Friday, 2 June 2017

FINDS x Highland Park whisky pairing dinner - launch

Two nights ago Steph and I attended the launch of the new Highland Park pairing menu at FINDS - Hong Kong's first and only Nordic restaurant. FINDS (which stands for "Finland, Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden") are offering a set four-course menu (paired with 3 Highland Park drams) for $668HKD/person, and Steph and I went along to see what it was all about.

We've included a full write-up below, but in summary: a fantastic menu at a very fair price, with cleverly-paired courses. Whisky meal pairings can be great, but they can also be difficult to execute (we've attended plenty over the years). We're happy to say this one was spot on - with the subtle Highland Park smoke pairing beautifully with the delicate smoke used in various ways in the four dishes.


Upon arrival we were handed a welcome cocktail by bartender Sam, made with Naked Grouse, Pear cider and Pear Juice, with a mint garnish. Incredibly refreshing considering the 28degC temperatures outside (Summer is coming)!


Soon after, we were shown our seats in the private "Nordic Express" room (the regular menu will be available in the main restaurant), which is best described as 'Alice in Wonderland' meets the Orient Express, under the cover of stars.


After a brief introduction from the FINDS communications team, our host for the night (and good friend of TimeforWhisky.com) Ron Taylor gave us an introduction to Highland Park, its Orkney Islands home, and its viking heritage. As the first dish arrived, Executive Chef Jaakko Sorsa gave an introduction, explaining that he saw an "affinity" between the lightly-smoked nature of Nordic cuisine, and Highland Park's delicate peat smoke character.



We were also provided a copy of the menu (below), which is exactly as available until 31st August (the only difference being we finished the night with a dram of Highland Park 21yo, which isn't included in the regular menu).



Our first pairing course, Smoked arctic shrimp & Vendace roe with grilled & pickled onions, sour cream and dill oil was paired with Highland Park 12yo (below). Chef Jaakko explained the difference between the various Nordic shrimp available, and how these were the result of some serious exploratory efforts through rural, Northernmost Norway, where the sub-zero temperatures provide the shrimp with a firm texture and delicate sweetness.

The shrimp / prawns (which were definitely much sweeter than usual) paired far better than I'd expected with the Highland Park 12, with the shrimp bringing an almost fruity sweetness out in the whisky which wasn't noticeable when enjoyed on its own.



Lightly smoked veal striploin 63˚ with celeriac & potatoes braised in veal broth, red cabbage, brussell sprout leaves and bay leaf jus was next, paired with Highly Park Dark Origins, the more heavily sherried (NAS but said to be ~15yo) expression which celebrates the early days of Highland Park's founder Magnus Eunson's illicit distilling.

I found the heavily-sherried Highland Park accentuated the "meatiness" in the veal with this pairing, making for a powerful (and enjoyable) combination.



Our last course was the visually-stunning "Drottning's Cake - Queens Cake" - chocolate layer cake with raspberries & blueberries in a smoky tar syrup, paired with the perennial favourite of many - Highland Park 18yo.

I have to admit I'd never seen "tar" used as a dessert (or any dish) ingredient before, but I was curious. Chef Jaakko explained the theory and uses behind pine tar, and how he'd used it to add an unique tarry smokiness to the dish. Hats off - it worked beautifully, both on its own and matched with the Highland Park 18.



Whisky pairing is tricky, and usually in a multi-course menu we find some which don't quite hit the mark...but that was not the case here. Each of the 3 pairings were spot-on, with both the whisky and food enhancing the flavours of each other. Bravo, Chef Jaakko.

FINDS Hong Kong (located in TST's The Luxe Manor) are offering this 4 course menu paired with 3 Highland Park drams for $668HKD/person (+10% service charge), every day between now and 31st August (1 day advance booking required). Bookings can be made via reservations@finds.com.hk or by calling +852 2522 9318. If you're a whisky fan, just beginning your whisky journey, you love Nordic cuisine, or you just want to see how a well-matched dinner and whisky menu is executed, we can highly recommend it.

Cheers,
Martin.


TimeforWhisky.com attended this event as guests of FINDS and The Luxe Manor. A big thanks must go to the FINDS / The Luxe Manor team, as well as Edrington for the invitation.

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