Estrella Galicia at Barrafina Adelaide Street in Covent Garden
Alternative drinks pairings are a hot topic right now. Alyn Williams at the Westbury is serving matching craft beers with his menu, Fera at Claridges have sought out the expertise of Postcard Teas to provide “ambient brews” to match with their own food. It seems like the binary days of wine or water might well be coming to an end, as more and more restaurants embrace the potential of different beverages.
For many, it’s a chance to showcase the best drinks that their region can offer. Here Barrafina and Estrella Galicia unite to showcase the potential of pairing a selection of beers with the former’s exceptional range of tapas. Eyebrows raise in slight alarm as an alcohol-free variant is wheeled out for the first dishes: although alcohol-free beer makes up a decent chunk of the Spanish market, here its consumption is almost negligible. There’s no need for concern, though, as it pairs beautifully with a rich cube of tortilla, all dense, gooey goodness, the slight creaminess of the beer accentuating the tortilla’s own excellent texture. It’s more demure flavour profile also allows both the sweetness of Pan con Tomate and the citrus zing of Scallop Ceviche to flourish.
The 1906 Reserva Especial is the one beer that really steals the show though. Named after the brewery’s founding year, it’s robust yet subtle, packed full of malts but with lighter notes of caramel in there too. It’s smooth enough to go perfectly with a medley of seafood: plump, succulent prawns, their heads bursting with salty bisque; langoustines awash with garlicky butter. Yet there’s a boldness there that isn’t bullied by strips of beautifully seared Galician steak, matching them blow for meaty blow. Lamb sweetbreads, adorned with a little blob of creamy mayonnaise, benefitted immensely from the beer’s slight acidity, cutting through all that creamy richness.
Funnily enough, the Reserva is actually a better pairing for the beautiful chocolate torte that comes next than the 1906 Black Coupage that’s suggested. This black lager is seriously rich, with notes you would normally expect to see in a doppelbock or porter. Dark chocolate, coffee and liquorice dominate, and although it’s a very interesting beer in and of itself, it’s just a little too much when paired with a dessert. The torte itself is incredible: chocolate as smooth as velvet, hitting that magic point between being gooey and silky with effortless ease.
Whisper it, but we actually prefer the Reserva Especial with the cheese board too, it’s malty sweetness is strong enough to stand up to the potency of even soft-rinded goat’s cheese without either one dominating. The drink is comparable to a good Sauternes in both its versatility and its beautiful ability to complement decisive flavours, which is no small compliment.
Overall, a meal that highlights both the potential and the youth of beer pairings. At times, the matches are so impressive that you would hold them in the same esteem as an equivalent wine but we would be remiss to forget the moments where the choices feel too unrefined, too broad, like classical music on an electric guitar. Barrafina, for their part, continues to offer almost flawless tapas and exceptional service – the warmth, charm and aplomb of Spain on a plate. There’s definite potential here, and with a little adjustment, we expect to see beer pairings to continue their rise from novelty to serious culinary delight.
★★★★★Food ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Drinks ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Service ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮
Barrafina Adelaide Street is at 10 Adelaide Street, Covent Garden, London WC2N 4HZ, for further information call 020 7440 1456 or visit here.
For further information about Estrella Galicia visit here.