Foie Gras with a side of Stella
Ah, those coveted Michelin Stars. The toast of foodies and food fashionistas the world over. The par de excellence. The top table of fine dining. The crème de la crème. But beyond this glamorous facade of foie gras and foamed peas there lies a dirty secret that contradicts everything that the Michelin Guide stands for. The answer? Unimaginative, uninspired, industrial mainstream beers masquerading as if they were genuinely on a par with the world's finest food.
In fact, of the one hundred and forty Michelin starred eateries in the UK, most are more than happy to serve names like Peroni, Becks, Tiger and Stella alongside haute couture grub.
So, with the UK's most reputable dining establishments casually filling pint glasses with carbonated swill whilst turning their noses up at the mere sight of a KFC chicken nugget, there was little that could stop us from doing a name and shame.
First up is The Square, located in London's salubrious and leafy Mayfair. Boasting two Michelin stars, the menu at The Square serves all your family favourites including 'Lasagne of Dorset Crab with a Cappuccino of Shellfish and Champagne Foam' and 'Sweet and Sour Consommé with Suckling Pig Ravioli'. What it fails to offer, however, is an accompaniment of craft beers, opting instead for a rather embarrassing barrage of Budvar, Hoegaarden and Meteor; the latter of which currently scores a crippling 11 overall points on Rate beer. Not really worth the menu's £170+ price tag.
With London's Hibiscus, L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon and The Berkeley fairing little better, the rest of England follows suite. Gidleigh Park in Devon, for example, chooses to punish diners' palettes with a mouth watering selection of beers from the likes of Guinness and, of course, CAMRA favourite – Tribute; a traditional English ale that's hopped with enough Fuggles to induce a small socks and sandals wearing fit. Whatley Manor in Wiltshire is also worth a mention for their criminal pairing of snails and quails with a chilled glass of Becks. We're not entirely sure whether the drinkers of Becks are huge fans of roasted breast of quail but we like to keep an open mind.
North of the border, the good people at the Gleneagles restaurant are also doing their bit to prevent the craft beer revolution from reaching the palettes of their patrons by offering Budvar and Tiger. The pinnacle of Scottish brewing – St Andrews Ale – is also on offer...we're guessing that's one for their American diners.
So if scores of two star Michelin restaurants serving fizzy yellow lagers didn't come as a surprise, you might be more taken aback by the even more highly regarded three star Michelins that include household names like Ramsay and Blumenthal at the helm.
In fact, there's one three star restaurant in particular that takes home the crown for the UK's most atrocious beer list and that's The Waterside Inn in Berkshire. Purporting to be a 'leading light in the world of gastronomy' whilst offering cooking that's 'unashamedly French' (whatever that means), The Waterside Inn sets some pretty steep expectations. That is, until you set eyes on the beer list – a tragic trio of Peroni, Guiness and Stella - which only serves to mimic feelings similar to what it must be like to find out your parents are actually brother and sister.
Fancy saving yourself a few bucks and want to avoid pairing your dinner with foul, fizzy, chemical-ridden beers? Avoiding Michelin restaurants, at least until they join the craft beer restaurant, is probably a good place to start. Only time can tell whether hand-crafted beer that contains the finest, natural ingredients brewed to Michelin Star – not Stella - standards will ever find a place in these restaurants. If all else fails we'll have a bottle of 77 and a family bucket of chicken to go.
- Good article. It is difficult to get decent beer at most top restaurants, but there are some exceptions. The Albannach in Lochinver (I know, seriously remote) has a michelin star but does a range of he cairngorm brewery's bottled beers. also the kitchin in edinburgh has one or two good craft beers in bottles. Beyond that, i don't know - it's a real shame. Richard Wilson28.01.2011
- I'd love to see some outstanding beers on these restaurants' lists. I don't understand how a venue of michelin calibre could give so little thought to something on its list. if nobody orders beer in these places - don't have beer. if you're going to list beer, do it right.
We've noticed in the shop that we run that our most discerning craft beer customers drink rubbish wine. And our fine wine drinkers opt for cheap, boring lager. We see this ALL the time. I can't get my head around it, but I learned about wine, beer and whisky all alongside one another and adore them equally. I would absolutely order craft beer in a michelin restaurant and would greatly value having that option. It continues to surprise me how cemented people are in their thinking and their preferences for what kind of drink is appropriate for a particular context.
