A night of surprises

Galvin Beer-Cider dinner-hosts - Andrea, Jack, Mitch

To think I almost passed up Galvin Café a Vin’s beer and cider food matching evening, hosted by head sommelier Andrea Briccarello and Mitch Adams of the Thatcher’s Arms in Colchester, for a humiliating evening of losing poker with friends, writes Tim Johns. My fortune in avoiding that Saturday night experience was underlined as soon as I entered the Spital Square-located restaurant and a glass of bubbles was thrust into my hand.

Despite its moniker, this fine fizz with a creamy mousse, bready nose and delicate white and lemony fruit was no northern French wine, but rather Aspall’s Cuvée Chevallier. There are many Champagne alternatives being touted nowadays – posh Prosecco, curious Cava – but this top Suffolk cider is easily their peer. Serving in a flute was a classy touch to boot and one I will adopt.

Beef tartare -Wild Beer Co-Scarlet FeverOur first course was a beef tartare created by talented chef Jack Boast accompanied by Wild Beer Company’s ‘Scarlet Fever’ red ale. Light in texture with a refreshing orangey zing, the finish had a pleasant, summer-like dryness. The tartare was topped with a runny quail yoke. Though egg is a notoriously difficult drinks’ match, it brought out an extra, earthy maltiness in the beer, which added complexity and depth.

The quail theme continued: this time the whole bird grilled on a delightful toasted barley and raisin salad. Wild Beer’s ‘Bliss’ was the exciting accompaniment. This is a Belgian farmhouse style brew, fermented upfront with roasted apricots plus the addition of some secret, Asian-inspired spices. The result was a striking ginger nose, sour & tangy palate, and an earthy, cardamom-like end. Its match, particularly with the sweeter salad, was magical.

Scallop-Kernel-MosaicNow we moved onto a fried scallop and salmon dish, served with a potent sauce gribiche. The Kernel brewery’s Mosaic IPA (eponymously named after the citrussy American hops used) was the weapon of choice. Bottle conditioned, its touch of cloudiness contrasted with the vibrant grapefruit, orange and oyster shell zip. A beer for Sauvignon lovers if ever there was one, and a tasty counter-punch to the caper and cornichon infused Gribiche.

Wild Beer returned to our tables in the form of an old ale named ‘Modus Operandi‘ – epitomising this must seek brewery’s approach of mixing traditional techniques with 21st century inspiration – it was oak aged for 90 days in a mix of ex-Bourbon and wine casks. The nose was packed with cherry & burnt chocolate; this continued onto the Black Forest-y palate with the addition of dark coffee and a bloody minerality. The match with slow cooked lamb neck, potatoes and leek was heavenly. Meat and two veg with a pint of mild, anyone?

Andrea and Mitch plan their strategyTo finish our tasting menu we had we were treated to Galvin’s signature tarte tartin; no need for a Vouvray or Sauternes, for we lucky few were given Herefordshire’s Once Upon a Tree ‘The Wonder’ dessert pear wine. And a spectacle it was too! The lemony marmalade nose with hint of beeswax led to a sweet opening in the mouth that finished lively, limey and zippy with hints of walnut oil and white flowers.

This was stellar stuff and paired seamlessly with the citrusy caramelised pud. Though it will be no easier to track down than many top Sauternes, this is definitely going to be my dessert drink of choice this year.

So, British beer and cider matching in classy French surroundings... did it work? Chef Jack Boast’s food was thoughtful and delicious. Mitch’s commentary on the selection chosen by him, the Galvin crew, and DrinkBritain.com’s Susanna Forbes were equally exciting and entertaining. And Andrea’s foresight to bring them together under Galvin’s roof – inspiring. Chapeau!

Though, in all honesty, if I had my way, this kind of night will no longer be as special as it was last Saturday; and instead become humdrum and run of the mill. Why? Because folks, there should be nothing shocking or scandalous about food and beer matching at a restaurant table. It works. Full-stop.


Post scriptum: 
I write this Wild Beer Company bevie as a footnote, because that is how it was served to us: as a cheeky, “oooo” inducing encore after we all thought the five course show was over. What we got was an Imperial Stout aptly named ‘Wildebeest’. Aged in oak with the luxurious additions of coffee beans, vanilla pods and cocoa the result was like an après-dinner espresso and desert rolled into. Not sweet, but velvety rich, dark and chocolaty with a good adult alcohol punch. A classy beast indeed. 


Thanks to Tim Johns for his company and his pithy write-up. A relatively recent escapee from the  wine trade, you can keep in touch with him via Twitter @eljohnsy

for more of Galvin's fine foods, Galvin's Festival of Food & Drink runs from 13-19 May. www.galvinrestaurants.com