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The Dead Canary Gin Dinner Review in Cardiff

We were recently invited to the first in a series of gin dinners at Deaths and Entrances, the new bar within The Dead Canary and run by the same team.

The new bar opened a few months back and I loved the new flavour driven cocktail menu on the launch weekend.

The gin dinner was in collaboration with Quintessential Brands, whose gins were being paired up against the three courses of food we were being served that evening.

We toasted the night in with a welcome classic of Thom(as) Collins, to get the flavour receptors in full working order. The brand ambassador then give us a bit of history behind a Manchester gin that just so happened to be my very first purchase of gin some 3 years ago. Thomas Dakin, was the gin in question and comes in a not so standard rectangular bottle, with a large red sticker and branding on the front.

It was the bottle that caught my attention and back then there were only a handful of gin’s on the shelf not a whole section dedicated to the juniper laced spirits, if you can call some of them that these days.

The Food

The first course went straight in with the big guns as a paired gin in the form of Berkley Square, the most expensive gin of the evening. The bottle just oozed premium, with it’s lions head and knocker along with thick walled square bottle.

Berkeley Square Gin bottle

The food dish consisted of honey baked feta with lavender and a thyme and rye crisp. What a first course! I love feta and the lick of honey combined with a gentle heat in the oven, gave it a ever so slight caramelisation. It also turned it heavenly smooth in the mouth and contrasted with the crisp and bread. I could have eaten more than my fair share, lets just put it that way.

The kitchen soon served our second plate of food that was paired with the Thomas Dakin gin in a cucumber and dill sour. A mackerel dish with cucumber and horseradish snow, a granita type iced affair with subtle horseradish. One of the ingredients in this centuries old recipe for gin was red coal, which was often taken as a snuff like powder to awaken the senses back in the 18th century.

Mackerel starter at The Dead Canary Gin Dinner

We now call this horseradish, so it was intriguing to find out about how gin progressed outside of London during the time of the first gin craze and also matching the botanicals within the food too. I thought it was a very creative dish and i’d never tried a savoury granita, especially not with horseradish and certainly not as a starter.

The brand ambassador also spoilt us with some of the last remaining chocolates truffles they had made for them from a Manchester chocolatier that has stopped trading at the moment, which made them extra special as they can’t be bought again. Gin and chocolate, what’s not to love especially when the truffles were made to compliment the botanicals in question.

Thomas Dakin gin chocolates

Onto the mains, which consisted of pork tenderloin with carrot, dill and camomile broth, served with a ginger collins using the floral, Bloom gin. The cocktail made a lovely refreshing addition. A Collins, sometimes known as a Tom Collins at a basic level contains gin, lemon juice and soda. This is usually jazzed up with some additional syrups and carbonated liquid to lengthen it.

Pork and ginger collins at The Dead Canary Gin Dinner

Our final course took a flight towards India, to hold up against the spice of the final gin Opihr. The dish consisted of a mango kulfi, pistachio and grated coconut. Paired with a favourite classic of mine, the negroni. Not for the faint hearted and this cocktail does seperate the men from the boys or women from the girls, with it’s use of the bitter orange Italian aperitif Campari.

Mango Kulfi dessert at The Dead Canary Gin Dinner in Cardiff

The classic ratio of 1 part gin, 1 part sweet vermouth and one part campari is sometimes tweaked, to also include barrel aging or infusions of vermouth with the likes of coffee or cacao. This is always served with a twist or slice of orange for a natural sweetness against the bitter Campari.

A negroni is a hard drink to pair up against but the creamy kulfi and the sweet fruit of the mango leant itself to the spicy cocktail. My empty plate and glass bore witness to this.

The Verdict

I really enjoyed the evening and I’ve been to quite a few of The Dead Canary events now over the years from gin blending, afternoon tea-ki.

We were invited to this event this time around but I’ve paid for all the other’s I’ve been to there and there’s been a few. They recently did another gin dinner and I’ve seen whisky dinners too, for those of you who prefer the amber coloured barrel aged liquor.

I’ve seen a few more advertised events on my hit list to sign up to at The Dead Canary like the return of the Afternoon Tea-ki event in collaboration with Pennyroyal, which is back for Cardiff Cocktail Week.This features tiki cocktails and caribbean inspired plates of food to match them.

New Gin menu launch at Laguna Bar in Park Plaza Cardiff

Last week I was lucky to be invited by Park Plaza to sample the new offerings from their gin menu in Laguna bar and restaurant.