Wine is not the only damn thing worth having at a fine-dining establishment. I am so glad to see people mercilessly questioning this mindet.Freya28.01.2011
- I am sure the beer drinkers at these establishments are in the minority, so why invest in a beer that has a limited shelf life (read craft beer)? They can serve a beer which tastes shit whether its fresh or not. Is there really a huge demand for beer at these venues?
The key is getting good beer at places which sells good food period. there are a whole lot more places that serve crappy food than good food in Scotland per se. Would you want your product associated with a shitty pub? probably....££££
I ate at a fine dining restaurant North of San Fran in wine country. They had local craft brews on their drinks menu, the very fine Russian River Brewing. I ordered an IPA for my beverage of choice and got sneered at by the wait staff, classic.Campbell28.01.2011
- Great Burgers though! I just checked and they are still doing this tasting in January Sam Hill28.01.2011
- Corrigans recently did a burger beer tasting at their bar. The choices were Goose Island IPA, Brooklyn Lager and Brakspear Oxford Gold. They don't currently have a Michelin star but Richard Corrigan's food is at that level and he has had them at his previous restaurants. But I think the fact that this was a beer/burger pairing shows the way that beer is still thought of in the restaurant industry. Sam Hill28.01.2011
- I quite agree with Kyle its ok to serve good quality wine with michellin star food yet they serve fizzy shite beer.
Its time that quality craft beers where served alongside quality food and wine.
It $£"""" people do want to drink beer when eating quality food.Martin Grove28.01.2011
- <b>nice<b> brewdog fan28.01.2011
- The point is simple: There is not enough mark-up or demand to cater for 'craft beer' in high end restuarants. I find the notion that I being a 'snob' by saying this ignorant and laughable. It's got nothing to do with the fact that you can pair craft beer and food, it is purely economics, and knowing your clientelle. Look at someone like Daniel Boloud's places in NYC and you see the point. He 'get's' craft beer (goto DBGB's) even Bar Boloud sells Punk IPA in London, but you won't find it at his flagship restuarant. People don't drink beer when fine dining.
- Mark, quit being a snob. Your opinion, while popular in the world of fine dining, is outdated. You clearly know nothing of beer and how excellently it pairs with food. Take a look at this: http://blog.stonebrew.com/?p=1443 I don't know about the UK, but events like these have been taking place all over the States and beer has frequently been winning. Kyle28.01.2011
- "Even if they thought they could sell loads of Blossom Hill, they wouldn't because it would cheapen the whole menu. Which is exactly why it's so stupid that they sell the beer equivalent of Blossom Hill."
There's no point in pandering to those who still have the cultural cringe and think that only wine is good enough to go with good food. This is a beer country and it's embarrassing to see the awful crappy beer that restaurant punter are offered as a matter of course.Barm27.01.2011
- I think it comes down to knowledge an experience. Most of these proprietors/chefs will have be trained in high end restaurants which have traditionally concentrated on highend wines (and not so high end) and made huge margins on them.
Less cynically however, I suspect that they are familiar, not to mention trained, in pairing foods with wine and to them beer is sort of, low brow. Hence the reason the beers sold are all a bit mass produced and duff, or sort of crafty, but with little or no imagination.
Sadly it is a chain that is unlikely to be broken, as these top chefs will always be trained in top restaurants, none of whom give a damn about the quality of the beer that is on offer simply because - and this is just a guess - beer is for the less discerning clientele.
I can't be bothered with all that nonsense anyway, I don't care how many ducks you explode to make posh pate, no meal is ever going to be wirth spending £170 a head on.
And I bet you can't wear jeans eitherChris27.01.2011
- Must agree about the poor choice of beers in restaurants, however blog is spoiled by another cheap shot at CAMRA. At least get your facts straight, Tribute has Fuggles, Styrian and Willamette hops. Bloo Tooner27.01.2011
- To be fair, the Waterside had some local ales in too when we went (Redemption, etc). But they hadn't really been trying very hard to get interesting beers on their menu or, heaven forbid, match it to their food.
