When people win a contest, they're usually awarded a vacation getaway or a new car. It's very rare that being lucky results in the opportunity to live out your career dreams.
That's exactly what happened to Andy Bates, wife Frenchy Mingo, and partner Vivian Belzaguy, who won a year's free rent for a restaurant space. The space, located on the ground floor of the Filling Station Lofts, was part of a competition sponsored by the building's developer — NR Investments — and the New Tropic as a way to encourage businesses to move to the fledgling Arts & Entertainment District, the swath of land that lies between Wynwood, Edgewater, and downtown.
The Avenue Food & Brew bested more than a dozen other entrants, with Chef Bates' beef and ale pie winning the hearts of judges Steve Santana (Taquiza), Ben Potts (Beaker & Gray), and Richard Martin (Food Republic) in a final cook-off this past November.
Though the restaurant isn't set to open for a few months, Bates and crew are hosting a series of pop-ups at Filling Station Lofts to introduce their British-style diner food to Miami. At last evening's preview dinner, Bates said he intends for his restaurant to complement the dining establishments already in the area. Alluding to the Corner and Kush, Bates said, "We won't do burgers because there's a great burger down the road. We won't do cocktails because there's a fantastic bar nearby. The whole point is being part of the neighborhood."
Bates also has no intention of replicating a British pub in Miami. "It's a restaurant that's doing British food, British music, and American beer. I do love a pub, but I have no intention of opening the Dog & Track or something like that."
David Bowie's music and the lights of Miami served as backdrops for the dinner, which featured beer pairings from Sixpoint Brewery and Wynwood Brewery. Before each course, Bates described the dish, while Mingo pointed out the tasting notes in the beers.
The first course was Welsh rarebit, paired with Sic Point Brewery's Crisp. Bates pointed out that he used domestic cheddar and beer to make the cheese béchamel that topped the toasted sourdough.
A Scotch egg was presented with Sixpoint's Bengali. Bates explained that the soft-boiled egg — wrapped in sausage, breaded, and fried — is a popular to-go food in England and a pub staple. A curried mayo was served with the Scotch egg, which Mingo said matched spicy notes in the beer.
There was a minor snafu before the main course: Bates struggled to finish his winning beef pie in a kitchen made for residential use. Mingo quickly stepped in, charming the guests with a game of "Can you identify the British slang?" The slight wait was worth it when the enormous pies were delivered. The chef said the beef was cooked in Wynwood Brewery's Wynwood Fox ale, which was paired with the dish, and called it a "real marriage" of flavors.
Sticky toffee pudding with condensed-milk ice cream was presented in a dessert pairing that Bates called "sweet and sweet." The date-and-treacle sponge cake was paired with Sixpoint's C.R.E.A.M.
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Finally, nothing says a trip to England like a cuppa. English breakfast tea with milk was served as a parting gesture.
The pop-up dinner series is sold out, but a four-course fish 'n' chips lunch has just been announced for this Saturday, January 23. The lunch, served from 1 to 4 p.m. at Filling Station Lofts, costs $69.57 per person and includes a Scotch egg starter, Welsh rarebit, fish 'n' chips, and banoffee pie. Tickets are available at eventbrite.com.