white is the best selling bourbon in the world (Jack Daniels is a Tennessee Whiskey - not a Bourbon) so they must be doing something right, but it is a bit of an inelegant beast, something usually enjoyed with coke and not the kind of whiskey you'd ponder over. The Devil’s Cut on the other hand really is a bourbon I could see myself sipping rather than supping, with a spicy oak sweetness and lingering, sweetly charred finish that puts some much more expensive bourbons to shame.

It’s actually a much stronger whiskey too at 45% abv compared to the standard white label which weighs in at 40% - but that extra strength doesn’t come with extra heat and the long maturation ensures the Devil’s Cut is actually a much smoother sipper than the standard bourbon, but with lots of added complexity in the aroma and flavour.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Jim Beam's The Devil’s Cut is not a nuanced world class bourbon, like the excellent George T Stagg by Buffalo Trace, and it doesn’t have the wow factor of other American whiskies like Highwest Double Rye - but in terms of sheer bang-for-your-buck quality? It’s one of the best I’ve tried.

If you’re looking for an affordable bourbon with lots of oak flavour, perhaps to use as the basis of a great old fashioned or to sip neat, then this is well worth a punt.


Next post... Beer. I promise.


*I was invited to try the a range of Jim Beam bourbon products (including their honey and cherry flavoured varieties which are not to my tastes at all) as part of a huge PR event currently going on at the Old Truman Brewery on Brick lane (more info here: http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/jim-beam-stillhouse-tickets-3737446804 - be quick if you'd like to attend tonight, it's the last night). I didn’t know what to expect but getting to hear the story of the Jim Beam Distillery from the man’s own great-great-great Grandson was pretty special, and made the whole thing worthwhile. That said, the Devil’s Cut was the only part of the ‘Jim Beam Experience’ that I thought was worth writing about,despite it being on the whole extremely interesting. It is genuinely an excellent bourbon, you should give it a try.


The Angel's Share

Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Beer will always be my first love, the centre that I come back to time and time again. The variety, the drinkability, the capacity for discovery within the beer world will always be beguiling and fascinating to me. I love it.

But every now and again I do find myself flirting with temptation elsewhere, playing away so-to-speak. Whether it’s a super cold fino sherry enjoyed alongside charcuterie, or a blood-thick Bordeaux with a heavily charred ribeye, some situations call for something other than beer.

My latest obsession is Scottish single malt whisky - or to be more precise, big peaty, smokey Islay whiskies. Whisky that bursts forth with seaweed and salty air followed by the sweet, warming crackle of smouldering wood.

It’s a world of flavour I’m gingerly shuffling into, eyes blinking against a rush of smoke filled air, discovering new favourites somewhat blindly as I sip my way across the plethora of flavours. From the rich fruitcake, orange and raisin of some whiskies to the delicate grapefruit or burnt wood of others, there is a dizzying spectrum of sensory signposts to follow.

For me, my ‘gateway’ whisky was Highland Park 12 Year Old. It’s frequently cited as one of the best all-rounder single malts in the world, all at once fruity and complex, but with a long, sweetly smokey finish – I was hooked from my first sip and went through a bottle in a liver-flexingly fast couple of weeks.

It’s still a whisky I love, an amazingly balanced dram that I don’t think I could ever get bored of. Drank with just a few drops of water (less really is more), it’s a whisky that is approachable yet explorable, which you will appreciate more and more as time goes on.

But as with all things, tastes move on and recently it’s been the massively intense flavours of Islay whisky that have been grabbing my attention. Perfect for sipping during the cold winter months, Islay whisky occupies a flavour spectrum which runs through smoke, peat, salt, seaweed, ash, wood, burnt toffee and even in some of the more ‘medicinal’ examples a touch of TCP and iodine. My tastes certainly lean towards the smoky, peaty section of the spectrum rather than the medicine cabinet, but all are interesting and attention grabbing in their own way.

There's just something of the magical about single malt whisky, even the terminolgy is full of colour and poetry. "The Angel’s Share" is a case in point - it refers to the amount of whisky lost from the barrel each year as it matures, either through evaporation of water or alcohol which can, depending on the climate, increase or decrease the abv of the whisky.

It’s a beautiful piece of imagery that for me perfectly aligns with the magic and alchemy of whisky - how something as simple as distilled malt could, with the benefit of wood and patience, become something so much more than the sum of its parts.






Flex your palate and try some of these slightly unusual flavour combinations

Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Cooking is something I love doing, it’s relaxing and creative to me in the same way as painting is to others. But I think the thing that most appeals is not just the fact you can eat your creations, it’s that the results are (relatively) instant and the choices are infinite.

As opposed to the colours on a palette, the flavours on your palate are limited only by your imagination and bravery. There are a million different foods out there to enjoy, and an infinite number of combinations to discover.

So here are some combinations that you might not have tried - some are the pairing of ingredients you mighty not expect whilst some are food and drink matches which seem unusual, but work - all are delicious and well worth a try.

Ice-cream with olive oil and sea salt

I know what you’re thinking, cream, oil, salt!? But it actually works. Take a few scoops of very good plain ice cream (either vanilla or a plain milk ice cream, preferably homemade) and drizzle with a very, very good olive oil before sprinkling with a few flakes of good quality see salt. This combination lives and dies by its ingredients - so only do this one with seriously good icecream, oil and salt – but trust me, it works.

Why it works: A good quality, peppery, fresh olive oil has a surprisingly non-greasy mouthfeel and simply acts alongside the salt to season the icecream and extenuate the creaminess and sweetness in your mouth. Weird, but great.

