CONFESSION! I don't actually like beer.
Yes, it is odd that a non beer fan would review a beer bar where most of the food is made in some way with said hoppy booze, but how could I not want to try home cured meats and pickles and sides such as buttermilk fried chicken, pretzel bites and deep fried mac and cheese?
It was for this reason that my husband and I headed down to Brewdog in Leicester the other week to check out the bar and try out the menu from their food offshoot Cured, founded by someone who is a bit of a Leicester food legend. Martin Powdrill has been cheffing around Leicester for 7 years and was one of the chefs behind the acclaimed Smokehouse on Braunstone Gate. He has a great passion for home curing (and especially bacon!) and so when he heard that there was a kitchen space above the new Brewdog bar he approached them to see if would be up for a collaboration of sorts. Thankfully and unsurprisingly once they had tried his pickled veg it was given the go ahead and Matt began a busy month of curing, marketing and setting up Cured and boy am I glad he did! The aim of Cured is for everything to be homemade, super fresh and locally sourced and his passion shines through in every little element of each dish.
The Brewdog bar is in one of my favourite parts of town in amongst lots of great bars and beautiful old imposing red brick buildings that formed Leicester's main business district back in the day. The bar is in one of these nice old building and has a nice bare brick industrial feel with some nice odd touches like neons, a big drive thru style beer menu on the wall and a separate shop room with a huge fridge, some great looking merch and even a pinball machine.
We sat in a comfy raised booth by one of the big windows that overlooked the whole bar, but there are also raised stool tables and a few booths that very thoughtfully have sockets for charging your devices. It's a nice relaxed atmosphere with a buzz and I could happily spend hours in here sipping away at tasty drinks, nibbling at too much delicious food and writing blog posts. Like a coffee shop but with booze so, better.
To get a real feel for what both Cured and Brewdog specialise in we decided to share the Full Home Cure Platter which features three meats plus some cured salmon along with salad, homemade pickles, piccalilli, chutneys, root veg crisps and the most amazing bread with honey thyme butter. You could also choose two side dishes from the menu to accompany this all for £18.50 which happily fed the two of us, very very well. To go with this we each had a flight of four beers which matched those used to cure each of the four meats on the platter - a match made in heaven or what?!
The four homecures on our platter were Ox Cheek Bresaola cured with Jet Black Heart stout, Maple Bacon cured in Punk IPA, Burnt Barley and Treacle Brisket to pair with 5am Saint and finally Salmon Pastrami cured with Electric India dark stout.
All of these were honestly wonderful with complex flavours that were set off perfectly by their paired beers. The bresaola was super tender and richntasting with the deep caramel coffee bitterness of the stout enhancing the richness of the beef.
The bacon was thinly sliced and super tender, the sweetness of the maple in the sugary IPA cure melting into the fat of the pork belly. The addition of juniper added another interesting note to this bacon making it unlike anything else I've ever tasted.
The brisket I must say is one of the best cured meats I've ever tried. The meat is wet cured in a salt brine for two weeks before being painted with treacle, covered in burnt barley and roasted before being thinly sliced. This stuff is seriously magical guys and even if you go just to try this one I won't be mad at you!
The finale was the salmon pastrami which I was the most excited to taste as this was a new way of eating this fish to me and I will try any possible way of intaking this rich beautiful fish. It is first brined with the porter beer, soy sauce and a secret spice blend and then dry cured for another three days in a rub of coriander, Szechuan pepper and salt. Once it is firmer, darker in colour and more unctuous looking it is thickly sliced and served up much to the happiness of all the fish eaters in the world. The texture was great, still rich and tender but not as moist and it worked perfectly with a little dab of chutney or one of the slow roasted tomatoes that were dotted amongst the platter.
The accompaniments in themselves were also masterful, my favourites being the sweet sour pickled cucumber and red onion and the homemade piccalilli which I have never actually liked before! The two chutneys (an oniony one and a tomatoey one) were perfectly executed and balanced not being either too sweet or too vinegary. The dressed rocket salad was a great palate cleanser and the root veg crisps gave a welcome crunchy texture addition.
A house made barbecue sauce and ketchup were also provided with the cutlery, which to be honest I only finger tested as I forgot about them in all of the meat induced joy. The barbecue was sweetly smokey and the ketchup had a nice bite to it. I look forward to trying it with more things in the future!
The other thing that surprisingly really caught our attention was the bread and butter. Thin slices of a nice white baguette were given a very light brush of oil and seasoned with a little black pepper, then served alongside the life changing revelation that is butter infused with sea salt, honey and thyme. I seriously cannot put into words how delicious this is. We both said if we had just been given a platter of this we would have been very happy and that wasn't an exaggeration!
Finally let's talk about the side dishes. It was a hard choice but we finally decided upon the Buttermilk Fried Chicken and the 5am Saint Fried Max and Cheese Balls.
The chicken was moist and so tender with a nice crisp spiced coating. They were very lovely but the star was really the mac and cheese balls, crisp on the outside and cheesy creamy starchy gorgeous in the middle. Beer does work so well with cheese and it didn't disappoint on this occasion adding an extra savoury note that elevated them to stardom, as did the fact that they were so perfectly cooked.
This really was an amazing meal and we will be heading back very very soon to try more from the menu. We almost ordered more sides while we were there but decided to be sensible, which I now regret as I'm desperate to try the Fried Pickles and Pretzel Bites.
Please please please get your butt to this place quick and try the beautiful food. I think it's something really special and another amazing and unique addition to our local food scene. We're very lucky to have a young chef like Martin in our city and I just can't wait to see what he comes up with next!
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