Beer has long been overlooked in fine dining circles, but as the South African beer landscape develops and a plethora of new beer styles emerges, wine is wobbling a little on its long-standing pedestal. In the Cape especially, top chefs are exploring the vast possibilities of food and beer pairing, with dozens of wildly different styles, both local and international, now available to them.
The trend has already been explored by the likes of Tanja Kruger of Makaron, Stéfan Marais of Societi Bistro and Peter Templehoff of The Greenhouse and now Reuben’s at the One and Only has become the latest restaurant to realise that beer and posh nosh can be enjoyed together.
It was Executive Sous Chef, Garth Johnson, who masterminded the menu at the Waterfront restaurant’s recent craft beer dining experience. Other than the usual braai and pint, it was Garth’s first foray into food and beer pairing and although there were some surprising pairings on the menu, it was definitely a successful start. After amusing our bouches with a solid pairing of salt and pepper squid and a glass of Darling Brew’s popular Slow Brew, it was on to what was, for me at least, the best pairing of the evening.
Devil’s Peak’s complex and perfectly-made brews are ideal food beers, standing up to dishes both delicate and fiery. Garth had opted for a little of both, with the Cape-based brewery’s entry-level First light Golden Ale served with a pineapple Carpaccio, spiced up with pork belly, basil, chili and lime.
Pairing a witbier with a hearty meat dish was an unusual move, but Darling’s highly spiced Bone Crusher stood up surprisingly well to the Chalmar beef sirloin – the frites and mayo gave a Belgian twist that definitely suited this beer.
The dessert pairing was a touch less successful, and while some enjoyed the brûlée-like bitterness of the Triggerfish Roman Red with the apple tart, I felt that the same brewery’s Titan Imperial IPA, with its complex sweetness and higher alcohol content, would have been a better dessert beer.
But whichever beer came out the favourite, whichever pairing ticked the most boxes, the evening was a hit, with beer connoisseurs and novices, tourists and locals alike turning out to experience an alternative to the city’s many wine-pairing dinners.
The Vista Bar at the One& Only now boasts its own craft beer menu, featuring eight beers from four breweries across the Cape. Look out for future food and beer pairing events on their website.