Porter and a spicy tomato curry

Whilst many people will tell you that India Pale Ale is the only choice when it comes to curry, they’re wrong - it’s much more complicated than that. Clashing bitter hops against fiery chilli can sometimes work, but often you need a little malt sweetness to stop your mouth feeling like it’s taking a battering. So next time think about a darker, more roasted tasting beer to go with that smoky, spicy curry – especially if it contains lamb or beef, which both work great with porter.

Why it works: Paired with an umami-laden tomato-based curry like rogan josh, porter works amazingly well. The savoury, smokey roasted malt dovetails perfectly with the spicy tomato and the added malt sweetness soothes your tastebuds between mouthfuls of chilli heat.

Mango Chutney and blue cheese

I feel like I’ve been banging on about this one for years but I’m going to keep doing so until everybody has tried it. It shouldn’t work, it sounds ridiculous, but it really, really works. Next time you’re making a burger at home generously smear the bun lid with a sweet mango chutney (nothing too fancy or spicy is needed) and top the burger with a thick slice of blue cheese (I like stilton) – you will be amazed at how good this tastes.

Why it works: The cheese and chutney combo is well known but this leftfield example works great as the sweetness of the mango contrasts amazingly with the funky, slightly sourness of the blue cheese.

Hopped up Belgian beers and Thai food

Thai food is notoriously difficult to pair with beer. Sure Chang will work fine if you want a palate cleanser, but in terms of really bouncing flavours around you need to look for a beer that’s much more complex. Thai food is a balance of salty, sweet, hot and sour flavours, often with creamy coconut complicating things further. So you need to go for a beer that is just as varied and complex, and hopped up Belgian beers like the excessively named La Chouffe Houblon Chouffe Dobbelen IPA Tripel fit that bill perfectly. (Or alternatively a hoppy saison would work too).

Why it works: The La Chouffe IPA is a complex mix of fruity esters, smooth sweetness which works to quell the heat of thai food and big, floral hops that seem to highlight the ginger, lemongrass and coriander top notes of many thai dishes. It has a lot going on but somehow works perfectly with a number of Thai dishes I’ve tried, from green curry to spicy papaya salad (Som Tum)- it works amazingly well.


What unusual or surprising combinations have you enjoyed? I’d love to hear your suggestions.


Review of Oaka at The Mansion House, Kennington - Oakham Ales newest restaurant

Monday, November 04, 2013
Some breweries make hops shout, Oakham make them sing. Pulling off that elusive combination of extreme hoppiness and effortless drinkability, Oakham beers are so much more than hop bombs, they have a freshness which allows the flavour of the hops to really shine.

So, when I heard about Oaka in Kennington, the newest Oakham Ales restaurant, I was more than a little bit intrigued. It opened in March this year and is Oakham brewery’s first venture into the capital, taking the tried and tested pub-with-a-thai-attached to a whole ‘nuther level. It’s a similar combination to the excellent Brewery Tap in Peterborough, their brewpub I visited a couple of years ago.

The first thing you notice when you walk into Oaka is the polished-ness of everything. It looks like an upmarket thai restaurant rather than a pub - that said, the welcome is warm and there’s just as many people in for a pint as a pad thai.

I started off with a cracking pint of their Inferno Pale ale, a beautifully bitter and citrussy four percenter that punches way above its weight, and which worked great with the sweet and spicy curried pumpkin gyoza I had to start. The tempura prawns were light, crisp and faultless.

We ordered a couple of main dishes to share, in an effort to do the menu justice. The best of the bunch was a perfectly balanced Som Tum salad of thinly sliced green papaya, chilli, lime, peanuts and fish sauce. It’s one of my favourite dishes when done as well as this, adding much needed freshness to your plate and offsetting the rich fattyness of the roast duck red curry and aromatic soy braised pork belly we ordered too.

The pork was simplicity itself. Well cooked, well seasoned pork belly slow braised with soy sauce, chilli and palm sugar until it’s as richly flavoured and tender as is humanly possible. Umami on a plate and a perfect counterpoint to the hot and snappy papaya salad. The duck was tasty enough, but I was expecting a thicker, richer curry than the one that arrived – which was just a touch thin I thought. Still, a minor stumble in an otherwise faultless meal. The coconut rice was as sticky and moreish as you'd expect.

Alongside the mains I tucked into Oakham’s new seasonal beer ‘Asylum’, a pale amber beer which has the hops dialled back somewhat compared to the likes of Inferno or Citra, but which again managed the effortless drinkability I’ve come to expect.

Speaking to the chap behind the bar I narrowly missed an opportunity to try a rare dark beer (Oakham’s Porter) from this brewery who are known for their pale and hoppy beers. The regulars must’ve rated highly too as it was gone as quick as it came.

If you’re looking for somewhere to eat quality pan Asian food and drink some of the best cask beers in the country, then Oaka is pretty much without competition. I’ll be back again soon.



Drinking my way into winter

Wednesday, October 30, 2013
In late summer, where a few warm days can still be snatched before the intermittent winds and showers of Autumn - which, by the day is threatening to rear its head around a quickly withering tree trunk - I’ll still be quaffing pale ales and searching out hops with a fervour which says the sun won’t last forever, like a squirrel hastily burying nuts before it’s too late.

But with the inevitability of the coming cold my tastes will change, almost overnight, and as those telling specks of brown, gold, russet and red start to dapple the trees I’ll be looking for beers which present themselves in a similar hue, with a richer flavour that bridges the gap between malt and hops, summer and winter.

Then as the first frost hits the ground and the skies grow heavy with rain, sleet, snow even, I’ll be reaching for a beer that warms, nourishes, with a depth of flavour which combines a cheek-warming strength, and a deep, dark sweetness – a heavily laden brew that sits stoutly in the glass and forces you to take your time.


