Friday, September 24, 2010

Gin gin ginned – The Elgin

Once in a while, you’ll form a tumultuous relationship with a food or drink that will rock you to the core and never leave you the same again, in the manner of Scarlett and Rhett. The first one I remember was with Marmite. As a nipper I loved the stuff.

I won’t go into full details in case you marmite haters chunder a little in your mouth but my memories include the usual suspects – Marmite and Toast, Marmite and crackers but also a few more erratic dishes (Marmite, baked beans and mashed potato anyone) and sometimes a grubby finger dipped straight into that brown pot and transferred straight to the mouth. Then, one day, I woke up and I hated the stuff. I still can’t get my nose near the pot without going an unflattering shade of ashen brown and getting all wriggly about the mouth.

The reverse has been true of gin. I don’t remember having any childhood opinions about gin (well, it would be rather worrying if I did) but I know that when I went to uni, the general impression I had about the stuff was that it was a) The drink of old whiskery ladies b) absolutely vomit-inducingly vile.

To say I disliked it could take the prize as the understatement of the century, so much so that when a friend decided to start up the Oxford Gin Appreciation Society (OGAS), I put myself forward for the role of equal drinks opportunities officer. But, as Sam wrote more and more letters to the various gin distilleries dotted about the UK and the bottles of free gin started to land on our doorsteps, I found myself increasingly tempted. Surely it couldn’t be that bad?

The ice was completely broken one night when we held the OGAS Gin Olympics (known as watching Eurovision with various gin-based dishes such as gin pineapple upside down cake and gin jelly to the rest of the world) and I discovered that gin was really quite nice. And we’ve been in love since, happily ever after and all that crap.

So, when the old gin palace in Ladbroke Grove The Elgin reopened a year ago, I was intrigued... Other than their continuing association with dodgy Victorian types, gin palaces haven’t received much attention over recent years. And this was one that claimed to have over 35 gins behind the bar and served some excellent food to boot.

My recent trip to Bob Bob Ricard had got me thinking about the pairing of alcohol and food. Wine of course, but even beer and vodka have received their fair share of exploration in terms of pairing with food. But gin? Not so much... So I had a chat with the manager at The Elgin to see if she could put together a few things and she did.

A dense, meat-packed smoked duck salad was paired with a Cauronn gin all the way from Speyside, Scotland, which brought out the rich flavours of the duck quite well, the smoked salmon salad with a saffron gin was another winner.

My favourite by far was the grilled sea bass, which was served with a Hendrick’s gin and tonic with cucumber instead of the lime. Not only was the cucumber an ideal foil for the delicate sea bass, but the overall effect was one of a light and refreshing meal that suited a late-summer’s evening to a t.

Unsurprisingly Clare voted that her steak would have been better off with a red wine, but it was an experiment that was worth doing and, she was still left with a gorgeous steak that she put swiftly away before guzzling the gin afterwards.

We were too full for dessert – so instead we sipped on a sloe gin on the rocks as a sweet ending to the meal before tottering off home. It definitely got me thinking, if you have any ideas about the pairings, give me a shout I’d be very interested to hear them.

Waiting rating: Ingenious pairing of food and gin. Nuff said.
Scoffing potential: Almost as good as the drinking potential, which is almost unlimited.
Wallet buddy: Not too cheap, not at all steep as we like to say down at the Grove.
The crowd: Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts popping in from Notting Hill for a quiet bite and drink rah rah rah
96 Ladbroke Grove,
Ladbroke Grove
020 7229 5663


Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.