It should have been obvious: the Terminus Hotel in Clifton Hill has provided ace food and equally ace beer – in bottles and some local stuff in kegs – and yet, Prof Pilsner informed me that the venue had yet to pop its beer-and-food-dinner cherry (kriek? would be more appropriate…).
Finally, on the first night of Good Beer Week, a collision of the two was sought and it did not disappoint. Tickle me biased, but a mate Tully’s collisions might still be cooler but he’s all real sciency and shit. So we had to ‘settle’, as it were.
Because this was the 2010 AIBA Gold Medal Winners showcase, the beer selection was set and most of us beer nuts would have gone out of our way (read: traipsed on down to our local beer merchant and hassled the bejesus out of them) to drink said beers. Where the excitement lies in what was done food-wise and how the beer and food were paired.
First up, the good old faithful Trumer Pils. I don’t think it’s groundbreaking by itself, but the aim of tonight’s game was to see how it paired with the four (how’s that for spoilt!) nibblies dutifully trailed out to us by the ace staff: crumbed pigs’ head with parmesan mayonnaise, salt and vinegar tripe, salt and pepper calamari, and crab cakes. As usual, my photos do not do the starters justice but had to work with what little I had, please be gentle. I know the photo gods cry when amateurs use flash, honest.
The clear winner in the nibblies stakes was the pigs’ head croquetty thing. Great match with the beer. On my table, there was much love for the salt and pepper calamari, but that’s easy enough to do and do well. I think a lot of people were put off by the idea of offal but the tripe wasn’t so bad though it was inconsistent in its seasoning. You either got a piece that was well salted or far too vinegary. Tristan called it “arbitrarily challenging” which our table supported. I wish I’d remembered to ask what chef Matt Merrick had used in his dipping sauce for the crab cakes – though the cakes themselves were not gobsmack amazing, the sauce was beautifully aromatic and its taste lingering in my mouth kept me guessing constantly at what on earth was used.
Our actual first full course was the winner of the night for me as a match – Bridge Road’s Chevalier Saison with Black Angus carpaccio, goats’ cheese mousse, caramelised vinegar and textures of beetroot.
The cheese chosen and the sweetness of the beetroot capitalised with the fizziness of the Chev Saison, which apparently when being brewed, in Ben’s words, “the stinkier the better”. Prof kindly reminded us that the saison started off as a beer brewed for the summer months to refresh the peasants and weighs in at 6% ABV – you don’t want your hired help too sloshed. Perhaps I’ve been watching too much of that reality cooking show (which I’m only really watching to root for @cookinwithgoths – you kick some arse, sonny Jim!), but this beer and course was a desert island match. Grats to really pushing the beer-and-food-matching envelope, guys.
Next up is admittedly my least favourite course. I’m reminded of my art school ex who said he had a teacher that would ask their class “is this piece successful?” An excellent way to judge but of course what constitutes “successful” is more open to debate. The Feral Hop Hog IPA was provided with celeriac gnocchi, freshwater crayfish, pine mushrooms in a sauce Américaine.
The gnocchi wasn’t really gnocchi: harsh but I said it. It was a rectangular, log-like egg quiche minus the pastry. The dish smelt very fishy though oddly was more sour than it was water-borne. I admit to using Google-fu to trying to see how much sauce Américaine and gumbo resemble each other and when I did have the dish’s rendition of the former, I thought more of the latter. As for the beer match? I love the Hop Hog by itself but wasn’t sold on it being coupled with this dish.
No matter, a good treat we were in for with the next course of slow roasted suckling lamb, pomme purée, mushy peas with watercress and snow pea shoots. The accompanying beer was Holgate’s ESB.
ESB is a fairly malty beast and the more I drink of it, the more I seem to like it (though I have been lucky enough to drink it at the actual brewery, on the handpump. So much goodness). It’s got nice caramelly overtones that make it perfect for this weather and a better match than predicted with the meat, which was topped with a surprise sweetbread!
This would be the ‘safe’ course – red meat, mash and peas with a well-chosen beer and just a little bite and wonderful contrasting bitterness from the watercress and snow pea shoots. Our table did wonder whether there was really a difference between “pomme purée” and “mashed potato”. I went to a poetry workshop on the weekend and Geoff Lemon gave us so much sage advice: don’t try to be unneccesarily clever. You’ll look silly. When it’s just peas and mash, there’s no harm in just calling it thus. Was fairly sad not to have the physical space to finish this course, just don’t tell Billy…
It was an excellent strategy to not finish my meat so I could slaughter dessert which was phenomenal: chocolate marquise, chocolate ‘rubble’ and honeycomb. The rubble had cocoa mint and was served in a whipped gel (didn’t quite catch the chef’s full explanation as he’s very soft-spoken). These are my notes straight off my menu: fairly safe choice…the white shit and ‘rubble’ was fucking off the hook’. Tables around as well as my table companions seemed to indicate that the dessert was a raging success given how quickly it disappeared.
This was served with Dave Bonighton’s self-confessed ‘hero beer’, the Mountain Goat Surefoot Stout – such a shame it’s a Rare Breed (read: limited edition). It was wonderful to have the man behind the brewery come and talk to us about how he felt about the beer. I’d also recommend heading down to the brewery this Wednesday to catch some serious Good Beer Week wondrousness. Stout with a chocolate-based dessert – can’t really go wrong. Dare I say, to pilfer an above abomination, this was a dessert island dish.
The Crafty Pint has also put together a list of beer that is worth visiting this pub and the Royston in Richmond for as part of his ‘curation’ so even if you can’t make dinnerish events like this, don’t let that deter you from popping in for a cheeky one. Looking at the lineup, it’s well worth it. Plus, you get out of Prof’s trivia and don’t get all embarrassed when you only get four out of fifteen answers correct…