Wednesday, 7 September 2011

First Post: This blog is about food.

No time like the present, so here we go, talking about food. I love it, but I hate watching TV programs about it. Food on TV is like photography on the radio.

So, I'm not going to tell you what a great chef I am (I'm not) I'm just going to tell you about restaurants I've visited, rate them according to my own personal opinion, and tell you a little about the surroundings, occasionally the wine list, sometimes my company for the evening.

To begin, here is the website of the restaurant I visited on Friday Sept 2nd:

The menu we chose was the Menu Degustacion. A little of everything.


£21 per person (minimum 2 people)
bread & alioli
selection of iberian cured meats;
iberian chorizo, iberian salchichon, catalan fuet & serrano ham

paprika crispy fried squid
broken egg, serrano ham & potatoes
pisto, slow cooked vegetable stew

six hours roasted pork belly, red wine pear & parsnip puree
fried new potatoes, mojo picon sauce
serrano ham croquettes
crema catalana clasica

Before we begin, a few words about spanish cuisine. The spanish people, in common with the french or the italians, have a great tradition of cooking, not just for restaurants, but as a tradition passed down from generation to generation. Most British people experience spanish cuisine on holiday, mostly at the coast. We expect paella, tortillas and sangria. That's like saying the Brits only each fish and chips, Shepherd's Pie and Marmite. And so to start:

The bread and oil were supplied just after we had ordered our wine. A lovely white wine of the Rueda variety.

Both were pleasant while we waited to be impressed. The ham arrived.

Most of us know about parma ham, and very nice it is too. Iberian cooked ham is (for me) a step above. Chorizo is flavoured with paprika, but there was a selection of four very different hams (see menu above). Each one has a subtle flavour, a different aroma, a different look, but each type was excellent. If you take your hams seriously, you can go downstairs and have a look at them, they're used as decoration against the far wall in glass-fronted, refrigerated display cases.

The second courses arrived. The squid was succulent, the pisto (similar to ratatouille) was suitably chunky and fresh, but the surprise was the broken eggs dish. I was expecting a version of scrambled eggs to be honest. This dish is more like scrambled eggs mixed with cream, blended with crunchy, fried bacon and formed into a squat cylinder. No other word for it but gorgeous.

The pork belly (forget any references to US pork belly futures) reminded me of cuban pulled-pork in texture, soft and melt-in-the-mouth, in contrast to the crackling that accompanies it. Deep fried crunchy fat crackling has to be eaten with the pork belly, it's a question of contrasts.
The same is true of the serrano ham croquettes, crunchy outside, soft and creamy inside, with a contrast between the smooth cheese and the smoky ham. The fried potatoes were complemented by the mojo picon sauce (garlic and chillies, but not as hot as tabasco) and warranted another glass of wine.

For desert, a warm version of creme brullee without the solid sugar on top. Very mild and packed with authentic vanilla, not just a custard sauce. A perfect cooling end to the variety of tastes and textures of the evening.

One passing thought; as we arrived at the restaurant at about 7:00PM, without a reservation, we were told we could have a table until 9:00PM. I thought this was unnecessary, surely an hour is enough? We left at nearly 9:00PM. This is partly due to savouring the food and partly due too going to a spanish restaurant with a spaniard. Eating with a spanish companion is an education for most Brits. Eating is a social event for them, involving good food and conversation. Wine helps too, of course. Granted, you will be at a loss when you go to this restaurant, you won't be there with my dining companion, so you'll have to make your own conversation, but I can guarantee the food will be excellent.

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