If you're reading this, we're assuming that it's Valentine's day soon and the pressure is on to organise that intimate, romantic and delicious dinner for two. So how do you make even more of your meal? By putting beer first. Say hello to our guide to restaurants with top beer offerings, or how to cook something a little more intimate..
One of the best ways to spend Valentine's Day is sharing an amazing meal with that special someone, and when it comes to ensuring a meal is amazing you look to beer. Beer is a diverse and versatile drink - whatever dish you order from the menu there's a beer that will bring out the best in your food, perhaps much more so than with wine.
We've selected some restaurants from up and down the country with stunning menus and beers to match. Going out on Valentine's never tasted so good
Treat them to a night out...
Le Manoir Aux Quat'Saisons, Oxfordshire
Raymond Blanc's two Michelin starred restaurant and hotel. With five and seven course dining options starting at £138 per person make no mistake, this comes with a two Michelin star price tag. But there is something justifiable about such expense when you can order seared langoustine, Jerusalem artichoke and Perigord truffles as your hors d'oeuvres. Follow that with braised fillet of turbot, scallop, cucumber, wasabi paired with a Curious Brew (brewed with Champagne yeast) and suddenly your bank manager might start to understand. The beer list is varied yet unfussy with a style for each course from countries including Italy, Germany, Belgium, Spain, USA, France and good ol' Blighty. This is a Valentine's Day experience turned all they way up to 12 (which is more than 11).
The Mariners, Cornwall
A pub overlooking the Camel Estuary in the popular village of Rock that has both eyes firmly on beer and food. This refurbished public house, the brainchild of celebrated Cornish chef Nathan Outlaw and local brewery Sharp's (brewer of the world renowned Doom Bar), offers a menu of seafood delights you'd expect of an eatery next to the water, and is all the better for it. The beer list stands up to close inspection too. Try the Franciscan Well Chieftan IPA from Ireland or one of the 7 (that's seven) Sharp's cask ales, not to mention the 17 (yes, seventeen) bottled beers from around the world. For a truly indulgent end to your Valentine supper go for the Sharp's Dubbel Coffee Stout tiramisu.
A pub like no other. An assortment of taxidermy adorns the walls amongst exposed timber beams. The main seating area is intimate offering five or six tables and food is served all day with a variety of mixed meat and cheese platters comprised of ingredients such as venison, duck, pies, local cheeses plus daily delights from the specials board. The beer list is an eclectic offering from around the world including breweries such as Timmermans, La Trappe, Beavertown, Thornbridge, Wild Beer Co, Brew by Numbers and Siren. The pub also owns the bottle shop that sits underneath, so on your way out choose from over 600 beers as a parting gift including rare Belgian gems.
The National Brewery Centre, Burton upon Trent
If you both really (REALLY) love beer, spend this Valentine's Day in Burton upon Trent - the spiritual home of British brewing. Granted, you and your partner need to be pretty keen on beer for this option but you're guaranteed a fascinating day learning about the social history of brewing. Follow that with a cozy meal for two in the restaurant and a great selection of beers to match. The menu is solid, no-nonsense fayre including the classic brewery sharing platter, Welsh rarebit, bangers and mash and steak and ale pie. The beers are classics too with Bass, Doom Bar, Charringtons IPA plus 2 changing guest ales on the bar and hundreds of ales to ponder from their beer boutique. A quintessentially British Valentine's Day idea steeped in the history of beer.
Friends of Ham, Leeds and Ilkley
You can't book and they don't actually cook anything so should such a place even be on this list? Absolutely. A continental-style café, bar and charcuterie situated in the heart of Leeds (and a second site recently opened in Ilkley) and in 2014 was crowned Best Place to Drink in the UK in The Observer Food Monthly Awards. You can eat here of course (we're talking meats and cheeses all impeccably kept and served) but beer is the star. Their considered beer list is a thing of beauty with more bottled beers than you can shake a hop bine at and something for every palate. This Valentine's opt for one of their sharing bottles from the Brooklyn Brewery in New York. Black Ops is a bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout that's re-fermented with Champagne yeast and luxuriously romanti
Curry Leaf Cafe, Brighton
Beer and curry is the perfect marriage of beer and food, and the Curry Leaf Cafe does beer and curry extremely well indeed. The dinner menu leans towards crisp, fresh tasting dishes and fragrant, perfectly spiced curries. Enjoy pork vindaloo, winter vegetable malpas or meen eeral kozhambu (a sea bass and king prawn pleasure of a dish) to name but three. And then there's the beer. The list is split into styles with numerous IPA's, amber and red ales, lagers and pilsners, blonde and golden ales, wheat beers and stouts and porters to choose from. Set in the heart of Brighton's Lanes this is a beery Valentine's by the seaside.
