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Capital combinations (London)

Where in London can you eat good food and drink great beer at the same time? Ben McFarland found out

Decent drinking establishments that serve a good pint are twoa- penny in London and there are certainly plenty of places where you can get a good and tasty feed (the capital no longer plays second fiddle to Paris when it comes to elite eateries).

Yet venues that combine the two, let alone have the wherewithal to wittingly unite them in glorious gastronomic harmony, have tended to be, like a supermodel that’s toppled off her high heels, a bit thin on the ground.

In the last few years though, with beer’s quiet revolution gathering pace and brewers adopting a more mature and shrewd attitude to the dining table, a handful of top-end restaurants have, after years of drinking and dining darkness, seen the epicurean light emanating from the hop and haute cuisine.

The recommendations highlighted below are by no means an exhaustive list of venues that have joyfully given beer and food’s marriage their blessing but, if you thought beer and food is nothing but a load of old marketing mumbo-jumbo then, hopefully, a visit to any of the following dining destinations will dispel your prejudices and bring a pleasantly surprised smile to your laughing gear.

1) La Gavroche
43 Upper Brook Street
London W1K 7JR
Tel: +44 (0)207 488 0881
www.le-gavroche.co.uk

Not content with nose-bleed prices, a Michelin star, an uber-classic dining room and immaculately professional staff, La Gavroche in London’s Mayfair now also boasts a mighty fine beer list.

It’s harder to think of a missionary better placed to spread the gospel of beer and food than legendary chef Michael Roux. In February, he introduced Liefmans Kriek cherry beer to his special eight course ‘tasting menu’ and, so suitably inspired was he, he’s now cranked his beer and food appreciation knob all the way to 11!

“In the past, beer has often been neglected in top restaurants in Britain,” waxed Michel Roux, lyrically, “and perceived merely as a thirst-quencher. I believe that beer should be regarded as a sophisticated gourmet drink.

The eight beers on the list embrace a wide gamut of beer styles and include Power Station Porter, a dark malt brew from Battersea Power Station that sidles effortlessly up to oysters, stews and chocolate puddings; Rochefort – the classic Trappist tipple that gets on swimmingly well with desserts; and the deceptively tasty and strong Duvel that manages to achieve harmony with almost any fish or seafood dish.

“When we partnered Liefman’s cherry beer with spicy seared tuna on our seven course menu, several guests were uneasy and told us that they didn’t drink beer,” added Michel. “But once they tasted the combination, 99/100 of them have been converted. It makes me happy because it has helped us to jump the initial hurdle of beer scepticism, whilst giving us the confidence to go on to the next stage.”

2) The White Horse
1-3 Parson’s Green
London SW6 4UL
Tel: +44 (0)20 7736 2115

In the world of gastropubbery, the White Horse is a trusty pure-bred steed if ever there was one. A handsome, airy, two-floored shrine to all things beer and known colloquially as the ‘Sloaney Pony’ for its extremely posh clientele, the White Horse is to terrific beer experiences what Shergar is to baffling equine whodunnits.

Licensee Mark Dorber, who has proudly sat in the Sloaney’s saddle for the past 23 years, is a fierce proponent and spokesperson for beer with flavour, tradition and quality.

More than a dozen perfectly-kept draught beers, from both the lager and ale world, are served through lines cleaner than a nun’s conscience and further kept fresh through continuous rotation and eager consumption.

Meanwhile, the chiller is home to more than 80 bottled beauties sourced from all four corners of the world and served by staff endowed with a passion and knowledge for beer that is all too often sadly missing from the typical gastropub.

Dorber has expertly engineered a gastronomic coming together of lovely beer and luscious food, matching every delectable dish on the menu with a suitable brew as well as a wine.

Chicken liver parfait and onion jam on granary toast, for example, is paired with Anchor Steam from San Francisco; a fish platter of smoked salmon, gravadlax, rollmop and potted prawns is served with a bottle of Orval; while a pint of Fuller’s London Porter is given the nod as an accompaniment to a delicious steak, porter and oyster pie.

3) Borough Market
a) Roast The Floral Hall Stoney Street London SE1 1TL Tel: +44 (0)20 7940 1300
b) Wright Brothers’ Oyster & Porter House 11 Stoney Street London SE1 9AD Tel: +44 (0)20 7403 9554
c) Brew Wharf Brew Wharf Yard Stoney Street London SE1 9AD Tel: +44 (0)207 378 6601

Borough Market is quite the bustling destination for beer lovers. If ever there was an epicentre of London’s beer and food scene, then the so-called ‘Larder of London’ – which attracts 10,000 visitors every weekend – would be it, courtesy of a handful of restaurants that have adopted an enlightened approach to their beers.

