In July I was invited to a beer and food pairing lunch at the Hix in Soho. For those of you who don’t know, the Hix Restaurants are owned by Mark Hix, a celebrated British chef who is good friends with Damien Hirst. Hirst specifically created the “Cock ‘n’ Bull” artwork for the Tramshed restaurant (basically they put a cow in some formaldeyde and hung it over diners, you can view it here).
The restaurants are pretty fancy (and slightly pretentious). Mark Hix organised a small “beer and food pairing lunch” in the Mark’s Bar of the Soho restaurant, that I somehow wrangled an invitation to (thank you Jason from Palmer’s brewery!!). The lunch was a total five courses that took all afternoon with the objective of showcasing the role that beer can play in upscale London gastronomy.
We started off with a beertail upon arrival and the chance to meet the brewers currently featured on the Hix menu – Titanic, Innis & Gunn and the “HIX range” brewed by Palmers Brewery.
The food and the beers were pretty amazing (oh how the other half live!). Each course included an introduction from the brewer and a very short but much-needed description of the food from Mark Hix himself. We started off with a water souchet paired with an IPA from Innis & Gunn – a very light, fish soup paired with a zesty fresh beer. It went down a treat!
Next up was a Soused Lyme Bay Mackerel with marsh samphire with a HIX (Palmers) Blonde. Hix Blonde is a refreshing lightly hopped blonde, with a sweet aftertaste of honey and floral aromas. It was also used as the base in our “beertail” on arrival, so quite light and versatile.
We then moved on from fish to the “Peter Gott’s wild boar ragoo with pig skin noodles and Isle of Barra cockles”, paired with an Innis & Gunn lager. Probably the least enjoyable meal presented in my personal opinion – I couldn’t get the idea of “pig skin” out of my head and the added crunch factor was not appreciated when I was trying to pretend it was just normal spag bol. The lager wasn’t anything special either – but I may be biased as I generally just don’t like the taste of lager.
Our 4th course consisted of Finnan haddock rabbit with Hix Oyster ale – a nice porter with dark fruit flavours. We continued our journey with the dark beers with the last course – a Temperley’s Baba (a light cake with rum poured over it) paired with both Titanic’s Plum Porter and Titanic’s Cappuccino Stout. I think most people around the table preferred the Plum Porter, as it was much sweeter than the Cappuccino Stout, which tasted a bit abrasive with the dessert on offer.
I love the idea of dessert and beer pairings and went to a delicious beer and chocolate pairing last year at the European Beer Consumer Union’s annual reception. I often feel like I can have a porter or a stout to quench my sweet tooth in place of chocolate, they’re such a treat!
The whole event seemed to want to showcase how to make beer “classy” in one sense – prove that beer has a place in upscale London restaurants and can easily replace wine’s role as a pairing. I couldn’t fault the food nor the beer and certainly hope what I saw is the next generation of fine dining – with not just wine but also beer pairings available for diners.