The Draft House, Charlotte St, London

Wednesday, October 23, 2013
After visiting the quite frankly fantastic Patty & Bun last week I tweeted asking if anybody could recommend a good new craft beer bar nearby in Central London. Of the various suggestions which came back two names came up more than any others: The Pelt Trader and Draft House.

The latter, on Charlotte street, was the closer and therefore got my vote. It also had the advantage of looking to have a bit of outside standing room and even a few chairs, which on a rare sunny autumn day is a thing not to be sniffed at.

First impressions are good. It looks like a pub. Wooden floor, proper bar, homemade pork scratchings the size of shatterproof rulers and a chalkboard. Chalkboards are essential in my opinion. They allow the staff to quickly update the information pertaining to what’s on draught as they change it - meaning I can decide what I want before I get to the bar.

The beer selection was also great. All well chosen and interesting, but not so bonkers, barrel aged or rare that your wallet gives out before your thirst. Thanks to an Oktoberfest promotion there were quite a few German beers on to - Paulaner Dunkel and ‘Oktoberfest’ (a maltier 6% version of their lager) I believe, plus one more that slips my mind. These were around £5.50 a pint or you could buy a 1 litre stein for £8 – a marked saving that would have probably suckered me in if not for the fact there were too many other beers I wanted to try.

I started with a Moor Top from Buxton brewery which was extremely hoppy – grapefruit and mixed citrus - with not a hint of sweetness to stop those hops punishing the pallet. That said there is a smoothness to the body that keeps this 3.6% beer from slipping into wateriness - a class act as ever from the buxton boys and a damned fine low abv beer.

Next up was Wild Beer Co ‘Fresh’ on cask. This is a beer I’ve heard a lot of good things about but which can be different everytime you taste it. Apparently they have a semi-fixed recipe but substitute the hops for whatever is freshest – not a bad idea but makes things a bit of a guessing game for the drinker. This one tasted like a sort of tutti fruity cask wit, with a really inviting fruity aroma and a tangerine and children's fruit-chew flavour spiked with hints of saison like yeast notes. Interesting, decent, but one was enough, which seems to be my conclusion for most of Wild Beer’s range.

After that, I couldn’t resist the straightforward lupulin hit of Victory Hop Devil on keg. With an extremely floral and perfumed aroma this was a very different beast to the bottles I’ve tried previously. The flavour was smooth, balanced and lightly sweet with peach and apricot sitting behind rose, pine and fruit-salad chews. Really drinkable and not too bitter, this is a fantastic beer that really suits being served a bit colder.

Sierra Nevada porter was as roasty, smooth and good as always, though benefitted from being left to warm up a little. It also went great with the spicy, thin, salami like bar snacks being sold (about a pound each). The barman's description of 'posh pepparami' was pretty spot on, though his advice to just eat them as they are, 'straight in', wasn't. You need to peel the outer casing off first.

My last beer of the night was the ever dependable Lagunitas IPA. Whilst I've seen quite a few tweets from people exclaiming the freshness of this recently in the UK i'm not sure I can agree completely. It was much less bitterly hoppy than when I drank it in NYC - sure it's travelled better than some US beers available over here, but super fresh? I'm not sure. On this occasion it was tasting bittersweet with a slight resinous pine note and a dry lemon rind finish. It goes down smooth but is missing the punch that the Hop Devil delivered - more of an everyday IPA by all accounts, but eminently drinkable all the same.

Overall, I enjoyed Draft House and would certainly give it another go if I was ducking away from the horrors of Oxford St. They’ve got a few outlets all over London, so no doubt experience will vary and I’d love to know your thoughts on their other spots.


The Draft House, Charlotte St, London


(First photo credit The Draft House)


Lily Vanilli Wit Beer - Sebright Arms Homebrew Project

Monday, October 21, 2013
This is my second beer from the Sebright Arms Homebrew Project, the first being a stonking Black IPA brewed in collaboration with local artist 'Pure Evil'.

The collaborator this time is Lily Vanilli, with another stunningly designed label but a very different beer inside - a Belgian style wit (wheat/white) beer brewed with English wild berries and a Gorse Flower, whatever the hell that is.

As I popped the cap of this beer it exploded like a Las Vegas watershow, with pale pink foam rising an inch above the bottle and flowing down the sides. Not to worry, these things happen and its a wit anyway, so no issues with the yeast being all mixed into the beer.

When I eventually got it into a glass the first thing that jumps out is the bright pink grapefruit colour. Very unusual looking, with those berries and flowers tinting the pale wheat malt base quite dramatically.

The aroma has a hint of wet leaves and an ever-so-slight hard cheese edge which reminds me of some traditional ciders. It's not an unpleasant smell but it isn't exactly inviting either.

The taste is much more subdued. With a saison like sourness sitting alongside a floral, rose petal note and not a lot else. Further investigation reveals a fleeting orange fruitiness and a brief drying in the finish, but apart from that there isn't a great deal going on.

It's underwhelming but interesting - and quite refreshing in a watery kind of way.

That said, perhaps the exploding nature of my bottle was evidence of an infection or something else gone awry during bottling. Equally, perhaps I'm judging this a little harshly after the excellent Black IPA they brewed last time around - if you've tried this beer and had a better experience then I'd love to hear your thoughts.



Patty & Bun

Friday, October 18, 2013
I try to steer clear of putting too many burger joint reviews up on here. Firstly because other people do it better, but secondly because I just haven’t got time to stay on top of the newest openings and ‘hottest’ places to try.

