We’re all familiar with seeing wine pairing suggestions next to items on food menus, but what about rum matches for food? We were intrigued and headed off to Rum & Sugar in Canary Wharf to meet manager and rum enthusiast Alessio and head chef Joe for a five-rum, five-dish session.
First, the venue is on West India Quay, just down from the DLR station and next to the Museum of London Docklands and is in a Grade I listed exposed-brick warehouse that was used to store rum and sugar when the area played an important role in trade. A bar with hundreds of rums quite rightly takes centre position, with a barrel-based display (anything with barrels is a hit with us) and well spaced tables.
We were welcomed with a cocktail using rum from the bar’s rum of the month – conveniently one of our favourites, St Aubin, a Mauritian agricole. I went for a Spiced Banana, a long drink of St Aubin spiced rum, Chambord, banana liqueur, lemon juice, sugar syrup and orange bitters. Chris went for the martini-style Bounty Note, which uses St Aubin white rum, chocolate liqueur, Koko Kanu coconut rum and coconut purée and comes with a chocolate treble clef for garnish.
Alessio gave us an introduction to rum in general and then presented each rum, accompanied by Joe’s matching dish based on what the aromas and tastes had invoked for him.
- Ron Barceló 6-year old Gran Platinum – I hadn’t tasted this rum before and found it citrusy on the nose, but smooth and unremarkable to taste. Matched with this was salmon tartare marinated in coconut milk, lime juice, shallot and coriander. Coconut was a flavour that was predominant for Joe, that we hadn’t picked up on the nose or in tasting. However, the dish really complemented the citrus and made the coconut note much more prominent for us.
- Ron Barceló 6-year Gran Anejo – exactly the same rum as before, except it’s not charcoal-filtered. This keeps in the ‘impurities’, which give rum a deeper aroma, taste and colour. Much more caramel on the nose and in the mouth. I think it’s easy to instinctively match a dark, sweet rum would be a dessert, but picking up a nutty taste, Joe wanted to challenge us all with a savoury match: butter poached chicken, with the noisette made into a hollandaise sauce, topped with a garlic crumb.
- Clément Première Canne, a three-year old agricole. I love the grassy, herby smells of a white agricole so was really looking forward to the food match for this one. On the nose we also got saltiness, very similar to a very unique Trois Rivières rum we have in our collection (Cuvée de l’Océan). The match did not disappoint: cod with tarragon and a citrus sauce. I hadn’t got the aniseed notes that Alessio and Joe had, but again, this was completely brought out by the food.
- Ron de Jeremy spiced – Hardcore Edition. A punchy 47% for a spiced, with strong elements of vanilla to soften the alcohol on the nose. Echoing my cocktail earlier, this was matched with a banana barbecued in the rum and served on a chocolate shortbread and a vanilla custard. So good!
- Zacapa Solera 23 year-old. Blended from a pyramid of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry barrels, it was recommended that we leave this rum to aerate before drinking as the solera process limits the amount of air in the barrels. Instantly after pouring, wood, tobacco and oak were the standout aromas. A couple of minutes later, this had mellowed to a caramel sweetness, although the oakiness remained in the mouth. This was matched with a baked chocolate ganache (using eggs instead of cream), with a caramelised orange and salted peanut. The bitterness in the dark chocolate was a good complement to what is a very sweet rum.
All instances where I’ve used rum in cooking, or for sipping alongside, have been for desserts, and usually involving banana, so it was really useful and interesting to explore the versatility with savoury dishes. The second match of a dark rum with a chicken dish was particularly eye-opening and we’d love to have a go matching from our own collection.
The session was very informal, which allowed us to ask questions regarding both the rums and Rum & Sugar itself. As a rum bloggers’ treat we were allowed to try some Admiral Vernon’s Old J Spiced Tiki Fire Rum, which at 75.5% is not recommended to be consumed neat, unless you really know what you are doing!
Alessio gave us some tips on how to taste overproof rum, in order to get the flavour, and leave the bad spirit out. The rum has a very deceptive smell, on the nose it very bubble gum like. The rum was very flavourful, and we got bubble gum too when we tasted it, followed by a very warm feeling in the throat. The sipping technique was quite interesting, and to sum up would be…. sip some rum, and become a fish!
We didn’t know much about Rum & Sugar before, but the knowledgeable and friendly staff, current cocktail specials, ridiculous amount of rum from around the world, and interesting interiors will see us return. In fact, we already took some non-rumming friends there for an introduction, luckily for us, they liked the place both in turn of location and decor, and enjoyed the food and drinks!
We sure have learned a few more rumming facts and tips on the night, and would recommend this place to anyone, whether you like rum or not!