Once you have sat at a restaurant table, the first decision we usually make is what we are going to drink [or rather in my case what quantity!] But the right drink can add or subtract a lot from a dining experience. Whilst Bryn is off to the Emerald Isle to get wed, I thought I’d use the time and talk about my favourite subject – booze!

“The crisp taste of a good gin cleanses the palate nicely from the day…”

The classic way to start a meal, I have always felt, is with a nice G&T aperitif. The crisp taste of a good gin cleanses the palate nicely from the day and can wake up the taste buds to get ready for what lies ahead. Now I love a good G&T and so I was pleased when recently I introduced our ‘Spring into Gin’ promotion, celebrating some of the world’s very best gins. Makes of gin I have only been able to get in more luxurious establishments I now have on the list [with a cheeky price for doubles!} – Bulldog, Sipsmith, and the gorgeous Tanqueray Number 10 are all on the list – and a fabulous gin that is listed as one of the top five in the world – Gin Mare. Produced in a fishing village on the Costa Dorada, Arbequina olives, basil, rosemary and thyme are added to produce a startling yet exquisite flavour. You really should give it a go!

With Bryn away there is no recipe this week [you really wouldn’t want one of my creations] so instead I offer a tip to making the very best gin and tonic – it is so simple I can’t believe it isn’t the norm already.

  • Take a cocktail shaker and half fill it with cubed ice.
  • Add five or six lime wedges.
  • Pour in a [decent] measure of your gin of choice – for this a simple gin such as Bombay is fine.
  • Put the lid on the shaker and give it a real hard shake for 20 or 30 seconds.
  • Pour into a glass and add tonic [Not too much!].
  • By beating the flavour out of the lime in the mixer you will create one of the most refreshing G&Ts known to man!

Now when you get to choose the wine for your meal, many of the city’s Sommeliers are going to be in up in arms at what I am about to say. But a wise wine expert once told me, that whilst there are many ‘rules’ to what wine goes with what meat, and what grape works best with which fish.. there are times when you should simply have what you like and enjoy. Red with fish, white with red meat – if you like it then it must be right. If red isn’t your colour why ruin a good steak with a drink you are not going to enjoy? Sure, a heavy Shiraz would drown the more delicate flavours in the new Fish Pie we have, but if you don’t drink white then simply switch to a lighter grape and you can enjoy the flavours as the chef intended and the wine colour you prefer.

Of course, there are some wines that will work better than others with certain dishes. But for me, the New York Strip that Bryn has put on our new spring menu works just as well with the Frost Pocket Marlborough Sauvignon that we have on the list as any red would – because that is the wine I like!

The new spring menu here at Café Bar & Grill by Michael Caines is already proving a hit, so hopefully I will see you all soon to try it out – and I will make you one of those G&Ts!

James Cunningham
Restaurant Manager at Café Bar & Grill by Michael Caines

All views expressed are those of the author.

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