March was a fairly quiet month for The Cocktail Lovers. But that’s not to say we didn’t have our fair share of fun. We learned the art of matching whiskey with Indian food at Moti Mohal, drank in the views from the top of The Gherkin and sat in on the judging of the new drinks menu at The Hoxton Pony…
Whisky is the equivalent of Marmite in the drinks world: you either love it or hate it. Actually, let’s correct that: you either get it or you don’t. It’s the kind of spirit that people equate with red-nosed, hardcore drinkers, probably because a little really does go a long, long way. We’ve enjoyed it in the odd Old Fashioned, we’ve glammed it up in modern cocktails at Whisky Mist, we’ve even tried it at Auchentoshan, a wonderful distillery in the Lowlands. But we’ve never thought of trying it with food. And who in their right mind would think of matching it glass-for-glass with Indian food? The people at Moti Mahal and Bushmill’s, that’s who.
As it’s Irish, we have to add that all important ‘e’ for authenticity. So it becomes whiskey rather than plain old whisky. Enough of the spelling lesson, what we’re sure you really want to know is does it sit well with the food? Surprisingly, the answer is yes. We didn’t have much mind, just a wee sip before each delicious mouthful but a tot was just enough to confirm why this is the spirit of choice in Indian households. Our extremely tasty, great value 5-course meal (£40 including five, 25 ml shots of whiskey) took in steamed Dublin Bay prawns, rice cakes ‘Appams’, coconut herb chutney accompanied with Bushmills Original, followed by venison ‘seekh’ kebab, asparagus tikki and grilled fig with Bushmills Black Bush. A delicious ‘Palak Paneer’ baked filo parcel of paneer and garden peas, creamed spinach and raisin chutney was paired with Bushmills Malt 16 Year Old, while the Irish lamb stew with ‘Goan sausages’, potatoes, carrots and crusty bread sat perfectly with the Bushmills 1608 Anniversary Edition. Even the dessert of fruit salad and sorbet was matched with whiskey, in this instance Bushmills Malt 10 Year Old. This is a special St. Patrick’s Day promotion but the restaurant hold regular whisky (note the spelling) dinners and have a Whisky Bar packed with 150 varieties ranging from £4.50-£72 a shot.
Moti Mahal, 45 Gt. Queen Street, WC2B 5AA. T: 020-7240 9329. http://www.motimahal-uk.com/.
More foodie action at 40/30, the oh-so fabulous restaurant/bar at 30 St Mary Axe (aka The Gherkin). We’ve always been slightly in awe of its impressive structure so we were delighted to get an invite to check out the eating and drinking facilities usually only open to members and extra-special V.I.P’s. We had a glass or two of champagne to toast the views from 180 ft above ground, then enjoyed a fabulous lunch while admiring the splendour of London’s architecture, old and new. Obviously, we slipped down to the bar for a cocktail each – purely for research mind – and we’re pleased to say, the classics served here more than match the mindblowing surroundings.
We also got a sneaky peek at the upcoming drinks on the Hoxton Pony menu thanks to our invitation from Andy Pearson to join him and the rest of his top bartending team for their latest cocktail competition. Every few months the HP crew take a look at the season’s new ingredients and put aside three weeks for each of them to come up with a new recipe. On the night they each step up to showcase their offering. The best make it on to the new menu. A great evening and a nice way to keep the menu fresh.
Words to the wise (or just plain curious)
When you see the designation ‘100% Single Malt Scotch Whisky’, the whisky is made with only malted barley, and the word ‘single’ means the whisky is the output of a single malt distillery in one season.
From The Craft Of The Cocktail by Dale DeGroff