That said, I’ve eaten some pretty awesome burgers in London. Meat Liquor and Meat Mission are both excellent, with Meat Mission being my personal favourite thanks to the fact you can book a table (what a luxury!) and the perfection that are ‘monkey fingers’. Despite the slightly macabre name, a regular occurence across the Meat Mission menu, they’re basically zingy hot wings minus the bones – and ridiculously tasty.

Honest Burger is also great, and has the advantage of not feeling like you’re eating your burger in a bombed-out squat. The burgers are big, tasty, pink and juicy – and the rosemary chips are like culinary crack.

I’ve also heard good things about Dirty Burger and Lucky Chip (currently in residency at The Sebright Arms) but I’ve not had chance to get down there yet.

So whilst I might not blog about it much, I do like a good burger and am pretty sure I've tried some of the best London has to offer.

Which brings me to my point... Patty & Bun opened up on James Street (behind Bond Street tube station) just less than a year ago, but thanks to a series of much lauded pop-ups by owner Joe it has a reputation which stretches back even further than that, and has been at the top of my must try list for a while now.

There’s plenty of competition, but after visiting yesterday on a rare mid-week day off I can say one thing for certain about Patty & Bun - what sets it apart is the beef. Quite simply, the burger was by far the best I’ve ever eaten. Perfectly cooked to medium rare, it is insanely full flavoured and beefy with an execution that really lets that perfect patty sing.

Yes the rosemary chips are great and the brioche buns are spot-on, they even sell Kernel Pale Ale, but the reason you should visit Patty & Bun is to taste that 35 day dry aged Aberdeen Angus beef.

Using a blend of cuts perfected over months, if not years, of trial and error, the patty is pure perfection and worth double the £7.50 asking price.

This is what a burger should taste like.


Patty & Bun

54 James St,
Greater London
United Kingdom



Pea shoots and pancetta risotto matched with Saison Dupont

Wednesday, October 16, 2013
When I was growing up there was a field near our first house that, for just a few weeks a year, was full to bursting with fresh, fragrant, luminously green peas growing in their pods.

Maybe it was the excitement and subterfuge of sneaking into the field to nick a few pocketfuls that made the reward all the sweeter, but nothing tasted as good as those freshly podded peas - and the memory of popping the pods and snaffling the raw and intensely sweet contents is one of my fondest foodie memories.

This dish is an homage to those pilfered pods, with fresh green pea shoots giving the all important raw pea flavour and freshness to a light yet deeply flavoured risotto of pancetta, parmesan, and of course, peas.

It’s a simple, comforting dish, with a surprising lightness that some risottos can lack. A dish that eases you into autumn, like one of those rare days of crisp, cold air and late-summer sunshine.

To make the pea-shoot, pancetta and parmesan risotto

Start by frying some cubed pancetta (around 100g is plenty) on a medium heat in a good glug of light olive oil, then remove to a plate once crispy but not crunchy, before adding a very finely diced onion and two cloves of garlic. At this stage I like to add a little salt to help the onions release their juices then cover and leave to cook on a very low heat for about 15 minutes. Adding the lid really helps to sweat rather than fry the onions and makes them disintegrate into a soft, sweet but uncoloured mush. A perfect base for risotto.

Once the onions are cooked you need to turn the heat up a little and add your rice, coating it in the onion-garlic-oil mixture and toasting the rice until it just starts to ‘crack’. Be carefully not to overcook your rice at this stage (either cooking too long or too hot) or it will colour and ‘seal’ which is not what you want as it effects the way the rice releases its starch - the thing which gives risotto its creaminess.

Next add a large glass of white wine or a glug of saison and deglaze the pan before adding your pancetta back in.

Now the fun bit (depending on your persuasion). Add a ladle of hot chicken or veg stock from a pot simmering next to your risotto pan, stir with a wooden spoon and let the stock be absorbed, then add another ladle, stir, let it absorb. Repeat this process of adding stock a ladle at a time and stirring until the rice is just cooked (I prefer it with a little structure but not quite ‘al dente’) and the risotto is looking smooth, creamy and voluminous. This stage could take anywhere from 20-30 minutes - but be patient, pour yourself a beer, stick on the radio, and the results will be worth it.

300g of rice will serve 3-4 people and will soak up around 750ml of stock. If you need a touch more then add a little extra water.

Once the rice is cooked to your liking add a large handful of frozen peas, another handful of torn pea shoots, a BIG knob of butter and as much good quality, unpasteurized parmigiano reggiano as you dare (be brave) before whipping the whole lot into a creamy, oozy, delicious wave of a thing that moves freely when ladled (add a touch of water if it’s too stiff).

Season to taste with salt and black pepper before ladling into wide pasta bowls and topping with a handful of raw pea shoots, a final grating of parmesan and dusting of cracked black pepper.

The freshness of those pea shoots just lifts the whole dish, adding a counterpoint in both flavour and texture to the rich and gloopy risotto beneath - they're essential, and delicious, so make sure you use them when making this.

Beer match

With something like a mushroom risotto - with its deep, rich, umami ladened flavours of autumn - you can afford to be quite bold with your beer choice, even going as far as something like a roasty stout or porter (Titanic Stout springs to mind), but this risotto is a different thing altogether. The lightness and freshness of those pea shoots really push you towards the lighter end of the spectrum, yet the risotto itself is rich and spiked with pig - so what do you go for?

Well, as is often the case, Saison would be my recommendation. It is such a versatile style with food and the herbal, peppery hops underpinned by funky, savoury base notes from the yeast, would be excellent with this dish.

