Since its début in the bars of Nairobi, Johnnie Walker has developed a legendary reputation — its amber tone synonymous with class and luxury. Usually drank over ice or with a dash of soda (if you prefer it this way), this Scotch whisky also makes a great base for cocktails and if carefully paired can take you from pre-dinner drinks right through to digestifs.
When scouting for the perfect location to serve Johnnie Walker Scotch Whisky in its special blends, it was clear that only one place could match the classic sophistication associated with the brand: Crowne Plaza Nairobi.
This five star hotel is home to some of the finest pairing dinners in the city, served at the Sikia fine dining restaurant. Just next door is the Babalu’s lounge, a ‘swanky’ drinking den with more than a hint of big apple and an undertone of playfulness.
Diageo Brand Ambassador Kariukii Mukii was all ready and set up to take the crowd through the exciting whisky pairing course. Did I mention that the plates that lay before us on the table were engraved with the evening’s menu? A touch of culinary class!
The meal starts with smoked sailfish with cream cheese flavored with chives, garlic and black peppercorns served with a sweet balsamic reduction. What better to accompany this creamy ensemble than the revered Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve? This was by far my favorite pairing of the night as the light flavors of the whisky paired well with the dish.
For the next item on the menu, a spicy and rich soup of smoked chicken was matched with a Johnnie Walker Double black. Personally, it seemed that this pairing was a bit ambitious, but to the contrary, I do admit for such a ‘peaty’ whisky, the pairing wasn’t bad at all. The smokiness of the whisky and spiciness of the chicken balanced each other out to form a kind of ying and yang of flavoring. Although for the ones that like their soups mild, I would suggest a less spicy soup.
The main course of herb encrusted fillet of beef wrapped in bacon was definitely a big win. Paired with the Johnnie Walker Platinum, the intense flavors of the whisky cut through the richness of the medium rare beef, and its subtle and fruity flavors from the 18 year old maturation process turned up in the dish. It was a bold combination that worked exceedingly well.
Dessert is a sweet chocolate banana upside-down pudding, with homemade custard and a small spoonful of tree tomato jam with vanilla ice cream, accompanied by the revered Johnnie Walker Blue Label. A great match and easiest of the lot, the chocolate in the dish matched well with the premium whisky. This is the duo that most people are familiar with, as whisky is served with the final course.
The lavish dinner actually marked the epic culmination of the Love Whisky Festival, which had been running for three months. Founded with the purpose of educating the masses about the world of whisky, I for one, learnt that you’re supposed to chill your palate with ice- cold water before tasting the Johnnie Walker Blue Label. This makes it easier for you to pick up the flavors and tones of the whisky. For the rest, I guess it was a case of simply enjoying the marriage of Johnnie Walker family blend with an excellent meal.