Beer and Food

Two of my favourite things.

On Friday evening, four of us went to the Battersea Beer Festival in the Grand Hall next to Battersea Arts Centre Although it was the last night of the festival there was still a wide selection of beers to try out. Unfortunately the cider (favoured by the ladies in the party) ran out quite early, but there were enough light beers available to keep everyone rather happy for the evening. As far as I can remember, I tried Sulwath Galloway Gold Grand Union Old Ale Ballards Trotton Ale Dark Star Hophead and a cider which I don’t recall the name of. Foodwise, I had an excellent meal of mutton with olives and cider, with some chips.

Everyone seemed to have a great time, and the atmosphere was really relaxed. It wasn’t as manically busy as the Great British Beer Festival, but still big enough and busy enough to have a bit of a buzz. The great thing about beer festivals, is that they are completely unpretentious. No one is out to impress people with their job, money or clothes. No one is there on the pull. The next London beer festival would appear to be the 2004 London Drinker Beer & Cider Festival on 17th-19th March.

For Valentine’s Day, Vic booked us into a restaurant in Islington called Morgan M”. It’s had very good reviews from “The Guardian The Independent London Eating and The Times For Valentine’s Day they were offering a special 6 course menu for £48 per person. Obviously, that isn’t inexpensive, but we don’t go out to posh restaurants that often so we thought we’d give it a go.

The restaurant is on Liverpool Road in Islington, so we got the Tube to Highbury and Islington and walked up from there. We arrived for our booking at 6pm, and the restuarant was still quite empty. The tables were a little too close together for Valentine’s Day, so that you could eavesdrop on your neighbours should you want to.

We chose the option of a glass of the recommended wines with the second, third and fourth courses. The wine was £6.50 per glass.

After an optional aperitif of champagne with strawberry coulis, the first course arrived. We were a little surprised to have a plate containing a single bean, a dab of sauce and a few strands of grated carrot placed in front of us. Fortunately this was quickly covered with a warm bean soup which turned out to be very pleasant.

Next came foie gras with fig caviar (or fig sauce as we might call it) on toasted brioche. Nice enough, but I’m not a big fan of foie gras (even less so of the alternative which was seafood). This was accompanied by a glass of sweet white wine which complemented it nicely.

Two down, four to go. The third course was seared sea bass with lobster on spinach and potato puree. This was very well presented (as were all the dishes) and tasted wonderful. The fish was beautifully cooked and the dish was accompanied by a very well-suited glass of chillled Chablis.

Onto the main meat course. This was slices of venison, topped with a ravioli of hare on spiced red cabbage with chestnuts, chestnut puree and a slice of spiced apple. This was definitely my favourite dish, the venison was beautifully tender and the flavours all went together tremendously well. A glass of red wine (I forget which) helped wash this all down.

For dessert, Vic had opted for an amazing chocolate concoction of baked pudding with hot chocolate sauce inside, and a gorgeous caramel ice cream. I went for a Blueberry souffle with a blackcurrant sorbet. Perfectly light and delicious, I’d definitely recommend anyone who gets the chance should try it.

Petit Fours followed, and we opted for a couple of additional espresso’s to finish off. Although there were a lot of courses, all of them were fairly small so that you didn’t feel you were struggling to complete any of it. A wonderful mixture of flavours, textures and food, all served in a relaxed but smart dining room. The usual prices are quite a bit lower than the Valentine’s special, but you do have to book early (as much as a couple of weeks, I believe).

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