As it turned out, I had a bottle of chilled Saison Dupont in the fridge, which fitted the bill rather nicely. A beautiful match that still allowed those pea shoots to hold centre stage, yet dovetailed extremely well with the dish.

Give this one a try.

Beer Shop St Albans

Sunday, October 13, 2013
St Albans is a great place for beer lovers - it's the home of CAMRA and has a ridiculous amount of fantastic old school cask ale pubs - but what is really missing is a proper beer shop. Until now.

Nobody was more pleased than me to hear that the boys of "Beer:Shop" were making the move from farmers market stall holders to fully fledged beer shop owners - and that St Albans was going to be their new home.

Having a quick sneak-peek of the new premises on Friday, and then returning today to buy some bottles, I've walked away mighty impressed. The selection is extremely impressive, with some awesome American and European breweries filling the shelves alongside the best British beer has to offer.

From the UK you've got Thornbridge, Buxton, BrewDog, Kernel, Partizan, Siren, Moor, Fyne Ales, RedWillow, Dark Star, Beavertown, Weird Beard, Redchurch, Lovibonds, Wild Ales plus local (Hertfordshire) brews from the likes of Tring and Red Squirrel - which you can also buy as draught carry outs from the taps (cask and keg).

From Europe there are established favourites like Orval and Schlenkerla as well as rarer beers from Mikkeller, To Øl and Nogne O. And it's a similar story with the American selection, which had plenty of stuff I've never seen available before, alongside some classics like Black Chocolate stout from Brooklyn and Dead Guy Ale from Rogue.

What I was most impressed by was that it is very much a selection rather than an attempt to stock everything. It's a very well curated range of beers meaning that you aren't overwhelmed by choice but have absolutely loads to sink your teeth into.

They will also be doing some tasting events and tap evenings, making use of those very cool wall mounted taps.

St Albans drinkers should be very pleased this place has opened and I can't see it being anything other than extremely popular.

Good work guys.


Beer Shop, London Road, St Albans.



Who owns the soul of Mauritian food? The French, Indian or Chinese?

Monday, October 07, 2013
I can safely say that Mauritian cuisine is totally unique. With no indigenous population, the food lends elements from the various nationalities that have landed there over the years – most notably, French, Indian, and Chinese – and mixes them up to a point where it’s often hard to see the dividing lines.

Some uniquely Mauritian dishes are often referred to as ‘Creole’ in style (Creole is the French based language widely spoken on the island) - The classic example is Rougaille, a sort of tomato, garlic, ginger and chilli sauce often served with prawns – but most dishes have their distant origins off the island.

You could argue that Vindaye Poisson – a deliciously mustardy, vinegary dish of pickled, curried fish and onions that can be served warm or cold – has its roots in Indian Vindaloo, but in terms of the way it tastes, it is a dish unique to Mauritius which doesn’t compare at all.

A Chinese influenced example is Mine Frit, a noodle dish which obviously has origins in China but which features the very Mauritian flavours of garlic water, spring onion greens, chicken or prawn and a thick and fiery green chilli sauce. Another is Boulette, a sort of Mauritian Dim Sum of steamed meat, fish, veg and tofu parcels or patties served in a clear but flavoursome broth and garnished with chilli, spring onion and a little dark salty sauce (often oyster sauce).

French influences can clearly be seen in the fact baguettes are a daily staple, ‘Gateau’ and small sweet cakes being a part of every market and in classic French dishes with a Mauritian twist such as Daube – a slow cooked, very lightly spiced beef dish.

Other dishes, such as Gateuax Piment, sound on the face of them very French thanks to the native language. But it’s not that simple, as despite the name, what we’re talking about here are small, deepfried lentil and chilli balls. So Indian in origin maybe? Well perhaps, but consider that they’re often served in a baguette as breakfast, lunch, or even a late night snack, and it’s easy to see why Mauritian cuisine is difficult to pigeon hole.

Food is a forever changing and evolving scrapbook, with dishes moving across continents and becoming part of the local cuisine with their own specific twist. To focus on the origins is to miss the point a little. Let’s just be happy that the little microcosm that is Mauritius has taken these influences and let them develop their own character over time.

That’s what’s so exciting, that’s why it’s worth trying, and that’s why if you visit Mauritius and stay in your hotel then you’re a bloody idiot.

Expect more Mauritian posts to come. Next time, Mauritian tapas, aka 'Gajack' or maybe some Rum. I haven't quite decided yet.


For new readers to this thing I used to call a blog, you might want to have a read of the stuff I’ve written on Mauritius in previous years - it’s a little island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, near Madagascar and the Maldives, which, thanks to having family over there, we try to visit most years.


Should we count tasty flukes as successes or failures?

Sunday, September 08, 2013
Nobody likes off beer, or infected beer, or beer with an unwanted sourness. Or to put it another way, nobody likes beer that tastes bad.

But some beers such as lambics or wheat beers have unusual spicy, sour or yeasty flavours or characteristics which in other beers would be considered a flaw. But what if some of those unusual flavours creep into a beer where they're not wanted? In most cases they will ruin the beer, but sometimes, albeit rarely, it works.

But here's the million dollar question, if the 'weird' flavours are unintentional but it somehow works, do you think of it as a good beer?

The beer which brought this question sharply into focus for me was a bottle of Tickety Brew Pale Ale. On the bottle an American hopped pale ale is described, yet what I tasted was very different to what you'd expect. But tasty nonetheless.

It pours a glowing orange that is bang on for the style and gives no clue to the tangent you're about to be sent on. Then immediately after pouring you get a yeasty, almost belgian spiciness, which recedes after a minute to a background spiciness spiked through with citrus hops.

