Beer (!) and food matched at Quilon, London
Beer and pizza. That was about the extent of my beer and food matching horizons. That is until I attended a “Girls Night” beer and food matching dinner put on by Rupert Ponsonby, of R&R Teamwork, at the White Horse in Parsons Green. The aim of the evening was to show that beer was more then just lager and could be just as good a partner with food as wine. We had a very interesting and delicious variety of ales and beers from all over the world. Much as when wine is matched correctly with food, beer could surprisingly perform the same function, a tasty food and drink combination.
We (me and my flatmate Giordana) had enjoyed the beer and food matching evening so much that Rupert suggested we try the 5-course beer matching meal at Quilon where Rupert had worked with Executive Chef Sriram Vishwanathan Aylur to pair each dish with Sriram’s expertly paired dishes. I have to admit, as much as I think that wine is the perfect accompaniment to food, with Indian food, beer always seems to be the best beverage.
I dragged Giordi along with me, according to her, Italians prefer beer to wine when dining. I don’t know about that…but anyway, we showed up for Sunday lunch one early Spring day at Quilon. The chef of Quilon, Sriram Aylur is a big fan of beer and food matching and has paired his south-west Indian coastal cuisine with a variety of beers and ales from all over the world. Coastal cuisine, I’m thinking lots of fish and the menu did consist mostly of fish and seafood.
Starters were poppadoms, love them, paired with an Alsatian grand cru lager, the Kasteel Cru rose made from champagne yeasts with added elderflower juice. Nice bubbles, it was quite soft and refined, hard to believe we were drinking lager. A soft, pale, red colour, full of flavour, delicious and was tasty with the coconut chutney and poppadoms.
Next we moved onto an American wheat ale, The Urban Wheat Ale from Chicago. Flowery on the nose and palate with a definite wheat note and a touch of honey, paired with spiced stir fried oysters. I prefer my oysters raw but the beer brought to mind the fresh sea air. I think I would have preferred this rich beer with a plate of raw oysters, the lotus root chop which also was paired with the lager was a better match, the beer cleansing the palate of the spiciness of the lotus root.
Chimay has a reputation which precedes it and the Chimay Red was full of coffee, caramel and expresso notes, slightly bitter on the end but so good. I could drink this on it’s own but then again I hadn’t had the Baked Black Cod. Wow! Delicate flakes of smoky cod, subtly flavoured with tamarind, garlic and ginger, it ended in an explosion of taste. Even Giordi, who is not big on fish, loved the dish. The Chimay was stellar, a real coffee character coming out. I was getting into this beer and food thing.
I don’t think I’ve ever had a fluffier lamb biryani then the one at Quilon. Delicate and perfectly spiced, the chunks of delectable lamb hidden within the mound of rice just falling apart on my fork, it was hard to stop long enough to enjoy the Little Creatures Pale Ale served alongside it but I’m glad I did. Little Creatures is from Australia and is a bit of a cult beer, unpasteurized with live yeasts still in it, it is full of flavour with very good stucture. Ha! I never thought I’d use that word in relation to beer. Giordi pointed that out to me and she was right, it was like it had a scaffolding for the dark wheat and caramel flavours of the beer.
Lentils for dessert? Well that is what was served up to us. A rather interesting take on it. I just couldn’t get my head around it. I know that in the East they do tend to sweeten their legumes for dessert but I’ve never really cottoned on to it. I remember in China eating red bean ice cream and not going back for more. So when we got a lentil cappucino with white chocolate foam I wasn’t sure what to expect. Well, it was sweetened lentils alright. Giordi noted that even though it was sweet, it still reminded her of pork and lentils, the sweetness factor just clashing with the earthiness of the lentils. It was neither of our cups of tea but the Liefman’s Fruit cherry beer served along with it was more then compensation enough. Reminiscent of a cherry lollipop but without the sticky sweetness. I had some at home later with dark chocolate and it was perfect.
SO, beer with food? Well, yes. BUT I’m not going to be abandoning wine anytime in the near future. I enjoyed the meal very much but still prefer my wine. However, for a change, beer and food, if done properly can be a real eyeopening experience.
A big thanks for Quilon for inviting this beer-averse, wine lover along to test out their menu. Quilon also does an 8-course meal matched with accompanying beers but truthfully, we were so stuffed after lunch that I don’t know how you would be able to fit it all in!