Beer and Clams at Red Lily Cocktail Bar – Darlinghurst

Monday was a really lovely day, weather was great, and the invite from Pauline to the Beer and Clams at Red Lily Cocktail Bar for tonight was the best part of the day! This event is usually booked out the moment tickets are up on sale, and the next event is in June, click here to get on the waitlist for that.

Sitting around waiting for Beer and Clams to start, and listening to the people around us talking “Beer can be feminine” Beer in a wine glass?  Why not! I do agree that beer can definitely be feminine. If you think about how each layer of flavours work with one another, instead of just chugging down a glass after another, and here we are drinking craft beer out of wine glasses, doesn’t get any classier than that.

Mark Jensen – Chef at the Red Lantern designed this particular menu for the beer pairings. The menu options changes from time to time. As Mark mentioned, these events are incredibly popular and people tend to want to return to try out various beer/shellfish pairings.

Tonight’s beer selection is from Uncle Joe’s small batch craft beers brewed at Crooked River Wines and Boutique Beers, 2hrs south of Sydney in Gerringong. Uncle Joe’s 5 beer selection are featured tonight here at the Red Lily. The artwork on the beer bottles are designed in Germany and features Pin-Up girls in the 1940’s, and the beers are named after girls as well. Totally getting cases of these beer for the boys for Christmas “here you go, I got you a box of women” how awesome would that be. All the beer are 100% free from preservatives, artificial additives, and chemicals and 100 % Australian made & owned.

marble bar, counter seating

Red Lantern on Riley has won many restaurant awards, and Red Lily Cocktail Bar is tucked into the back of Red Lantern facing Crown Lane. It is narrow and has a marble top bar which is really nice. The bar stools are traditional stools that you would commonly find when in South East Asia. The setting at the bar is quite dark and is lit by the lights under the bar. I like this concept, reminds me of home with the marble table tops and cane chairs.


table for 2 or maybe some more.

If you are after a private corner, there are some small tables with a couple of stools that you can sit with a friend, order a few cocktails and entrées.


beautiful marble counter top and classy table setting

The Asian style crockery is a nice touch, with the wine glass.


Chilli salted squid with lemon pepper dipping sauce

We were given some chilli salted squid to start with. This is a pretty awesome menu item that you will be able to order when dining at the Red Lily. This is not part of the menu for Beer and Clams night, but it sure is a good start to the meal.


And so our night begins!

Uncle Joe’s Premium Lager – Taylor

For the very first beer we have Taylor. Taylor is sweet and fruity, almost like a Pilsner. She’s refreshing with a reasonably low ABV of only 4.9%. According to her bottle “Taylor brews a light bodied lager with a super dry finish. This premium lager is brewed with Tettinanger and Saaz hops for a mild spice and a clean, Pilsner style palate. Golden in colour, with very subtle bitterness. Taylor’s brew is crisp.”


Tua Tua Clams with lemon butter, cracked black pepper and coriander

The premium lager is paired with these incredibly buttery Tua Tua Clams from Cloudy Bay. First dish of the night, the flavours on these clams, well all I can describe them is that there’s many layers of flavours for this dish. Every time you think you’ve “discovered” the flavour, there is another layer on top of that. Quite a simple looking dish with complex flavours.


Uncle Joe’s Pale Ale – Lucy

Next up we have Lucy, a pale ale with a white wine finish. 4.5% ABV she is refreshing with a slight bitter note. There’s a little white wine mixed into her which results in a white wine after taste which I find quite pleasant. It is not as hoppy as I hoped though. On her bottle “Lucy brews a light Australian Pale Ale with cascade and Saaz hops for a subtle spice and earthy undertones. Layered with milkd passionfruit and citrus notes, dry hopping with cascade and galaxy hops. Lucy presents moderate bitterness with a fresh, fruity aroma”.


Storm Clams with a tomato and chilli jam

The pale ale is paired with some Cloudy Bay large storm clams. These clams are served cut up into 4 pieces, steamed for a quick 60 seconds and topped with tomato and chilli jam. The friend that was dining with me did not particularly care for the pale ale, but said that the chilli in this clam made the pale ale taste heaps better. I have to agree that this was a really good pairing, it worked well with one another. Tender clams, yummy chilli jam.


Uncle Joe’s Golden Ale – Wendy

Hello Wendy! I do like my golden ale. I remember going through a whole quarter hunting down and trying any beer with the label “golden ale”. Wendy is pretty good. Nice flavours going through it, a little more bitter than I expected though. I suppose as the night progressed, the beer gets stronger and tastes more intense as we move along. Wendy has an ABV of 5.2% and on her bottle “Wendy brews a full bodied traditional ale with perle and summer saaz hops for subtle spice. Layered with soft melon and apricot notes. Crystal malt adds body and a smooth, silky finish underpinned by an unobtrusive medium level bitterness.”


