Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Star beer lists in London

There has been a big push by breweries and beer lovers in recent years to promote beer and food matching and rightly so. During the meals and the food matching session at the Beer Bloggers Conference it really struck me how well some of the beer and food matches worked and I think it is worth the beer world making a bigger deal about this.

However it is an interesting phenomenon that in many restaurants that have achieved the pinnacle of culinary achievements that their beer lists are terrible. In restaurants where you can experience amazing dishes of the finest ingredients, conjured up by the most talented chefs and accompanied by the most expensive wines in the world that the best you can expect in the way of beer is a bottle of Stella Artois or a pint of Guinness. It is unfathomable that in 2011 that most UK restaurants haven't noticed the explosion of sophisticated beers available from the UK, and the rest of the world. Of course it would be unfair to paint all UK restaurants with the same brush and it is certainly not the case in the US where some of the top restaurants take their beer list very seriously.

I have decided on a new policy when it comes to beer in restaurants. I will always ask what beers are available, commend a good list and lament the bad, and if they have a beer I like I will order it. I urge any beer lovers who read this blog to do the same.

So in this spirit here is my top five list of restaurants around London for beer lists.

Byron Burger- various branches in London
It was in Byron burger that I tasted my first ever Brooklyn Lager. A beer that partially set the course of our honeymoon trip across America. Just this week Byron Burger have announced their craft beer summer and they have carefully put together an impressive list of ten craft beers from the UK, US and Australia which is available in all of their branches. All of this was done with the knowledgeable advice of Mark Dredge from Pencil and Spoon. Some real proof there of the influence of beer bloggers. I am very pleased to see two London breweries on the list with both The Kernel and Camden breweries

Albert's Table - Croydon
I love Albert's Table because of it's excellent bistro style food. I love it even more because they have a nice little beer list. When I was there they stocked some Sam Adams, Sam Smiths, Worthington's White Shield and Veltins. The chef and owner Joby Wells say he tries to keep a good small range of mostly UK beers. This gets Albert's Table on my list.

Roast - London
What a pleasure is was to open Roast's bar menu and see that their whole range of beers that are brewed exclusively for the restaurant by Whitstable brewery in Kent. It's a nice selection with a stout, an IPA, a wheat beer and a pilsner. I think it's very good for beer to see restaurants working with breweries in this way.

Corrigan's - London
The food at Corrigan's is huge. Huge on flavour and often huge in size. They have a well selected wine list and a talent filled cocktail bar. But their beer list isn't great, They make this list because last year they started a beer and burgers menu available at the bar. This food combination wasn't snobbery but a careful matching. Veal Burger with smoked bone marrow was matched with Goose Island IPA, a hand ground beef burger with Brooklyn Lager and a venison burger with Hobgoblin. Last time I visited the beers were still available. Good work Mr Corrigan.

Le Gavroche - London
Michel Roux Jr was voted beer drinker of the year in 2007 by the parliamentary beer group. This was mostly because he has embraced beer and food matching. The Roux's flagship restaurant, Le Gavroche, has an extensive beer list and Roux and his sommelier have said that beer is the perfect match for some of the restaurant's dishes. I haven't eaten at Le Gavroche yet but I am assured that the restaurant truly deserves its reputation. We will visit one day.

Honourable mentions:
St John Hotel and Magdalen are stocking Kernel beers, a sign that quality will win over restaurants to the cause.
I almost forgot Canteen. The four restaurant chain serve a good range of of British beer in bottle, from white shield to Hopback stout,  and draught Meantime. Very good.

The new restaurant from Marcus Wareing, The Gilbert Scott, has some Camden town and Meantime beers, I'll be checking this out next month so expect a full report.

I hear that Pearl also have a good list which I will update you on if they get back to me.

Outside London, Raymond Blanc's Le Manoir Aux Quat' Saisons has a good list and I hear Aubergine in Marlow is doing its bit. Nathan Outlaw's restaurant has done a lot of beer and food matching recently with Stuart Howe from Sharps brewery.

In and out of London there are are plenty of restaurants pushing forward with exciting beer lists. So please encourage them, buy a beer, ask them for advice and congratulate them if they do a good job.

Where have you had a good beer in a restaurant tell me in the comments and I will add it to the list.


Kristy said...

Some good choices - Quillon deserves a mention too some great beers and the Fullers Vintage Ales too

Sam said...

Thanks Kristy, I hadn't heard of Quilon before. It looks good. I think that Indian food works very well with different beers. Not just Tiger ;)

Kristy said...

Well obviously Cobra is the perfect match for Indian food!

But Quilon also have Blue Moon, Kasteel Cru Rose and Chalky's Bark so you're in for a treat!

Mark Dredge said...

Nice list. I want to pitch an article about top-end restaurants and their terrible lack of good beer choice.

There are some good names on this list, which is very encouraging.

Sam said...

Kristy: I meant Cobra of course not Tiger.

Mark: things are changing in the the top end restaurant world and although it's easy to find plenty of places with no choice at all, I think it's also important to celebrate those that are doing a good job.

dredpenguin said...

Nice Sam.

I know they are gastropubs and not restaurants but don't forget places like the Draft House chain, Dean Swifts and the White Horse SW6 who serve good food with beer recommendations.

Hopefully the big names of the London food scene will take notice soon. Kristy get on the case! ;-)

Sam said...

Cheers Greg,

Yes there are some pubs doing excellent food. But I think they have no excuses for a bad beer list. Maybe for a next post I will do pubs with excellent menus.

Sam said...

I have just updated the post to include Canteen who not only do hearty British food but have a good British beer list.

Will S said...

But I think the post should include more about actually what makes a good beer,not just matching the brand to the food type. Things like temperature and bubliness etc... (is that a word?) basically things described here:

If the establishment pays attention to the beer, I find the quality of the food follows???

Sam said...

Hi Will, Thanks for your comment.

With this post I really wanted to push the point that these restaurants are serving beer that is outside of the normal offerings of Stella/Guinness/Peroni etc. and that they are doing this because they know that different beer goes very well with a huge range of food.

beccles suffolk said...

Roast has reached a 4 star-level renown over a vast public not exclusive to its English patrons.m

terrine recipes said...

Magdalen should top the list since they have a wide variety of beers in stock.

wine australia said...

I think Corrigan's should top the list because the food there is huge and their beer selection rocks.

beef jerky said...

I have always been a fan of Byron Burger since they introduced the Brooklyn Lager and I think it deserves all the praise.

MisYahd said...

It is unfathomable that in 2011 that most UK restaurants haven't noticed the explosion of sophisticated beers available from the UK, and the rest of the world.
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thailand holidays said...

Thank you for posting the list of star beer in London. I'd like to pay a visit to those places someday, especially at Albert's Table. I think this bistro is really good.

Anonymous said...


Unknown said...

I would like to visit one of those restaurants around London next month for beer tasting. I want to try St John Hotel and Magdalen first because of the Kernel beers. I hope I will not be disappointed with my trip next month because I am looking for the best restaurant that can offer catering service for my friend’s bridal shower.

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catering new york said...

I always hang with my friends every afternoon in bistro restaurants. I think Albert’s Table will be our next spot on Sunday.