MATTHEWS – Alistair Williams could be found at The Portrait Gallery on Dec. 17 leading a sold-out cocktail class.
Williams showed about three dozen people how to properly pair three classic holiday cocktails with seasonal cuisine. He’s not only a professor at Johnson & Wales University, but he’s also the managing partner for the unique bar-restaurant concept.
Williams has been involved in the food and drink scene since he was 15 years old. His career has taken him all over the world, including mainland Europe, Africa and the Far East. In fact, he’s lived in seven other countries.
The Portrait Gallery’s presence in downtown Matthews has allowed liquor and wine from around the world, as well as global trends in food and drink, to become more accessible to the community.
His experiences operating The Portrait Gallery also provide his students at Johnson & Wales with fresh real-world insight into the hospitality industry. Many of the experiences he shares with students can be as recent as “last night” or “last weekend.”
The Portrait Gallery is housed within a downtown building that is over 100 years old. An art gallery and photo studio used to occupy the space. The décor plays on the art theme with famous paintings, white marble surfaces and sculptures.
The menu for this European-inspired concept is seasonal with family-style dishes and small plates that use local ingredients. The bar serves handcrafted cocktails, artisanal wines and craft beers.
Williams describes The Portrait Gallery as a food-led bar, where the wine and cocktails are equally as important as the food. He encourages people to come in for a craft cocktail or a glass of wine even if they’re not hungry.
“I think people see us as a restaurant first and foremost,” Williams said. “We want to be a community bar that does great food.”
The Portrait Gallery has been an active member of the Matthews Chamber of Commerce. It has donated a portion of sales to organizations like the Humane Society and offered discounts for first-responders on specific days of the calendar. Staff served cookies and hot chocolate to 150 children in downtown for the annual Christmas tree lighting.
In the coming year, Williams would like to bring more live music to the venue, as well as reach out to nearby offices to expose more people to the menu.
Aside from food pairings, The Portrait Gallery sells half-priced wine on Wednesdays, half-priced craft cocktails on Thursdays and lunch on Saturdays and Sundays.
“To have people coming in every day is just bringing downtown back to life and that’s what we’re trying to do,” Williams said. “Downtown Matthews is a magical place.”
Want to learn more?
The Portrait Gallery is located at 118 E. Charles St., Matthews. Call 704-369-9982 or visit www.pgmat thews.com for details.