By Jo Cooksey
I was part of a small group invited to Alston Bar and Beef recently to sample three courses from their new seasonal menu, paired with three gin cocktails. I didn’t have to think long before RSVP’ing.
Alston have bought their steak and gin offering from North of the border, Glasgow to be exact. They serve up prime cuts of beef from farms in Tweed Valley, whose animal husbandry is second to none, as well as over 60 different gins. They even distill their own in-house, sometimes using locally foraged botanicals. It promised to be a great evening.
On arrival we were shown to the private dining room, that has a view into the kitchen and given a welcome cocktail. The Cathedral Honey Bee’s Knees is made with Manchester’s Three Rivers gin, shaken with honey from the hives at the cathedral just yards from the restaurant and lemon juice. Not only does it taste good, but it does good too, as Alston donate 25p from each one sold to the Manchester Cathedral Volunteer Programme.
Our first course was scallops with a Jerusalem artichoke mousse, buttered green peas, pancetta chips, pickled wild mushrooms and mustard frills paired with an Alston Pineapple gin and Bon Accord tonic. This is one of the gins distilled in-house and the pineapple is left to infuse for a full 2 weeks before going on the bar. It was gorgeous. It totally complemented the sweetness of the scallops and the peas, the saltiness of the pancetta and the nuttiness of the artichokes.
Our main dish was of course steak; a 300g Rib Eye, (just over10oz to those of us that still work in Imperial), served with triple fried chunky chips, a cute little pan of roasted veg and a Béarnaise sauce. I’m not one to order steak when I go out, not that I don’t like, just that I never think to. If I did order a steak I would probably order a rump steak as I like the flavour that the fat that marbles the cut gives it. For that very reason I now really love rib eye. This cut had so much flavour, was so juicy and so tender it was almost ridiculous. I had asked for it medium rare, leaning towards the rare side and that was exactly what I got. They have a very expensive steak grill at Alston, with a searing plate on the top but at the end of the day all the kit in the world isn’t worth a jot if the chefs don’t know how to cook a steak. Fear not though, Alston’s chefs certainly do know how to cook a steak. Our steak was served with Alston’s peppercorn gin, which I wasn’t keen on. It was too ‘savoury’ for me but each to their own.
Many of you will already know of my aversion to chocolate desserts and cakes, so I was really happy to see that the pud was my favourite. MERINGUE!! Hallelujah and praise all of the pudding gods. Crisp on the outside and chewy in the middle just as a meringue should be, it was served with a big swirl of vanilla infused Chantilly cream, plump summer berries and a raspberry coulis. Completely delicious and made even more so by the in-house distilled Raspberry & Rose gin. I enjoyed all the courses, but this was my absolute favourite.
As a little thank you for attending, actually I would have paid them to have me, we were given a little gift bag containing a teeny Kilner jar with little bags of juniper berries and peppercorns attached, so that we could brew our own craft gin at home. A great idea, though I have to confess because I’m not keen on the peppercorn gin I swopped them for a cinnamon stick and it is distilling nicely.
We were guests of Alston Bar & Beef but as always, the review and opinions are our own and unbiased.