Bean and Wheat, Hoxton – Food and Beer Heaven:
Food and wine pairings have always been accepted as a sophisticated approach to eating well. It’s something that is not really questioned beyond an accepted truth. A couple of years ago though things began to shift and attention began to swing ever so slightly to other areas of beverage to accompany a meal. Along with the revolution in beer, specifically the smaller craft breweries, someone somewhere began to pair beer with food, and it was a lightbulb moment!
The truth is, beer has such an incredible range of flavours, that it makes a very natural choice for food accompaniment. Some would argue, and I wouldn’t disagree… that beer potentially has a much wider appeal for food pairing than wine! Heresy! you say? Not true…. revelatory instead!
Adam Handling is the Chef-Patron of six London restaurants and bars, award-winning ones at that. Adam started at 16 years old at the Gleneagles hotel and quickly became a chef to be reckoned with. I hope he will forgive me for describing him as a young man in the industry, but his rise has been meteoric, and the food he is producing is astonishing! Bean and Wheat is attached to his Hoxton Restaurant The Frog and is a very clever concept. The fine dining available at The Frog produces an excess of food that would otherwise be unused, and Bean and Wheat puts it to use by creating a second meal from it. Very smart, and the kind of green credentials we could do with seeing more of in London. Aside from producing forward thinking modern and exquisite food, Adam has now organised 7 individual evenings of food to be paired with beer from seven different breweries from around the UK. Each evening will feature some of Adam’s glorious food paired expertly with a beer on each course. Each brewery will be present to comment and discuss the pairing and answer any questions.
We were lucky enough to be invited to the inaugural evening where the featured brewery was Brew By Numbers of Bermondsey. We are familiar with Brew by Numbers and were intrigued to see what was to be offered alongside Adam Handling’s food.
I could write a long wordy article on the intricacies of the matched beer and food, but this would make for a long article! I’ll name a few though to give you an idea.
We started with Puffed rice crackers topped with heritage carrots, accompanied by Trout Buckwheat crackers with Dill and Passionfruit. Brew By Numbers were represented at this meal by co-founder and brewer Tom Hutchings. Tom had decided upon a Cucumber and Juniper Saison. This slightly tart, refreshing, highly aromatic beer was clearly a very good match, cutting through the bready richness of the food. You can pair with food by either being harmonious, or slightly contrary. Both work exceedingly well when right, and we were to be treated to both these styles throughout the meal.
Next up was Duck Rissoles, with some stunningly fresh bread and the much-lauded “Chicken Butter”. Chicken butter is not something I would have thought of, but it was frankly revelatory! Tom paired this with another saison, this time hopped with Mosaic hops, which impart a fruity note, much like peaches and citrus fruits. Following on from this was a delicate little parcel of celeriac with egg yolk, apple, dates and truffle. This was(in my humble opinion) paired with my personal favourite beer of the evening, a Farmhouse sour berry red beer. Both the dish and the beer were sublime.
Next, a staple favourite at the Frog and at Wheat & Bean; Sutton Hoo chicken. This is how chicken should be! Moist and tender, and stuffed with flavour. Perhaps it was one of the simpler dishes, but the quality of ingredients and gastronomic skill often show up best in something simpler, and this was a great display of both those qualities. Another stunning dish was the Cheese Doughnuts. This was a somehow ludicrous idea of a cheesy yet sweet doughnut topped with more finely grated hard cheese, where the taste somehow transcended the crazy idea. A dish that quietened the table completely, with just the odd muffled sounds of people going… Mmmmm! This had been paired with a Chocolate and Orange Stout, again was a perfect pairing, the thick malty stout had great notes of orange that cut through the sweet cheesiness of the doughnuts.
The final dish was a visually beautiful dish of fruit compotes, tiny meringues and lemon thyme posset, matched with a raspberry and hibiscus Witbier.
To sum up, I don’t think I’ve had such a well rounded evening of wonderful food and drink in a very long time! Each dish was explained when served by one of the chefs, and each accompanying beer was described by the brewer too. You went into each course knowing the background of each component. That’s a rare thing these days. All in all, I think these evenings… and there are 6 more across the spring, summer and early Autumn, are exceptional value for money. The food is exemplary, and the breweries lined up still to come, along with the opening night’s Brew by Numbers are some of the best in the country. I am very tempted to go back for more!
Bean and Wheat are at: https://www.beanandwheat.co.uk
Tickets are available at: https://www.designmynight.com/london/restaurants/shoreditch/the-frog-hoxton
Upcoming brewery pairings are:
The Five Points Brewing Company on Friday 10th May
The Wild Beer on Friday 15th June
Verdant Brewing Company on Friday 5th July
Pressure Drop Brewery on Friday 2nd August
Mikkeller on Friday 6th September
Burning Sky Brewery on Friday 4th October.