Dainty I ain’t: beer pairing at Le Gavroche

Recently the LetThereBeBeer campaign had been making rather obvious suggestions for food and beer pairing, so when they invited me to Le Gavroche it seemed a little at odds with their previous output. For example, in one ‘advertorial’ their frontman Tim Lovejoy did a world beers pairing session in a Thai restaurant and offered up Heineken and Cobra! I was therefore keen to know more of what they stood for.

So with the opposing forces of Le Gavroche and LetThereBeBeer in mind I was curious – one is a high-end, double Michelin-starred restaurant with the remarkable Michel Roux Jr at the helm and the other offers Cobra as a world beer fronted by a former football pundit. I was aware of the blazer and smart shoes policy and as much as I disdain of such Victorian values it was lucky I heeded the message. Tim Lovejoy didn’t get the memo and was offered an over-sized blazer which made him look like a sixth-former; still, he’s a top chap and instantly likeable.

Table for eight in the round and a selection of wine and liqueur glasses… whoa hang on, I thought we were only here for the beer!

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I got the tasting notes and was seated next to the jolly good egg Stephen Livens acting as the LTBB’s sommelier that day – he has serious pedigree and is a genuine expert working for the British Beer and Pub Association so we were in good hands.

Warning – this restaurant is ultra fancy. Traditional, but fancy.

Michel’s beautiful little choux buns filled with gruyere cheese were ultra cheesy and Stephen matched them with a Vedette Extra White – pure, clean and reasonably subtle. It was in a ‘normal’ beer goblet.

Next was a Liefmans Cuvee Brut, a cherry beer fermented for up to 3 years in aged oak barrels, paired with an astonishing Seared Tuna with Thai influences – cracking combo, great, but served in a brandy glass!

The very nice Michel approached our table and enthused about the current craft beer scene – “How are you getting on with the glasses?” he asked, “I think it makes a real difference serving them in the right glass.”

“I don’t” I said “I look good with a pint glass or a beaker, you’ve completely lost me with the brandy glass.”

You could have heard an olive plop in a Martini, but I’m fairly traditional and I genuinely don’t think it makes the slightest bit of difference. As long as it’s made of decent glass and either a beaker for bottle or pint for cask then I’m utterly happy. I found myself swirling it around the glass like a retired judge in his oak-panelled country club – stop it, it’s beer, Jim, beer.

Yes these guys had a point; you don’t serve Dom Perignon in a shoe, but a £3 bottle of fairly easy-to-find beer in a champagne flute? Nah.

It went on – the food was flawless and the pairing spot-on, apart from a very wrong Fuller’s Honey Dew matched with a Fuller’s Honey Dew and lime sorbet – so balanced it cancelled everything out entirely.

Butcombe Rare Breed with a Braised Veal shin and Duvel (yup that old chestnut) put with an Arabian-spiced stonebass were the highlights.

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And then, in a Champagne Flute came a Rochefort 8 at 9.2 per cent paired with a Guinness cake with coffee cream & chocolate malt ice cream – champion in any vessel, no need for the dainty.

Stephen was extremely good company, as was Lovejoy; Stephen had exceptional beer knowledge which, as a relative newcomer to beer and food pairing, made utter sense. Next time, however, I’m bringing my own beaker (if Michel will have me back).

Jamie’s website editor Jim Tanfield is also co-founder of the Craft Beer Channel - subscribe now. 


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