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Beer & food @ Galvin at Windows

by Tom Cannavan, 03/08

High above London's Park Lane, on the 28th floor of the London Hilton hotel, Galvin at Windows is one of the capital's best fine dining restaurants, tipped as a "rising star" by the Michelin Guide, and reviewed very positively on our sister site wine-pages.com.

Galvin hosts regular food and wine events, but when I heard that beer-pages' own Roger Protz was scheduled to lead a tutored beer and food matching dinner at Galvin at Windows, I hot-footed it to London to attend.
  

Gathered round a large table in the private dining area, with its stunning views over the city nightscape, a crowd of beer-loving diners listened as Roger introduced the first course, and the beers he'd chosen to match it:

Poached Dutchy of Cornwall Oysters with Caviar Tortellini
with
Dorothy Goodbody Wholsesome Stout & Fuller's Porter

Roger explained the history and tradition of stout-type beers as being drunk with oysters, and in this case the two beers, though broadly similar in style, had crucial differences in their levels of sweetness, hop bitterness and the roasted quality of the malts used. Whilst beautiful to drink on its own, the Dorothy Goodbody had both a sweeter edge and a more agressive hop quality than the Fuller's, neither of which really matched with a slightly creamy "foam" accompanying the oysters. The smokiness of the Fuller's, on the other hand, worked really well, supporting the sauce and not overpowering the shellfish. Next dish to be served was:

Terrine of Old Spot Pork, Foie Gras and Black Pudding
with
Budweiser Budvar & Meantime Wheat Beer

Roger explained that pork is one of the staple foods of the Czech republic, and the Budweiser Budvar was for him a very natural match for any pork dish. The wheat beer Roger regarded as his big gamble of the evening, as he hoped the spice and fruit of the beer would work well with the pork, but the match was perhaps not so obvious. In fact the terrine was a very sophisticated rendition of pork, the meat being layered with creamy, rich foie-gras and mildly spicy black pudding. Both beers worked really well, but the wheat beer was one of the star matches of the evening for me, the spice marrying with the flavours of the dish, whilst the fruitiness complemented the foie-gras, with the beer's clean, citrus acidity cut through richness of the dish.

Pot Roast Breast of Cotswold Chicken with Choucroute and Caramelised Turnips
with
Cain's Bock & Budweisser Budvar Dark

The main course Cotswold chicken was a beautiful dish, the really fine quality, meaty yet soft, dense and flavoursome breast meat quite simply roasted, with the sour flavours of the choucroute and little turnips adding lots of savoury character. The beers for this course where the powerful Cain's Bock, a 8.0% ABV dark beer that was absolutely terrific to drink on its own, but a touch too sweet and overpowering for the chicken, and the dark version of Budvar, which being much more crisp and dry, for me worked best, with enough hop character to stand up to the choucroute's sourness.

A cheese course was up next, and Roger took the opportunity to remind the diners that despite famous wine and cheese partnerships like Port and Stilton, he felt that with cheddar and similar hard British cheeses, IPA was to his mind a classic pairing:

Montgommery Cheddar with Quince
with
Meantime IPA & Goose Island IPA

Both of these fragrant, hoppy beers were lovely to sip on their own, and indeed both were very good with the cheese. In the end, I plumped for the Goose Island from Chicago. With its massive 58 bitterness units through vigorous hopping with American and European hops, it was a gorgeous match, the lifted, almost floral aromatics complementing the quince jelly, whislt the zesty lift of the hops was terrific with the creamy, but nutty and dry cheddar.

Finally we moved on to dessert, an absolutely scrumptuous pear tarte tatin, the pears plump and soft, the pastry buttery yet flaky and light, and the salty but sweet caramel adding beautiful contrasts of flavour and texture:

Pear Tarte Tatin with Salted Caramel
with
Duvel & Young's Chocolate Stout

The inherent sweetness and alcoholic intensity of the 8.5% ABV Duvel was lovely (as always) on its own, but for me was just too powerful and too decisively flavoured for the dish, despite having a haunting echo of pear in its aromas, which was one of the main reasons Roger chose it. The chocolate stout, on the other hand, had that core of smoky, chocolaty, roasted quality that worked really well with the salty but sweet caramel, making a really sumptuous marriage with the dessert.

This was a brilliant evening of really superb food, and beer matches that were as thought provoking as they were successful. There may be long way to go to persuade some people that beer deserves its place on the dinner table, but this was a tour de force demonstartion that when it works, it works extraordinarily well.

What was also really gratifying was that French restaurant manager Fred Sirieix and his team of young sommeliers and waiters were as fascinated by the excercise as we were. At the end of the evening Fred came round with pen and paper asking every guest to nominate their best beer and food matches, with the intention of listing some of these beers on Galvin at Windows extensive wine list, and no doubt recommending them enthusiastically to future diners.

Galvin at Windows
The London Hilton
Park Lane
London W1K 1BE
Phone: 020 7208 4021
Tube: Hyde Park Corner or Green Park

  

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