Monday, September 22, 2014

Review I Biggie at the Beer Cafe, Connaught Place

I'd been reading so much about this new menu that had been curated by Chef Saby that I couldn't wait to visit Biggie at The Beer Cafe. So much so, that even torrential rain didn't deter me from making it across town. And in that excitement, ofcourse I ended up at the wrong Beer Cafe. 
So by the time I reached the real place, I was pretty much drenched and just wanted to sit in a cool dry place. I shouldn't have worried about that, because Biggie was all that and more. 

We chose to sit next to a large window that gave us the view of the Central Park and CP and set out ordering. How about a beer? We were asked. Unfortunately neither of us felt like one, but since we were at the Beer Cafe, beer shots were really the thing to do.

The menu at The Biggie is pretty much pub grub but not quite the run-of-the-mill stuff. There's a bit of south Indian fare in the mix, some Mexican and some fusion. Plus there's an excellent food to beer pairing which is very fun to do.

The Deconstructed Peanut Chaat caught our eye straight out. Served with tamarind mayo on store bought nachos this was a very interesting way to start the meal. I do wish that the peanuts were slightly more toasted than boiled because a bit more of the crunch would have worked well.

Next up, The Green Inferno - stuffed chillies with mozzarella and corn kernels - but when it came we got paneer with cheese sauce and no hint of mozzarella. Yes, the stuffed chillie was delicious but the rest of the dish was very passable.

We chose the El Pollo Luco from the taco section, and while the filling was great, the taco in itself tasted like cardboard, it tasted old and extremely stale. 

After that, our pizza trudged along - The Good, Bad and the Ugly - a spinach, walnut and feta. The pizza was quite good. The sauce worked well with the feta and the walnuts added a great crunch to the pie. A regular sized pizza is great for two to three people. 

Up next was the Beer-battered fish, which was really the most amazing part of the meal, The batter was so light and the fish so fresh, that I couldn't stop eating it. The fries that came with it were sprinkled a spice mix that made them so fabulous. Served with a wasabi mayo those double-fried fries were really special. 

Finally it was time for dessert, and we really went the whole hog. We ordered the tiramisu or the beeramisu, coffee and beer made decoction so heady that you could taste the barley as you plodded on through the dessert. The steamed beer date pudding was up next. The citrusy ness of the beer shone through but the toffee sauce really brought the dessert together. 

But the piece de resistance was the 5-star whiskey chocolate mousse. A dessert so sublime that you couldn't stop licking the spoon. If I ever have to pair anything with a beer it's this. The whiskey hit, the bits of candy and the intensity of the chocolate only match up to one thing - the cleansing taste of beer. Plus the bruleed marshmallow just added an oomph to it all. 

Biggie has got a few things right which is a good thing, and it's going in the right direction, which is great for any place that's focus so far has only been the beverages. 

Event I South African Wine Tasting. Plus meeting Nelson Mandela's Chef

Sometimes, you think you're going to do one thing, but instead end up with two things in your pocket. That's what happened with me. I thought I was going for a spot of wine tasting, but instead ended up meeting Xoliswa Ndoyiya, the resident chef of the late Nelson Mandela.

Xoliswa Ndoyiya, Nelson Mandela's chef for the last 22 years

As we all sat around at The Wine Company waiting to taste the South African wines that had been picked out for the tasting, the conversation obviously steered towards how and what Mr Mandela was like. Xoliswa, who had worked with him for over 22 years, had quite a few things to say about him - that he welcomed people with open arms so there were atleast a 100 people at any given meal at the Mandela household. That he liked simple food and what he'd crave for at the end of the day was a bowl of rice and beans. And that he was, perhaps, one of the world's most large-hearted persons.

Alan Nelson with Xoliswa
We sat around listening to her, as the wines began flowing. The tasting began with a Sauvignon Blanc, which was light and refreshing and crisp. Fortunately for us, we didn't have to use our heads to decode the wines as we had Alan Nelson, owner of the Nelson Wine Estates, to guide us through what we were drinking. 

The Rose followed which went perfectly with the cheese board that the good people of The Wine Company had put out for us. Which was then followed by the Pinotage, made by a South African native red grape which is a cross between the Pinot Noir and Cinsaut. The beautiful earthy flavours of the wine clearly made it one of my favourites for the evening.

More hors d'oeuvres - rice crackers with whipped feta and pizzas with lamb and spinach made their way to our table and the next wine  - the Cape Blend - was poured out next. This is a relatively new variety of wine that South Africa has just started producing. Nobody really knows what really goes into it, but I can say this safely - I'm not going to be trying to again - since it was a bit too dry for me. 

Mushroom risotto as my main, and the wine poured next was the Merlot. Which was really quite fabulous and worked well with my risotto. But it was the last and the final wine for the evening which was really fantastic

Nelson estate's Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot was beautifully intense yet so smooth that you couldn't help but ask for another glass. The spiciness from the Cabernet grapes was quite apparent but it was the balance in the acidity which made this the wine to drink. 

Which is why the second glass of this fab wine, went perfectly with the delicious Tiramisu that brought the evening to an end.

Needless to say, this was a Friday evening well spent.