What really irritates me is hotels with aspirations who only serve beater or some manky stale thing on cask. Surely it wouldn't cost much to have a decent bottle selection in? If they're worried they won't turn it over, buy the odd case. It'll keep. Grrr.Rich27.01.2011
- Both Tribute and St. Andrews are decent Craft beer. Its a shame that these restaurants dont offer a wider range of these sort of beers. But again it would be better that they were offered in Cask, and there probably not enough demand, to justify this. craig garvie27.01.2011
- Right, OK, so, whilst I agree in part with you there Mark, a lot of what you say, I really don't agree with...
I agree, that if, Sorry, WHEN I eat in a posh restaurant, I never drink beer. It's Wine every time for me...
However, there are people who DO drink beer with their food, be it just preference, or even allergies to wine... So the fact that all these restaurants carry several brands of beer each, means that clearly beer DOES sell in these establishments...
Theres a place in the market, just because it's not what you drink, doesn't mean that you are right here...Dale27.01.2011
- Of course you wouldn't go just for the beer. No one would just go for the wine either. You go for the food and the experience. If you know anything about beer and food pairing, it should be pretty clear that beer can add something to that.
It's also nothing to do with what sells. I bet 90% of the restaurants' wine lists don't sell. It's not there to sell, it's there to look impressive and show everyone that they have the very best of everything.
Even if they thought they could sell loads of Blossom Hill, they wouldn't because it would cheapen the whole menu. Which is exactly why it's so stupid that they sell the beer equivalent of Blossom Hill.
It shows a complete ignorance about a huge part of the world of booze and what it can bring to good food from a group of people who are supposed to have all of this down to a tee.Lucky Pierre27.01.2011
- I'm always puzzled why places that pride themselves on great food and wine can't be bothered to serve decent beer. I read a blog recently saying pretty much the same thing about a "7 star" hotel: http://zythophile.wordpress.com/2010/12/06/so-what-beers-does-a-seven-star-hotel-serve/
@Dan: of course there's a time and place for lager - there's just no time and place for crappy lager!Neil27.01.2011
- Mark, if they are going to sell beer at all, why shouldn't it be high quality beer? No one is saying you have to be there for the beer either, but if its on the menu at all, surely it should be good quality?
LOL @ "You fundamentally don't have a clue about the restuarant business." I'm sure they are aware, like most of us that have thought about this, that it comes down to the following:
1) The sale of alcoholic drinks makes up a large part of a restaurants turnover and profit
2) Wine is the alcoholic drink with by far the highest profit margins, and so keeping wine as the "status quo drink with food" is in the interests of the restaurant businessJohnC27.01.2011
- Great stuff! All we need now is for everyone to add comments to this blog detailing restaurants that have embraced the craft beer revolution. I wonder if these Michelin star restaurants also stock Lambrini and liebfraumilch? Beer Hawk27.01.2011
- Have to laugh at 'touchy' Mark's comment above! It's a tongue in cheek article man, lighten the f*** up!
I see what you're getting at guys, but it does also seem like a campaign against any beer that isn't BrewDog (as much as I love your products). Surely there is a time and a place for lager?Dan27.01.2011
no, you wouldnt go to those kinds of places specifically for the beer, but one should expect that if you are paying 40 bucks for a steak and the wine list is five pages long there would be more than four or five shit beers to choose from.John27.01.2011
- Mark i think you're missing the point. its not about going to one of these restaurants specifically to buy craft beer but if they serve amazing food and wine why not good quality beer that compliments the food too. Which the aforementioned guiness, stella etc obviously do not Barry27.01.2011
- Interesting stuff, but not at all surprising. i live in the states and its very similar here. although some high end restaurants are begining to sell craft beers the number is very small. you are more likely to find large craft beer selections at hole in the wall mexican and pizza joints. John27.01.2011
- Why would I go to such a place for the beer? I wouldn't. You don't really sell craft beer as an option when its not really something that is sold. Just because Noma sell I Hardcore You (and you are not even listed as Scottish), their wine list still dwarfs the beer by about 10 times. Given that's what people drink. You fundamentally don't have a clue about the restuarant business. Mark27.01.2011