I’ve got a confession to make – I don’t know a lot about beer. From time to time I’ll happily sample a half pint of something light and fruity, but it’s not something I’d normally consider ordering at a restaurant…until now.
When it comes to Indian restaurants– South London is full of them. Amazing Craft Ale? You can’t walk 100 yards south of the river without discovering a fledgling brewery producing top quality tipple.
But on the topic of pairing beer with Indian food, let’s be honest – it’s not something many people think about in great depth. We don’t consume Tikka with a nice pint of Tiger the same way that we enjoy an oaked Burgundy alongside a beef bourguignon. Cobra and complexity hardly go hand in hand.
Perhaps it’s time for a change though, and the clever chefs at Booma – a brand new Indian restaurant in Brixton – have spent months sampling hundreds or beers from across the UK and Europe. The aim? To discover sensational flavour pairings between modern reinventions of authentic Indian cuisine and delicious craft ales, stouts, lagers and ciders.
In a Nutshell: Craft beer and Indian food, perfectly paired.
Address: 244 Brixton Road, SW9 6AH
One of the first things that will grab you about Booma is that the beer list is as extensive as the food. Like a high-end restaurant, they take the alcohol accompaniments very seriously. To help their customers, each dish is given a recommended accompanying drink, so you know ahead of time what beer brings out the best of the food. Also, just so everyone (those of us who are light drinkers) can make it home without feeling weak at the knees, each beer is available in a third of a pint measure. You can sample a new beer with each dish, and never feel like you’re drinking your way to oblivion.
First up was the Achai Paneer Tikka – generous chunks of set cottage cheese, with Kashmiri chilli, yoghurt, and pickling spices. The dish on its own was delicious – firm cubes of cheese, with no hint of the squeakiness or dryness you sometimes get with paneer. The texture was soft, but the cheese held its shape and and was perfectly cooked with crisp edges. The spices were balanced, earthy and mildly fragrant, with a little heat that just warmed with every bite, but never over-powering. The paneer was then matched with the Hush Heath Cider – a 4.8% dry cider that was crisp and refreshing without being too acidic. It cut through the soft flavours of the cheese, and still held up against the warmth of the spice. If anything it cleared the palette like a sorbet might, making the next bit all the more delicious.
Alongside the paneer came the Khumb Chaat – oyster, shitake and portabello mushrooms, served with an equally earthy Pin Up Milk Stout. Then the classic Onion Bhaji, served with mixed sprouts and pomegranate – a lovely accompaniment with mild flavours and dashes of sweetness to balance out the spice. To partner with the bhaji was the bold and bossy Belgian Blonde Ale by the name of Delirium Tremens. Punching in at 8.5% ABV it’s the strongest of the beers on offer, but was still a floral and hoppy ale that stood up to the chilli and tamarind notes of the bhaji.
Time for some meat! The amazing team at Booma then whipped us up the Malai Tikka – sumptuous morsels of tender chicken breast, with a cream, cheese and rosemary Tikka marinade. This was served with the house beer – the Booma Lager, which was light and refreshing and perhaps a little too drinkable. One third of a pint just didn’t feel like enough! Alongside the chicken was the Tandoori Machhi – salmon cooked with dill, honey and english mustard. This was served with an equally refreshing beer called the Camden Gentleman’s Wit. This wheat beer is light at 4.3%, and spiked with lemon making it crisp and aromatic, yet it maintains a mellow balance, and complimented the delicate salmon perfectly. Both dishes were delicate, tender, mildly spiced, and presented beautifully.
On any normal visit now is the time to call it a day, but tonight was a special one, and so the food just kept coming. There was the Chettinaad Pork Ribs, slow cooked with malt vinegar, garlic and chettinaad spices that left the meat barely clinging onto the bone. The Pudhina Lamb Chops, which were actually succulent cutlets cooked with green papaya, mixed spices and mint. The Booma chicken curry looked like a Tikka Masala, but this curry had strong notes of tomato and fenugreek, and tasted deep and balanced, not too sweet or sickly. All this served with fresh naans and the relevant beers.
The highlight of this foray into the Booma way of life was the Duck Kathi Roll. This street food classic is slow cooked duck, pulled, with a spice plum chutney and served in a garlic naan wrap. It was packed full of flavour, and was paired with an equally fulfilling Lindemans Kriek Cherry beer. The two together felt a few levels beyond indulgent.
After the carnival of flavours that had been experienced, it was impossible to imagine any kind of desire for yet more food. Thankfully this changed once the desserts were presented (especially since I’ve got a sweet tooth). The Tandoori Ananas was grilled pineapple with tamarind, star anise and a coconut cream. It was fresh, vibrant and sang of the flavours of tropical India. I’m a self-confessed coconut-aholic so naturally anything tropical with a coconut cream as an accompaniment gets my vote. Then came the chocolate mousse which was dark and orange flavoured, set alongside white chocolate and cardamom, with a few decorative additions. The presentation was delicate and inviting, and both were flavoured with care and attention to balance the sweetness with the floral and fruity tones.
The experience was novel and unique and certainly left me with a whole new appreciation of the possibilities of matching beers and strong flavoured foods. Thankfully the food was always prepared in a way that let the ingredients speak for themselves, so it allowed the flavours of the beers to come through and express themselves. If you love Indian food, but just want to find a new way to enjoy it and taste it in a new way, then Booma is the place for you. If you’re an ale fanatic, and want to better understand how you can apply your love of beer to the meals you eat, then give Booma a try!
You can watch my Snapstory at Booma below:
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