SA Blue Mussels with coconut milk, lemongrass and chilli

That golden ale works really well with the strong and sweet coconut milk in this mussel pot. The flavours done up in this pot was fantastic, creamy and delicious. Looking across the table, I could see people drinking up the sauce with shells till Mark started passing spoons around. Truth be told, most of us weren’t really bothered with spoons. Shells were good enough. What would have been really amazing would have been some crusty bread with it. Writing this, I am thinking about that pot of sweet, creamy coconut and chilli gravy. Okay, I have to admit I am quite hungry right about now. Ah, bread.


Uncle Joe’s Ginger Beer – Ruby

Ruby is the girl I want to spend my weekend and every other evening with, till my dentist tells me otherwise. She is sweet, sparkly and feisty with an ABV of 5.9%, who wouldn’t want a case of her sitting in the fridge all the time? I would put her in the fridge, then take her out and enjoy the heck out of her. This is served up with ice and some lime. Honestly, I would not have thought of putting lime in my ginger beer. It worked really well. Cut out a little bit of that sweetness and made it really refreshing. On her bottle “Ruby brews a refreshing ginger beer using organic Australian ginger and organic rice malt. Crisp, with just the right level of gingery kick. Ruby presents a hops free ginger brew with a little bit of sweetness, and a big dose of spice.”


Corong Pippi’s wok tossed with oyster sauce, ginger and garlic

These pipis is seasoned with some pretty strong flavours. Worked great with the refreshing lime and ginger beer we were served up with. The oyster sauce isn’t overpowering at all, pipis were well cooked, flavours were all there and that bowl of rice that we had with it, just perfect. Every seasoning on this dish were carefully thought out to work with our beer, that’s for sure. Honestly, I wished the rice was served up with the mussels too. I could taste the lingering coconut milk on my chopsticks, and for a second I thought we were served coconut rice and got a little excited about it. Pipis comparatively were quite savoury and packed a distinctive difference in a huge flavour punch, in a good way of course.


Uncle Joe’s Indian Pale Ale – Chelsea

You see, I’ve never been quite a fan of the IPA. I find most IPAs too bitter for my liking. Chelsea is different. Didn’t mind her at all. I finished my beer and was quite happy to have my glass topped up. Either that, or I was too drunk at this point of time that I have no idea what’s happening. But nah, I do like it. This IPA is not too bitter, and is quite easy to drink. It is not as dark as some dark beer drinkers would like I suppose, but for someone like myself, I do quite like it and is able to enjoy and IPA. Chelsea sits at an ABV of 6.3%, strongest of the evening. On her bottle “Chelsea brews a rich, complex IPA using northern brewer hops to produce earthy bitterness with a subtle evergreen tang. Chelsea layers Williamette hops for a peppery, herbaceous spice., and complex fruit & floral overtones. To finish, dark, amber and crystal malts with a touch of roasted barley for an exotic, silky smooth encore.”


Clams with wood ear mushrooms, soy and sesame oil

The evening finishes off with clams in a soy and sesame oil sauce. The sauce featured on these clams are thicker than the others and the Asian flavours on these are a lot stronger than even the previous dish. Clams are tender and it sort of gives you that wake up call that says “hey, we are getting to the end of the evening” and made me crave a little dessert after that as well. I did really crave some dessert, but with a sip of that IPA, it really brings out the sweetness in this dish which is great.


a final look at Uncle Joe’s girls

Take a final look at the bottles. I love looking at labels. Not the labels telling you how many calories you are consuming, no no no, none of that. It is the labels on bottles and products. The amount of work put into the design, the name and the overall feel. Art work isn’t just about the illustrations, but it is also about the flow and concept on how it works with one another. And finally there is print and paper finishes, it adds up to the whole ideal feel of art.

The evening was fantastic. I left feeling satisfied yet craving for another round of shellfish and beer which is a great sign. Food pairings were quite incredibly well done, I have to say I am surprised! Honestly all I’ve known about food pairing was “red wine with red meat, white wine with white meat”, the idea of beer and food pairing has been around but I have to say I don’t think I’ve experienced anything quite like this before, especially something this well thought of and done.

Red Lantern on Riley is voted Top Ten Most Environmentally Sustainable Restaurants (Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide. The food served here and at Red Lily are locally sourced sustainable and organic produce.

Thank you again Pauline Nguyen for this wonderful experience.

If you love beer and clams just like me, best to get a head-start in booking the next Beer and Clams Night on the 22nd and 23rd June 2015, and it is $60 per person for beer and shellfish. The food that’s been served up here is for 2 to share. Right now I’m off to do some online beer shopping.


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