The flavour is quite unusual, with an almost saison-like character battling with orange spiced hops for your attention. The overall impression is of a hoppy American pale ale fermented with a Beligan yeast, like a less extreme version of something like Flying Dog's raging bitch. It's bottle conditioned and I'd be interested to know what yeast is used, and whether something a bit wilder has snuck in.

Anybody else tried this beer? It's available from beer hawk so why not give it a go and let me know.

Maybe it's just me.


Ribman's Rib Meat Rolls

Tuesday, September 03, 2013
I visited Street Feast's new home in Dalston last Friday and was mightily impressed. There's a lot more room and more atmosphere, thanks to loads of different seating areas, than Merchant's Yard and the event is all the better for it.

The celebration of London street food that is Street Feast deserves a post of it's own, which is to come soon, but in the meantime I want to give a quick shout out to the bets thing I ate there - The Ribman's Rib Meat Rolls.

High quality pork ribs, stripped from the bone after a very long, slow cooking (The Ribman arrives at the venue the night before and cooks overnight) the meat is clean and succulent with a great pork flavour not masked by too much sauce. Just think of the best pulled pork sandwich you've ever had, and you're some way there.

Stuffed into a crudely sliced, yet perfectly proportioned bun, and topped with your choice of either homemade Holy Fuck hot sauce or BBQ sauce, it's a pretty much perfect thing. A thing of beauty.

Visit www.theribman.co.uk to see where he'll be next.


Mauritian Street Food and Rum pop-up restaurant

Wednesday, August 28, 2013
I've written about Mauritian food a fair bit over the last 3 years or so. It's an amazing place with a cuisine quite unlike anything else.

They also making cracking rum, both the white, clean, brightly clear varieties and the darker, spiced or aged varieties.

So when I found out that Mauritian supper club chef and fellow blogger Yummy Choo was hosting a Mauritian themed popup, including a rum tasting, how could I not go? It's this Sunday, so if you've any sense at all I suggest you buy a ticket and come and discover how awesome Mauritian food is (whilst getting a little bit drunk on rum).

Here's the menu to whet your appetite

Included Drinks

*Two Pink Pigeon Rum Cocktails*

* Rum Tasting & Talk (Sample 3 rums) *

* Shot of NEW Mauritian Penny Blue Rum

Yummy Choo Mauritian Tasting Menu (Street Food Style Dishes)

First Course

Gateaux Piment (split pea chilli cakes, pictured above), Coriander Satini & Salad

Second Course

Mini Fresh Puri, Shrimp Rougaille (spicy creole tomoto sauce) Spring Onion & Coriander

Third Course

Mauritian Cari Poulet (Fragrant, spiced chicken curry with cinnamon & Mauritian masala), Spiced Pilau Rice, Fresh Coconut Satini (tamarind, red chilli and sugar)

Fourth Course

Fish Vindaye (pickled mustard fish, onion & green chilli) Coconut & Spinach Dhall

Fifth Course

Rum Bananas (using Pink Pigeon vanilla rum of course!), Coconut Creme


Bedford & Strand, 1A Bedford Street

Time: 6-10pm

Tickets: £37.75 incs all booking fees


Why don't more British breweries make a Cream Ale?

Saturday, August 24, 2013
Cream Ales are an intriguing style. An American invention, they are usually lower in bitterness and use less hops than a pale ale, aiming more for the drinkable and bittersweet end of the scale.

It's not a style I've tried many examples of, but I can certainly attest to the quality of Sweet Action, a Cream Ale by Sixpoint brewery of Brooklyn, which became a favourite when in New York last summer.

It's a smooth, balanced beer brewed with a session in mind, unlike the hop bombs the yanks are known for, and after pale ale after IPA after hoppy porter it came as a breath of fresh air.

So that's what I was hoping for from Totes Amaizeballs - I still cringe while writing that name - a Cream Ale brewed with a complex mix of Pale, Pils, and Vienna malts as well as oats and flaked maize.

Initially you do get a smooth oatiness and a suggestion of sweet cream (like porridge made from water alone) before a bracing bitterness comes in alongside a peppery pilsner note. It's actually much more bitter and hoppy than I was expecting but everything is in balance and the hops certainly don't overpower. Refreshing yet extremely complex

This is my kind of beer, where malt and hops are given equal billing and the result is a symphony not a solo. My tasting notes are sparse as I was too busy enjoying it to think about documenting - which is always a good sign.

Love love love it.

But it does leave me wondering why more breweries don't give this style a go?


I drank this beer at Brew Wharf on Borough Market (they brew the beer on site) so that's your best bet at trying some, though you might have to ask when it will next be on as the beer rotates very quickly.


A song through different speakers

Wednesday, July 31, 2013
You can smell it being poured from across the room.

The aroma floats across the bar and up my nostrils - while I fumble about with a fiver - and before I know it the memory comes flooding back, like hearing a few chords of a song you used to love whilst flicking through the radio stations.

Sharp, peppery, precise and acidic in a lemon zest kind of way, but not in any way sour, the aroma is so unique you really couldn't mistake it for any other beer.

And yet when the beer is front and centre it's obvious there's a twist, like the same tune played through different speakers. Certain base notes are lost, the sweetly fruity tangerine I remember - whilst others are amplified, like the mouth drying pithiness of lemon rind.

All pepper and pith and lightness of touch.

The song is My Antonia*, the performer, on this occasion, is Dogfish Head - and what a wonderful performance it is.


*My Antonia is an imperial pilsner originally brewed as a collaboration between American craft brewery Dogfish Head and Italian brewers Birra Del Borgo. In case you hadn't guessed, the version above is the Dogfish version, served on keg. To read my thoughts on the Birra Del Borgo brewed version of My Antonia click here.