El Cartel, Edinburgh
Is a quirky kind of Valentine's on the menu for you? How does a Scottish Mexican restaurant sound? But the novelty factor ends there with the beer, food and decor at this Edinburgh New Town eatery putting paid to any 'themed' restaurant suspicions. At El Cartel they make their tortillas on the premises and also create a house hot sauce (in addition to the three on each table). The menu is typically Mexican in its offering but individual in execution, with items such as baby back pork ribs with rosemary chile rub and tamarind habanero glaze, roasted pork belly, pineapple, white onion and coriander, and braised lamb shoulder, tomatillo mint salsa and cucumber. The beers on offer are, sensibly, all Mexican and range in style from IPA, porters, and red ales to blonde ales, lagers and Mexican foods finest friend the wheat beer (in this case a hefeweizen). Delicious, affordable and a bit different.
Albert's Schloss, Manchester
A Valentine's Day in Bavaria sounds romantic, and that's what you'll get a taste of at this bustling reimagined Bavarian beer hall. Indulge in sirloin steak, fish frites, herb roasted salmon and more schnitzels than you've had hot dinners. The 'haus' speciality of pork knuckle also grabs the attention. Pairing beer and food can often be as simple as choosing a beer from the same country as the cuisine, and so it is here. 26 beers (most on tap) including dunkels, weisbeers, kolshs, helles, pils, Munich lager and Pilsner Urquell's famous tank beer which is brought from the Czech Republic by tanker each week. Fun vibrant, lively, delicious and if music be the food of love there's a live DJ too. A Valentine's supper to remember.
Boasting one Michelin star Quilon offers South-west coastal Indian cuisine with seafood at its heart where the dishes are mostly designed for sharing - how very Valentine's day. A scan of the menu reveals lobster, sea bass, baked black cod and chilli prawn with lamb, venison, quail and chicken for meat lovers. There are 9 world beers, 6 British and 6 vintage ales, so with over 20 to choose from you'll find the beer and food combo to take this dining experience to the next level (which is 2 Michelin stars, right?).
OR A NIGHT IN...
Prepare the amorous feast yourself, and we’re here to help with the cooking too. More specifically......cooking with beer.
There’s no more versatile alcoholic drink than beer and this versatility is perfectly showcased when using a brew in your cooking. Beer imparts a delightful bitter complexity to certain dishes such as stews, casseroles and other slow-cooked fare. Indeed, beef cooked in ale (known as Carbonnade in Belgium) is a classic.
Stout lends itself completely to meaty dishes and also veggie options too (more of which below), with the beer adding a beautiful depth of flavour to the food. You can even include stout in your mash potato. But it’s not just stouts that work in your food. Flavoured beers, such as cherry based Kriek, are brilliant for experimenting with (try it in a jelly). Then there’s IPA's with steamed fish, lager in a fish pie, or chicken and wit beer pie, the unforgettable beer can chicken, beer ice cream or, a bit more fancy, beer sorbet.
A lovely added bonus of cooking with beer is that most dishes require only a small amount of the ale to pass on its flavour so you can drink the rest with the meal.
Here are three delicious and easy to prepare courses for your Valentine’s Day romantic evening in.
Moules a la Gueuze. As recommended by journalist Will Hawkes.
Will says – “This is a fairly extravagant dish I've done on a number of occasions. It’s basically moules mariniere but made with Gueuze. The acidity of the beer is balanced by the sweetness and salty tang of the mussels - it's very good, and you can drink the rest of the bottle with the meal.”
You use pretty much the same ingredients as moules mariniere but instead of white wine use Gueuze, a sour, strong sparkling Belgian beer:
butter, onion, celery, leek, some thyme and parsley (latter added at the end), salt and pepper. Use 50cl of Cantillon Gueuze where you would normally put white wine.
Follow Rick Stein’s recipe and you can’t go wrong: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/moulesmarinierewithc_71787
Vegetarian chilli with stout
As recommended by beer writer Jane Peyton.
Jane says – “I imagine most people think of beer and meaty dishes but there are veggie dishes that beer can be included in as an ingredient. Vegetarian bean chilli with stout is a favourite with the beer adding a savoury depth to the food. I’d go with Saltaire Brewery's Triple Chocoholic stout. Only use a small amount in the cooking so you can drink the rest”.
BBC Food recipe for vegetarian chilli: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/vegetarianchilli_6544
Lager with Lime Cake
As recommended by beer sommelier Steve Livens
Steve says – “