Fresh off work, our host brought us to a place called Monk’s Kettle for a much desired afternoon beer. And this place had many to choose from. 200 rotating beers, with 24 of these on tap, mostly Belgian but with a huge variety of styles and flavor profiles. The bar wall is adorned with hundreds of glasses, each one designed and branded by the single beer that is meant to be served in it. Nibbles, starters and mains on the food menu are all strategically paired with beers, the concept embracing gastropub cuisine as an outlet of creativity.
Although the stuff we had, one dish in particular, was a bit of a miss, the menu shows a fair amount of innovation, fighting the good fight with brave soldiers – duck fat potatoes, polenta, pickles.
A bit overwhelmed by the variety of brews, I asked our bartender to pick the one which would be served in the coolest chalice from the big wall behind her. She went for the Pauwel Kwak. This is an amber ale from the Brouwerij Bosteels brewery. It comes in a signature glass which is held upright by a wooden stand. While drinking from the glass, the bulb at the bottom remains full for a remarkably long time, gushing out its contents suddenly when air finally enters it. Apparently it’s called “kwak” partly because this is the sound the “popping of the bubble” makes. It was cool.
A bar snack that goes great with pretty much any choice from their Bible of beer is the Chile and Honey Roasted Hazelnuts. It’s a pretty large glass bowl of crunchy, plump hazelnuts with a thin but sufficient caramelized honey coating and a hint of heat from chile powder. These are tossed in with some pecans which, unfortunately, are not prepped in the same way – just toasted. Sometimes it still makes me sad to remember that I do not live in a country where nuts are considered an obvious accompaniment to beer and thus provided for free. But then again, we don’t have to dub our movies. So it evens out.
Next up we ordered something that we thought had potential but turned out to be one of the weirdest (not in a good way) dishes I’ve had to date. It was called on the menu “Whipped Bone Marrow on Toast, Capers, Shallot, Popcorn” and was an amalgamation of just those things – a thick slice of wheat toast (otherwise quite delicious) smeared with a very scant layer of whipped bone marrow and then some sauteed shallots, capers, chunks of rind-on lemon and a large amount of popcorn thrown, as if angrily, over the top. The whole thing kind of seemed like a practical joke. “Oh you want bone marrow? Aren’t we fancy? Well guess what – you’re getting a plate full of random stuff that have nothing to do with one another. That’ll teach you to just order the sliders next time, like a normal person.” Even if there had been enough of the bone marrow to actually taste its meaty butteriness, the painfully acidic and bitter lemon chunks, egged on by the tart capers, would’ve completely overpowered its subtle flavors. The popcorn made the dish awkward to eat while contributing nothing in terms of either flavor or texture, drying out the toast even more with its own dry, powdery feel. The shallots lay there limp, confused on what their role was to be. An attempt to think outside the box, but this one just got too far away from the box altogether.
Although our pick this time around was an unfortunate one, Monk’s Kettle seems like a pretty solid establishment. A place for beer geeks to show off knowledge gained in their semester abroad in Prague, a place for food geeks to take over ordering for their friends. A place to drink and make merry in general.