Discovering sake at Hyper Japan

Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Sake is one of those drinks that I've never really got along with, particularly when served warm alongside a bento box or the like (I'm looking at you Little Tokyo, Leeds).

But as any serious drinkie knows (what is the drinks equivalent of 'foodie'?) it's all about trying the good stuff before making your judgement.

Hyper Japan at Earls Court is a strange event, mixing manga and video games with sushi and dim sum - expect to see a line of fully costumed geishas walk past followed by a pack of rucksacked teenagers. But in many ways this randomness makes perfect sense, with the old and new facets of Japanese culture both getting some sort of a look in.

The sake tasting was a little bit badly organised and a bit crowded, being effectively a big horseshoe of 11 taster tables around a centre square. The entrance was crowded with people and the first few tables we were reaching over others to get our mini shot glass sized tasters (with an average of three sakes per table that was more than enough).

Once we got a bit of space the experience was much more enjoyable, passing from table to table hearing about the history and method of the sake and tasting some truly outstanding examples.

The thing that really stuck with me was the depth and variety of flavour that can be derived from something as simple as a grain of rice. People talk about rice in beer as an adjunct but here it was singing the solo, and giving a bravura performance.

We tried sparkling sakes, re-fermented in the bottle just like champagne, which had flavours from aromatic peach skin and apricot stone to sweet pear and sharp green apple, all derived from rice and nothing else. Freshly bottled strong sakes in the 14-17% abv range were hotter and less forgiving but also had a real depth of flavour, often with a floral, orange blossom aroma - some gave off banana and honey in the flavour whereas others veered towards citrus, all were impressive and eye opening.

The sparkling sakes I can see becoming a real crowd pleaser as they're sweet and fun on the whole, with approachable flavours not too far removed from a decent prosecco.

Of the traditional sakes it was the Maibijin Junmaishu which really stood out, with beautifully varied flavours and aromas that on paper shouldn't work, but in practice were stunning. The aroma was butterscotch and banana like an aged rum might give off, but then the flavour developed into something sharper, more acidic, with flavours of stewed citrus fruit and that ever present orange blossom honey in the background. Floral, woody, perfectly balanced and massively complex yet not too challenging for a newcomer like me to enjoy.

Stunning, though at £50 a pop I resisted the urge to bring a bottle home.

It was a fantastic event and one which has certainly peaked my interest in a drink I might previously have dismissed as flat and boring - oh how I was wrong - sake can be subtle, but it's never one dimensional.

Oh, and all of the sakes we drank were chilled or served at room temp. The consensus I came away with is only heat the cheap stuff. Which makes sense.

Hopping on the bandwagon: Troubadour Westkust Imperial Beligan Black IPA

Saturday, July 27, 2013
This is a beer that on the face of it comes with a lot of crafty baggage. Imperial? Check. Belgian Yeast? Check. Hopped to the tilt? Check. Oxymoronically named and bandwagon jumpingly styled a black IPA? Check.

That said, it's something which I don't think I've ever tried before. A Belgian brewed and exclusively Belgian hopped black IPA. What I didn't realise when I bought this bottle is that the Westkust in the name comes from the single variety of Belgian hop used in the brewing of the beer - and what a hop it turns out to be.

This pours a thick and murky pitch black with just a touch of haze and a cappucino coloured frothy head.

The smell is fruity, fresh espresso and a touch of black currant, backed up by a faint burnt herbiness, like bbq scorched rosemary twigs.

The taste is initially sharp and bitter with a zip of pine and stewed orange before a wash of sweet roasted malt turns to a bitter, ashy, tongue dryingly bitter finish with a lasting flavour of spicy, resinous hops.

Despite its heft, all 9.2% of it, its a beautifully balanced black IPA that drinks well below its weight, though the bitterness and intensity of flavour does make it rather heavy going in a batten-down-the-hatches and set aside a couple of hours kind of way.

Well worth a try and I imagine it would age really well, though the scales would certainly tip towards the espresso and away from the bitter hoppinness over time.


P.s. Going back to that hop variety, anyone know of other beers which use it? A Google search just brings up the beer above rather than info on the hop.


Belgian Beer and Lobster matching - Belgo, Covent Garden

Tuesday, July 09, 2013
Belgo, on paper, sounds like a good idea - an extensive and well chosen Belgian beer list and traditional dishes such as Moules Frites (which make up 45% of their sales) and beer and beef stews of the kind I enjoyed whilst in Ghent. But its location in Covent Garden had ‘Tourist Trap’ flashing in gaudy letters at the back of my mind.

Luckily the attention to detail and execution of the food, and their knowledge in recommending beers, adds up to a really fantastic place to while away a few hours.

My reason for being at Belgo was an invite to a Belgian beer and lobster tasting event (hard lines, right?) to mark the launch of their Lobster month in July. I was expecting a fantastic freebie, and admittedly that’s exactly what I got, but there were two lasting impressions that I came away with from the evening that I admit I didn’t expect:

1. The head chef really knows his lobster, and exactly how to get the most out of their delicate flavour (cooked for just 6 minutes), that puts some over-priced London restaurants to shame.

2. Their beer sommelier is slightly scary, but a bloody wizard when it comes to recommending the perfect beer. It’s this advice and attention to detail, alongside actually listening to what people like, that makes a guy like this so valuable to any restaurant truly taking beer seriously.

Starting with the beer, I was purposefully vague and asked for something ‘strong and hoppy’, whilst Colette just asked for a ‘tart fruit beer’. With an ominous nod of the head he was off, leaving us wondering if he’d understood us completely and looking at each other slightly bemused. However a few minutes later he returned with a raspberry lambic of the sweet n sour variety for Colette and a really outstanding Troubadour Blonde for me to enjoy.

