Durham Little Creatures Lunch

12 Nov

We’re a little worse for wear after a big Beer Day Out the day before, but amidst the pouring rain we bundle into The Durham Castle Arms in Kingston for the next beer event. This is an afternoon advertised as food matched with Little Creatures beer. We’ve done this before – in late 2011 and early 2012 – and enjoyed each time, and expect similar. We shake ourselves out of the rain at 12.25 for a start time of 12.30, and they’re still setting up. We’re left to stand in the corner while they work out where we should be sitting. Our arrival beer is a Roger’s (with no food accompaniment). Little do I know, bu it’s going to be the highlight of the event.

Highlight of the day

Highlight of the day

We eventually get seated at a table which spans the length of the room… only to be told later that we (ahem!) haven’t left enough seats for another group, and to shuffle down (there turns out to be no reason for three of us to move…). It’s a bit of a shambolic beginning.

The start time is advertised as 12.30pm. At 1pm, people are still arriving, and this sold out event looks like it will never start. Eventually, it gets a kick on at 1.15pm, when our first beer to be matched with food is poured.


Our beer host from Little Creatures is amiable, and begins with how he’s not a winemaker, so he won’t talk all day. We’re served the Little Creatures pale ale – an American style pale ale with galaxy and cascade hops from the US. A dish is placed in front of us, but there’s no explanation about what it is. Our first guess is potato cake, until we get a taste of salmon or tuna. When our host takes the floor again, the only mention of the food is that it’s a fish cake – no discussion on how it matches with the food. We ask the waitress who clears the table what we’re eating, and the best she can offer – after checking with the kitchen – is fish cake with a basil sauce.

Fish cake with basil sauce

Fish cake with basil sauce

The food isn’t worth too much effort explaining any further. Dish two is… samosas. Matched with an Indian Pale Ale. It’s uninspired.

Samosas with Indian Pale Ale (same creativity as the fish cakes with the sauce design)

Samosas with Indian Pale Ale (same creativity as the fish cakes with the sauce design)

I wonder in vain when it will improve.

The White Rabbit pale ale is matched with plain pasta with antipasto and parmesan thrown on top.

White Rabbit pale ale with antipasto pasta

White Rabbit pale ale with antipasto pasta

Dish four is matched with a single batch from Little Creatures named Mr Obadiah – a rye porter.

Mr Obadiah

Mr Obadiah

At 6.9 per cent it packs a punch but divides our group in terms of enjoyment. One of us goes so far to describe it as ‘if someone lit a loaf of bread on fire’. And what dish deserves to be matched with such a divisive beer?

A casserole.

Beef casserole with the rye porter - note this is how it arrived in front of me; I have not touched it except to place my cutlery on the plate

Beef casserole with the rye porter – note this is how it arrived in front of me; I have not touched it except to place my cutlery on the plate

It’s largely inedible. The gravy is good, but that’s the only compliment I can give. The chuck beef is fatty and chewy. The potatoes have been undercooked and not mashed properly, so there are plenty of mouthfuls of lumps.

The final dish is an apple tart (tatin?) matched with Little Creatures’ Pipsqueak Apple Cider. The cider is made of crushed apples instead of apple extract like a lot of ciders, so has a different taste. This is the one dish I do like.

Apple tart with Pipsqueak apple cider

Apple tart with Pipsqueak apple cider

The spoon can’t do anything to cut the pastry, but it doesn’t mean the pastry’s bad – just that this should be eaten with fingers.

To finish, our glasses are filled with a beer, and there’s a prize for the table which guesses what it is. I’m too disheartened to take any more pictures, but for the record it’s a red Indian Pale Ale (and the prize is two jugs of beer).

I appreciate that it’s hard to cook for a big room of people – and this was a sold out event, with every bit of space in the Durham filled. I also appreciate that it’s a $50 event, and we probably got value of money for the range of beers we got to taste. But, the event is advertised as beer and food matching. I don’t expect gourmet from a venue like the Durham, but they’ve previously showed on not one, but at least two occasions previously that they could cook a decent meal and make a genuine attempt to match it to beers, and for a similar price.

This time, the dishes are even something I could whip up at home (and that’s saying something), and there’s no matching involved. In fact, the food detracts from the beers. If I was Little Creatures, I would be embarrassed to have had my beers matched with that food.

Date: Sunday, 10 November 2013

Cost: $50 per person, paid in advance

Where: The Durham Castle Arms, Green Square, Kingston

Food creativity: 0 (out of a possible 10) – makes Jamie’s Italian look like Heston Blumenthal

Ability to take photos without a flash: 0 (out of a possible 10) – the Durham is dark and dismal, which you’d expect from an English pub

Waitstaff pretentiousness: Low, but not non-existent

Worthwhile factor: The beers were worthwhile on their own, but as an entire event I can’t give it anything more than Not worthwhile. It’s a blot on what seems to be an otherwise great week of Canberra beer events. I won’t be back to another beer and food ‘matching’ (unless I’m told what the menu is first – and then it’s still a maybe), and I won’t be eating here otherwise unless under duress.

Want more? There are still more Canberra Beer Week events on this week – see here to find out what’s still available.


3 Responses to “Durham Little Creatures Lunch”


  1. Belgium Beer Cafe Beergustation | In The Taratory - November 15, 2013

    […] a big Beer Day Out, a shocking experience at the Durham, and a pretty decent time with Chuck Hahn at the Tradies, we’re not sure how the […]

  2. The Museum Bar | In The Taratory - November 16, 2013

    […] Durham Little Creatures Lunch (inthetaratory.wordpress.com) […]

  3. Beer degustation at The Tradies with Chuck Hahn | In The Taratory - December 8, 2013

    […] part of Canberra Beer Week* we attend a host of beergustations (including a real failure at the Durham and an extraordinary meal at Belgian Beer Cafe). What we’re really curious about is the beer […]

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