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.
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.