Nespresso coffee and food tasting
Those who know me as a lifelong hater of coffee, who only last week was saying how he’d rather shoot himself in the face than go to the Trafford Centre again, might be surprised to hear that a coffee-themed event managed to drag me back to the Hell Mall on Monday.
It’d been six blissful years since my last visit and if anything was going to persuade me to go back I definitely didn’t think it would be the bitter muddy stuff. But I simply couldn’t resist when a PR company for Nespresso invited me along to a coffee and food tasting being run at the brand’s new boutique.
Firstly, I was intrigued to see whether food and coffee pairing works – would the coffee not just overpower everything else? Secondly, I was keen to try the food of Andrew Nutter, the chef from the well-regarded Nutters in Rochdale, who’d been drafted in to design the Taste of Manchester menu.
The food certainly didn’t disappoint. The flavour of the beef in a well-balanced carpaccio salad was the standout for me, but I also very much enjoyed the homely warmth of the pork belly and bean casserole, and the rich creaminess of the panna cotta and crème brûlée dishes.
Unfortunately, the much-heralded Eccles cake was less impressive. It was clear from the way he spoke that Nutter’s very passionate about this local delicacy, but I am too and I didn’t think the espresso shots lacing its innards did it any favours.
As for the coffee pairing, my overriding feeling was that it wasn’t really worth the effort. The chef did a pretty good job of creating dishes that would be enhanced by the coffee, and the drinks definitely brought out notes on each of the plates. But the improvements were so subtle and so small I couldn’t really see the benefit of pouring these liquid exhaust fumes into my mouth to achieve them.
Granted, I don’t like coffee but even trying to be objective I still don’t think it worked. The joy of wine pairing (if you get it right) is that both the food and the drink are improved by the match. They complement each other to create a whole that’s better than the sum of its parts; it’s a loving, caring marriage of flavours.
In contrast, the relationship between food and coffee is that of gimp and dominatrix. The coffee brutally spanks out its flavours and takes absolutely nothing in return. It has all the romance of a ball gag.
I don’t just mean this from a taste point of view either. Temperature was another clear issue. I can’t imagine even the most ardent coffee fan coming away from the evening and deciding next time they do a salad at a dinner party they’ll stick a hot cup of espresso on the side. It was seriously weird.
The only match that came close to success in my eyes was the crème brûlée pairing; the coffee was mild enough and the dish creamy enough that they sort of went together.
I couldn’t help but think, however, that a much better liquid accompaniment could’ve been knocked up by the two mixologists doing wonderful things with espresso martinis and mojitos on the other side of the room.
As I said, the food was good, but I don’t think coffee pairing is going to catch on anytime soon!
Here’s the full menu with pictures:*
TASTE OF MANCHESTER
Cocoa Roast Beef Carpaccio with Chicory and Rocket
Nespresso’s Arpeggio Grand Cru
Slow Braised Pork Belly with a Hot Bean Casserole
Nespresso’s Roma Grand Cru
Nespresso Ristretto Coffee and Toffee Eccles Cake
Nespresso’s Ristretto Grand Cru
Chocolate and Malt Crème Brûlée
Nespresso’s Dulsão do Brasil Grand Cru
I must say – my feelings on coffee aside – it was a very enjoyable and interesting evening. I was genuinely impressed by the Nespresso store, its products, its staff and the way the whole event was put together. It was all very slick.
I obviously can’t comment on the quality of the espresso itself, but it did seem to me that the company has something really unique and exciting going on with this new offering. While it’s evidently not up my street, I do hope some other drinks manufacturers take a leaf out of its book.
Nespresso’s luxury boutique at the Trafford Centre is now open. Visit www.nespresso.com
*As mentioned, there was also a panna cotta dish but I have neither the full details nor a clear photo of that so I’ve left it out. If you look closely at the Eccles cake snap, you’ll see it loitering in the background.