The Troubadour was smooth, yeasty and bitter with a really great herbaceous drying at the back of the palate. It’s a delicious beer and something that completely belies its strength with massive drinkability. Hoppy in that spicy Belgian way and exactly my sort of beer. Colette loved her fruity lambic, but it’s a beer for non-beer drinkers all be told. That said, it was exactly what she asked for and exactly to her tastes (though not mine).

A few more great recommendations on (Orval, Boon Marriage Parfait etc) and we were presented with the main event. A perfectly cooked lobster paired with a Belgian Wit brewed with coriander and orange peel.

The beer, Blanche de Bruxelles, was of the light and quaffable variety, which on its own may seem a little dull, but its sprightliness was a great choice with the lobster, as anything too full on would certainly mask the delicate flavour of the meat. As it was it worked pretty well as a pairing, the heavy carbonation and faint sourness helping to cut through the butter, and the orange citrus dovetailing with the squeeze of lemon and sweetness of the lobster.

Of the lobster itself, it was really perfectly cooked. Pulling easily away from the shell and without even a trace of the rubberiness that can creep in with overcooking (I’m looking at you Burger & Lobster).

The prices of the food are reasonable for what you ar getting, but by no means cheap. That said, under £20 for a lobster with sides is excellent, and the beers are about par for the course at around a fiver for most.

It’s not a budget choice by any stretch of the imagination but for the quality of food being served and the level of service you receive it represents great value for money.

All in all I really enjoyed Belgo, and we’ve already booked to go back in a few weeks time.



Craft Beer Co second Birthday - some very special beers on offer this weekend

Friday, June 28, 2013
Tomorrow is the first day of celebrations over at Craft Beer Co in Clerkenwell, a pub that I find myself in quite often thanks to its proximity to the Farringdon overground (direct fast trains through to St Albans) and the fact it has the best beer selection in London.

The beer range is always fantastic and in great condition but they promise to be pulling out all the stops this weekend with a number of rare, limited edition or World famous beers on offer.

The full beer list is yet to be announced but if the selection being sent down by Magic Rock Brewing Co is anything to go by, it's gona be good. A quick chat with Rich from Magic Rock revealed they'll be serving:

Pink Grapefruit Salty Kiss, The Juggler, Black Saison (a To Ol collab), plus a cask of Cannonball which they've dry hopped in cask and a cask of Dark Arts which has fresh Vanilla added in cask.

It's probably a tie between that cask of cannonball and the Grapefruit salty kiss for which I'm most looking forward to trying.

This is just one brewery remember. The full list of beers is surely set to be unmissable.

If you've got any sense you'll go.




Is cider the next 'big thing' in beer?

Thursday, June 27, 2013
There have been a number of trends over the last few years in the beer world, some making more of an impact than others. Some trends could be put down to a preference shift within the mini-cosm of beer-geekery, others had a wider effect on the beer drinking World.

One definite trend in my memory was the arrival and domination of Citra. New hops arrive on the scene every season and of course you’ll see a scramble to experiment with the exciting unknown, but nothing quite got the blanket explosion of single hopped bar space like Citra did. It was everywhere.

Walking a perfect line between accessibly clean citrus fruitiness and strength of aroma and flavour, it was a winner with beer geeks and casual drinkers alike and remains hugely popular to this day. Which other hop still commands so much bar space under its name? Very few.

Black IPA was another one that made a lasting impact because, stylistic and linguistic oxymorons aside, the beers were often fantastic.

A lot of beer drinkers, particularly those new to craft beer or real ale, will avoid darker beers in favour of lighter, hoppier styles, but Black IPAs were a curve ball that lulled many an avid pale ale drinker over to the dark side. With a combination (when done right) of sharp citrusy, fruity hop top notes and a rumble of dark malt flavour hiding underneath, they ticked all the boxes in the same way as salted caramel – with seemingly opposing flavours creating something moreish and satisfying to the palate.

What seemed like a fad, turned into a trend and has now become a fully fledged style in its own right. Forget Cascadian dark ale or any other rubbish, its Black IPA, and it’s here to stay.

Saison. Need I say more? It’s the Riesling of the beer world don’t you know. Obviously not a new thing like Citra or Black IPA, but still, in Britain at least there seemed to be an explosion in the interest in Saision within a very short space of time. Whether it was beer geeks gushing about world class examples like Saison Dupont or UK brewers cooking up their own interpretation, saison came from nowhere to become a hugely popular style in the UK.

Belgian beer styles don’t generally make it over to the mainstream British drinker, but saison has a fighting chance, particularly something like Ilkley's approachable yet flavoursome Siberia Rhubarb Saison.

So what’s next? Well personally I think the next big thing in beer is going to be, somewhat confusingly, cider. It’s been bubbling under the radar for some time now thanks to places like Euston’s The Cider Tap (opposite that other famous tap in Euston) and trendy outlets like Friends of Ham in Leeds, who have given cider equal billing alongside draft beer.

There’s a real breadth of flavour in the cider World that beer lovers (me included) are only just beginning to discover - from the upfront appley sweetness of a hazy, 5% real cider, to the musty, sour, sharp and dank depths of the really big and complex stuff.

It’s high in abv, complex, produced on an impossibly small scale, getting popular on the other side of the pond, hard to track down, yet often extremely well priced. In other words, it’s a beer geek’s wet dream.

I’ve even come up with a marketing slogan to help things get going: “Cider, not just for tramps and teenagers.”


Image credit: www.real-cider.co.uk