Beer and curry has long been recognised as a fantastic culinary combination. The British public has associated a visit to the local curry ‘Indian’ (as a term for a range of Asian foods) with a range of beers, such as Cobra, Kingfisher, Bangla and the new Mongoose. Indeed it’s not a massive stretch to suggest that beer, the UK’s most popular drink, has contributed to Chicken Tikka Masala being the UK’s most popular restaurant meal.
The context of beer with curry has been developed further in recent years by a number of top chefs in recent years, led by Sriram Aylur at the London-based Michelin-starred Quilon restaurant. Quilon brings to the UK a taste of coastal South-West Indian cuisine, combining the modern and the traditional, whilst searching for the ‘perfect ingredients’.
The Quilon has demonstrated its focus on beer through the development of a vintage ale range, selling Fullers’ Vintages ales from 1996 to 2010, and over the last few months has been working on a fantastic five-course beer and curry menu. The menu was launched at a lunch attended by brewers, chefs, farmers, maltsters, catering schools, journalists and beer-brewing celebrities, and sponsored by Quilon and the BBPA.
The five course menu opens with an appetite whetter of popadums and tomato chutney paired with the light and fresh Ceilidh Lager by Williams Bros from Alloa in Scotland. This is followed by lotus stem chop with mango sauce and spiced stir-fried oysters, paired with Fuller’s Bengal Lancer. The Chef’s own special creation follows, the Quilon Salad, of mixed greens with patty pan dressed in lavender and kokum infusion. After that, baked black cod paired seamlessly with the delicate vanilla and citrus of Innis & Gunn Blonde Oak Aged Beer from Edinburgh.
The menu then moves on to a flavoursome lamb biryani followed by coconut asparagus and mange tout accompanied by Chalky’s Bite from Sharp’s brewery in Cornwall. A lentil cappuccino served with cardamom short breads, fig and pressed honey ice cream finishes the meal nicely with Sam Smith’s Organic Cherry Beer from Yorkshire as its accompaniment. A 1999 Fuller’s Vintage Ale provided a perfect digestif.
The entire experience was exhilarating. Each course, on its own magnificent, paired magically with all of the British beers. The lighter Ceilidh worked delicately with the popadums, while the lentil, shortbread and ice cream created a complex yet intriguing mix of flavours.
But beyond the food it was inspiring to see beer at the top table, being served with some of the finest food served anywhere in the country. The gathered crowd were equally positive about beer. Various speakers, from the host himself, to chef Richard Fox and popstar-turned brewer Tony Hadley praised beer as the perfect accompaniment to a huge range of foods. Many of the other guests were stunned by the range of flavours available and felt that beer wasn’t receiving the recognition it deserved.
With chefs and restaurants like Sriram and Quilon promoting beer, it cannot be too long before beer is found at even more top restaurants around the country.