Peter Cornish checks out the new menu of an old favourite, Heart of Darkness Craft Brewery. Photos by Romain Garrigue.

Heart of Darkness is a brewery. Always was, always will be.

It’s a place we head to for a decent beer or two, and if we’re getting peckish or want to soak up some of the alcohol, we order a slice of delicious 4Ps pizza. Or at least that’s how it used to be.

All that changed a few months ago when the gourmet relationship between Heart of Darkness and 4Ps came to an amicable end. They parted ways and Chef Phil Segal joined the team. And while Heart of Darkness remains the brewery it always was and always will be, it’s now gaining a well-earned reputation as a place to chow down on some pretty decent grub, and that’s a typically English understatement.

Chef Phil was presented with a sample menu and allowed to run wild with it. The order of the day was full-on American uncompromising craft brewery comfort food, explained Heart of Darkness partner John Pemberton, with an interesting twist.

As a lifelong vegetarian, John asked for the menu to work for him with the option to add meat later where warranted. And this is what Chef Phil has done. With creative vison and admirable culinary skills, the new menu, now in its second phase, combines wonderful vegetarian dishes with the brewery’s best ingredient, beer, and adds some meat for those who can’t eat without it. Everyone’s a winner.

The menu’s first phase started out with nachos, sliders and flatbreads, in a nod of acknowledgment to Chef Phil’s pizza predecessor. Baked daily using a secret recipe starring Heart of Darkness beer, they are served piping hot and make a delicious accompaniment to the beers they pair with.

The Conrad is a finger-licking combination of sweet corn, avocado, Pepper Jack cheese with coriander pesto and baja sauce. Coming in at VND160,000 it’s a great dish to share with drinking buddies and paired with a cold glass of Pitiless Folly Pale Ale. The Cannibal Cauldron is covered in beer-infused chorizo and beer-infused steamer clams, and topped with tomatoes, garlic and mozzarella cheese. Priced at VND200,000 this is best accompanied by a glass of Kurtz Insane IPA.

Sliders offer the hungry a culinary journey through different American regions, stopping off for some Cajun Blackened Catfish, the Classic Cheeseburger or some Southern Fried Chicken. Coming in at VND120,000 for three this is a great deal when paired with Chef Phil’s suggestion of Sacred Fire Golden Ale.

If you’re after something that will leave you guessing whether it’s truly vegetarian, check out the freshly made nachos. Corn chips made from imported Mexican flour are piled high and covered in vegetarian chili made from a mix of lentils and beans. Seasoned with coriander and cumin, they are lifted to a new dimension with the help of the salsa made with Kurtz Insane beer. Priced at VND150,000 you can add your choice of ground beef, chorizo or chicken for just VND50,000 extra, and enjoy with a Conquistador’s Mexican Pilsner. Oh yes!

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