Beer is not the usual tipple suggested to accompany a luxurious chocolate dessert.
But when in the real ale capital of Sheffield...it turns out a Guinness West Indies Porter is just the thing to wash over a brownie, with its notes of roasted coffee and dark bitter richness richoteting aginst the gooey cardomom scented cake.
In another twist, the dish was being served at Napoleon’s casino and restaurant on Ecclesall Road, not the obvious choice to head just for a drink or even a meal.
We were their guests at the venue’s first beer tasting dinner last month, a sold-out event of four courses matched with beers.
“My aim has been to try and get away from people’s perceptions that a casino is a seedy place and that people would expect to eat chicken in a basket there, for example”, said head chef Richard Burden, who has been in place since 2002 and was formerly of Carriages, now Peppercorn restaurant.
“So we want to get away from that image and make it a destination place.
“We cook modern English food with good background roots to more traditional stuff and I have been given free reign to do that.
“Here we are not into doing fancy foams and things like that - instead we want to show that we have a good basis for great cooking.
“That’s why we created our ‘dine in style’ option so people don’t just come for one attraction, we want them to enjoy a whole night out and the full package.”
Seedy would be the last word you’d use to describe the restaurant’s decor - glam and glitzy are probably the right ones.
There are intimate booths and tables, with velvet covered chairs, wood panelling and cleverly positioned lighting to give a touch of romance.
The casino itself is out of sight - though perhaps not out of everyone’s minds.
My other half - who has a taste for simpler, less spicy food - has long claimed the venue as one of his favourites but I’ve resisted his requests to eat there.
The tasting dinner was trialled first at other Napoleons venues before being rolled out to Ecclesall Road.
Dishes were chosen from the September menu - as Richard has the tough challenge of creating an entirely new one each month - and Martin Shillitoe from Molson Corrs Brewing Company was the amenable host talking us through each drink.
Richard added: “People wouldn’t often have a beer with a dessert and so we thought the dinner would be something quite unusual to do - I’m glad it worked.
“We’ve got some more booked more next year, our colleagues at Napoleon’s in Hillsborough are doing one this month and we’d like to do a whiskey one as well.”
The evening began with Martin extolling the virtues of beer.
He said it was ‘more complex’ even than wine - but ‘its just been a working man’s drink for about 4,000 years.’
First drink up was a Sharps Cornish Pilsner, made of lightly roasted barley and straw-coloured.
This won the ‘best lager’ prize at the World Beer Awards - much to the surprise of the brewer who entered it just for fun.
It’s not every Thursday night you get to sup the globe’s finest lager.
It tasted biscuity and floral, going well with the creamy smoked mackerel pâté.
That was super smooth rather than chunky, with strong but not overwhelming mackerel flavour.
I’d have liked more of a nose-tingling ‘oomph!’ from the horseradish yoghurt, but the dish looked elegant with its modern slim twist on Melba toast.
It was over to the Czech Republic for the next drink, a Krusovice Imperial.
The tawny style was bitter on the tongue and mild toffee notes, which had been chosen to balance spices.
Heat was lacking in the accompanying food though - an Indian spiced sweet potato parcel.
The pastry parcel itself was incredibly tough to get into, and we wrangled with our cutlery for a while before breaking through.
Inside the soft sweet potato was cooked well but both the dish, and the beer, could have taken a lot more chilli, cumin and coriander.
Microherbs, minty cucumber and diced mango were a pleasant touch presentation wise.
Things looked up with the main course.
Beer SA Gold Brains from Wales was described as ‘lady-friendly’ and accessible.
Both of us found it refreshing, full flavoured and with the smell of summer to it.
He was happy with an impressively styled roasted chicken, the vertical bone adding a touch of drama.
The chicken was soft and juicy inside - tasting almost poached in consistency - and the skin crispy to a T.
Red wine jus and a carrot purée packed with flavour made the dish come together, and you could taste the butter in the potato and parsnip galette disc.
Some of the side vegetables were a little too al dente, however.
The finest pairing was that of dark porter from Jamaica with the chocolate-chip packed brownie and fresh minty ice cream.
Napoleon’s Owlerton in Hillsborough is hosting a beer tasting dinner, with different dishes, on November 19, priced £25 per person.
Call 0114 285 5566.