Brewing up a treat for diners at restaurants
- Credit: Archant
Beer is blossoming at Andrei Lussmann’s restaurants in St Albans and Harpenden – and a local beer has become a cult drink. Classic English Ale, launched just last year by the 3 Brewers at Symonds Hyde, is the beer on diners’ lips as they enjoy the award-winning dishes prepared by Andrei and his chef, Richard Cramer.
Andrei has been on a steep learning curve since he decided to offer beer as well as wine eight years ago. “Back then we had three British beers along with Peroni and Estrella,” he says. 98 per cent of his beer sales were accounted for the two lagers from Italy and Spain.
As a result of his commitment to home-grown ingredients, Andrei decided to promote British beers.
“We took the challenge to showcase local beers,” he says. “Some customers weren’t happy but we said ‘Give them a chance and you may be pleasantly surprised’.
“We had to convince people they shouldn’t just go for big brand names they recognised. Fortunately we have customers with sophisticated palates and we get far fewer complaints now.”
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When I helped Andrei draw up his beer list, we had a tasting in the St Albans branch at Waxhouse Gate with 12 members of his staff. We found that in nine cases out of 10, we all agreed on the best beers on offer and also talked through the possibilities of matching the chosen food with dishes on the menu.
The beer list is made up of Meantime’s Pale Ale and Porter from Greenwich, Grain’s Blonde Ash and Stout from Norfolk, Freedom Pilsner from Staffordshire and St Pete’s Organic Best Bitter from Suffolk.
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Andrei has used Blonde Ash as the matching beer for Norfolk mussels and he is now extending the beer-and-food theme with Richard Cramer.
Richard arrived at Lussmann’s seven months ago following spells with Auberge du Lac, Mark Hix, the Caprice and Scotts of Mayfair. He’s now group head chef at Andrei’s three restaurants: the Hertford branch is currently closed for refurbishment. He is organising monthly events in which a main dish is matched with both beer and wine so customers can decide which drink they prefer. One dish has been Cornish mackerel: the chosen beer was 3 Brewers Golden English Ale.
3 Brewers opened last year with Mark Fanner and the brothers Pete and Nick Zivkovic in the Old Potato Shed on Symonds Hyde Farm. In spite of the less-than-appealing name, the shed is spacious, with room for expansion – and expansion may be needed as a result of the popularity of Classic English Ale and Golden English Ale. They share Andrei’s commitment to English ingredients and use only locally-grown malts and hops in their beers, which are available on draught as well as in bottle.
Andrei is insistent that it’s crucial not to be pretentious where beer is concerned. “We tell people to enjoy a beer with a bite to eat,” he says. “We’re selling huge amounts of 3 Brewers – it’s got a cult following.”
There are further plans in the pipeline to expand beer sales at Waxhouse Gate. The basement of the restaurant will be transformed into a craft beer bar. There will be one beer on draught – possibly more – as well as the full range of bottled beers, with tapas as a light snack.
Thanks to Andrei Lussmann’s passion and commitment, beer is no longer seen as wine’s poor relation at the dining table. Other restaurateur’s please follow.
*Roger Protz edits the CAMRA Good Beer Guide. His website is www.protzonber.co.uk.