Earlier this year myself and Nicola took a city break to London. Whilst in the capital we done a little sightseeing, managed to take in a West End show, enjoyed a cocktail or three, and had a couple of great meals at Somers Town Coffee House and at Jason Atherton's Michelin starred restaurant, Pollen Street Social. Over and above all of this, we experienced another memorable moment when we wandered into Marcus Wareing's The Gilbert Scott for a nightcap and were served some fantastic smoked butter popcorn along with our drinks. Normally, neither us are the biggest fans of popcorn but there was something deviously more-ish about the smoky flavoured snacks.
When we returned from our trip I set about finding out more about the delicious popcorn that had been served with our drinks, and after a few tweets to The Gilbert Scott, I found out that the smoked butter comes from Abernethy Butter from County Down in Northern Ireland. I has to make contact and tell them just how much I loved the smoked butter popcorn as well as try to find out where I might be lucky enough to pick up some butter for myself.
In the hills of County Down, Alison and her husband Will have put the butter making skills that have been passed down through the generations and have taken their butter from local farmers markets to some of the finest restaurants across the UK.
Here's the Abernethy Butter story;How did you get started?
My dad made butter on his farm. We helped him and realised there might be a market for fresh handmade butter. Looked into it and were very lucky that it took off. More detail on website.
What's the best piece of business advice that you could give?
You have to be prepared to work very hard and take the knocks .
Where would you like to see your business in 5 years?
We would love to be supplying more high end restaurants around the world and have more work force (hands not machines)
If you could only enjoy your butter one way, what would it be and why?
Only one? Butter on fresh homemade bread is the best but our our smoked butter melted over steak is just perfect.
You can invite one person (living or dead) to your last meal – Who would it be and why? …and what’s on the menu? It would have to be my Granny – she would be so proud to see what we have achieved. She died 14 years ago. It wouldn't matter what's on the menu, we're here for the great company.
Now as I don't I live in or around County Down or run a fancy restaurant, thee was no way that I was going to get my hands on the creamy Abernethy Butter. Or so I thought!
Alison very kindly sent me a pack of her wonderfully creamy salted butter and a pack of the marvellous smoked butter. With two pack of butter to work with I decided to use the salted butter on fresh chunky bread - just as Alison recommends, whilst I used smoked butter as the base to pan fry sea bass fillets. The sweet flavours of the sea bass was perfect foil to the smoky flavour of the Abernethy Butter and tranformed the simple fish fillets into a much classier affair.
I still have a little of the smoked butter leftover so I could try to recreate the popcorn from The Gilbert Scott, although with another London trip scheduled in the coming months, we might just wait until our first cocktail pit stop.
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Written by Gerry Haughian