Roast, a newly-opened shrine to the best of British, has breathed life back into home-grown food and booze and it recommends domestic beers, such as Jacobite Ale from Traquair House and Samuel Smith’s Taddy Porter, with many of its tasty dishes.

“We use Harviestoun’s cask-conditioned Schiehallion lager which goes brilliantly with the fish and chips,” says bar manager Andy Pearson, “and we use it to make the batter. People think it’s a bit strange to suggest a Scottish lager but once they’ve tried it, we don’t to have to persuade them too much.

“We’re always playing around with different beers and different foods and plans are afoot to introduce a beer tasting menu when we’ve finetuned the best pairings.” Less than a bread roll’s throw away is the Wright Brothers’ Oyster & Porter House where arguably the most unusual and oldest beer and food pairing is celebrated in style.

A dazzling array of dark beers including Pitfield’s 1850 Porter and Shoreditch Stout, St.Peter’s Old Style Porter, Whitstable Oyster Stout and Anchor Porter from San Francisco are served alongside a salivating selection of oysters sourced from France, West Mersea in England, Scotland and the Pacific Northwest.

Then there’s Brew Wharf; all chrome, mosaic flooring, exposed brickwork and cavernous arches.

This bistro-cum-brewpub sources all its food ingredients from Borough Market and then transforms them into Northern European-style tucker with a modern twist and a suitable supplementary beer.

The beers are as plentiful as they are diverse. A shiny microbrewery that glistens behind a glass wall, produces the bar’s two real ales: Wharf Best, heavy in Fuggles, and Wharf Bitter, made using Goldings.

Also on draught, there’s a Cologne style lager, a ‘Union’ Vienna-style lager, a wheat beer and a wonderfully redolent raspberry beer all supplied by the Meantime Brewing Company.

Meantime’s coffee and chocolate beers also feature among the 40 strong list of bottled beers from Belgium, Germany, the Czech Republic, America’s microbrewing scene and, last but not least, the United Kingdom.

The food’s good, the beer’s even better, put the two together and, well, you’ve got something rather special.

4) Quilon 41 Buckingham Gate London SW1E 6AF Tel: +44 (0)20 7821 1899

Washing down a “Ruby Murray” with copious amounts of industrial lager may be a long-held and most British of traditions, but the relationship between beer and spicy food needn’t be so downright vulgar!

Just ask Sriram Ayur of the prestigious Quilon restaurant in Mayfair. Sriram has personally selected an eye-catching selection of beers to go with his Southern Indian cuisine, much of which features fresh, delicately-marinated fish and seafood.

“Beer and curry has a kinship but that doesn’t mean you can match any beer with any curry,” said Sriram, considered one of the top five chefs to come out of his native India. “The notion that Indian food has to be rich, spicy and heavy in cream is a complete misnomer. It’s a very delicate and subtle cuisine and deserves better than just being washed down with bland lagers.” The beer list encompasses a wide range of styles and countries and all the beers were chosen by Sriram himself. “When you eat good Indian food you should not have to call the fire brigade,” he warned. “The beers that we serve are not there to fight fire but to enhance the flavours.

Quilon recently introduced an extravagant eight course ‘Food & Beer Pairing Menu’ in which beers are served in champagne flutes, brandy balloons, wine glasses and, for the desert, martini glasses.

Deus, a light Champagne-like beer, with popadoms & coriander chutney
Duvel, a Belgian golden ale, with cauliflower chili fry and crab cakes
Brooklyn Lager, an amber-gold malty beer, with grilled asparagus and garlic pepper and malabar chicken
Colomba, a refreshing white wheat beer, with roasted scallops and peppered shrimps
Chimay Red, a coppery beer with a creamy head, with black cod and banana flower vada
Pietra, a distinctive chestnut beer with a beautiful amber colour, with chicken korma and crispy okra
Little Creatures, a uniquely hoppy, aromatic brew, with lamb biryani and spinach poriyal
Liefmans Frambosen, a raspberry beer, or Melburn Bros Apricot, an apricot beer, with Quilon specialty dessert bibinca and pepper ice-cream

* For restaurants serving good beer elsewhere in Britain, see pages 54-56