I’ll be the first to admit I was a late convert to the juniper botanical blended spirit but it’s my new go to spirit of choice. The initial hesitation to gin stems from growing up in a pub and no I wasnít an alcoholic child but my grandparents have ran a pub for over 30 years and I’ve lived with them on and off over the years. The problem was the only option we had 15 years ago when I first probably tried it working my way through the top shelf after my shift behind the bar was Gordon’s, Schweppes tonic and a plastic lemon!

One try I had and it put me off until a chance encounter with a wine and gin cellar bar in Chester back last year when I was introduced to what present day craft gin had evolved into.

Since then I’ve attended a few master classes and the Gin Festival down the bay last year and left with a new found knowledge of the craft and history of the stuff from the talks and tasting sessions down in the vaults in Portland House and a book of pairings for the 150 odd gins they had on offer, which has acted as my bible since then.

The Gin Tasting Event

I’d been to Laguna for the Gentleman’s afternoon tea and tried the amazing Sunday lunch but I’d not been for a while to sample the Gins on offer although I have been stalking them on Twitter seeing the ever growing selection they have behind the bar.

Cardiff park plaza gin tasting with Adam

There was a good mix of other bloggers invited to the evening at the Park Plaza with what promised to be a journey the new gin menu sampling 5 of the Gins in the range. I was a bit too keen I think and turned up first so I was kindly offered a choice of any of the ginís from the menu before the tasting commenced and everyone else turned up.

The menu had good balance of familiar faces and some that had I’d heard of but not had the chance to try. I didn’t want to double up and test any on the tasting options we were going through so opted for a new gin the Aviation. The aviation cocktail is probably one of my fav gin cocktails so this was one of the other reasons. I’d not paired a Gin with elderflower previously so this was a pleasant change to my normal choices available.

park plaza gin tasting gin bottles

Our host for the evening was a lovely chap called Adam who was very knowledgeable on the Gins we were sampling, giving a brief history behind the distillery, tasting notes and suitable garnishes to enhance the botanicals.

The gins we got to sample on the night were:

  • Sipsmith
  • Brecon Gin
  • Opihr
  • Caorun
  • Monkey 47

Adam told us about some of the botanicals used in the gins with some having around 5 unique neutral flavours to the German Monkey 47 brand that you’ve guessed it had a whopping 47 botanicals and a cool 47%abv.

I’d tried Sipsmith neat, well watered down with vermouth in a Martini but not tried it with a tonic and garnish. I’ve got a bottle of Monkey 47 in the house too but with the price on it it’s only come out on one or two occasions and Iíve always had it with lime twist.

I was keen to try the Brecon Gin as it’s only one of a handful of Gins produced in Wales and comes from the Penderyn Whisky Distillery the guys behind my favourite Whisky the Penderyn Sherrywood.
Mwsh had ordered an Opihr down The Dock down the bay not long ago but it came with an almost cartoon like chilli the size of my arm, which left me in hysterics so I couldn’t take it seriously at the time but this time it came with a wedge of orange, which cut nicely through the spicy notes of the Gin.

Gin tasting Cardiff Park Plaza Caorunn with apple

The other Gin on my to do list was the Caorunn. I’d seen the uniquely shaped bottle many times but not had the pleasure of sampling it before then. I was surprised to see it garnished with an apple and tonic, which I had never seen before and it turned out to be my favourite pairing of the evening. I think I liked the fact the apple parted with subtle hints of the fruit instead of the sometimes overbearing bitterness and burning taste of the rind of citrus.

Not wanting us to fall flat on our faces by the end of the tasting Park Plaza kindly brought out some sharing plates of nibbles so we weren’t too much affected by the powerful effects of some of the Gin on offer. Olives, cornichons, cured meats and breads with dips a plenty accompanied by some perfectly perfumed spirits, I was now in my oils.

Gin tasting at Park Plaza Cardiff with bulldog gin

After the tasting had come to a close and I’d polished off the lions share of the mezze boards we were given the option of trying one more gin to finish off a great evening of tasting. One I’d seen many times especially spending the best part of the weekend in the Bulldog pub in Krakow the week before was Bulldog gin. The gin was palatable but I’d say it was probably my least favourite of the Gins I’d tried that night but it was up against some stiff competition.

The Verdict

I enjoyed the Caorun so much we went out on Saturday and picked up two bottles from Asda in the World Gin Day promotions they had on. Armed with the menu and tasting notes they gave us on the night to take away in a goody bag we paired a Botanist and Caorun with the recommendations from the menu that evening.

Gin goody bag from Cardiff Park Plaza

I think the new gin menu at Park Plaza is a great idea as it can be quite intimidating ordering gin for the first time not knowing what tonic and garnish to pair with it but the options on the menu have obviously been tried and tested many times before making the final cut on the menu.