Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Le Cochon Aveugle, York.

We're sat in one of my favourite restaurants in Britain and me and Mrs Bacon are sharing stories with co-owner Vicky about how much Anthony Bordain meant to us. As huge fans for so many years we all feel like we knew him personally.  Of course we didn't but this is why his death has effected so many of us. We immersed ourselves in all of his books and TV shows so his became the most saddening of any 'celebrity' deaths. We're still not really over it. I still think of him often. We followed Bourdain to Spain to wherever he recommended, and I know Vicky and chef Josh travelled around Paris to where he ate.
It's no secret that we're huge fans of chef Josh's food and that I've been commissioned to photograph their restaurant a few times but we decided to return as punters for our wedding anniversary. After a quick drink at their sister bar, the wonderful Cave du Cochon, and finally deciding on our favoured wine with Vicky, we make a start on the taster menu as follows:
Crispy chicken skin, chicken liver parfait & pickled walnut ketchup.
Whitby crab & wasabi tart.
Ken Holland's carrots & goat's curd.
Boudin noir macaron. (Pictured below). This is as good as it looks.
L'Arpege egg. Just so lovely as ever.
Oyster flamboir a lard. Gorgeous.
Homemade sourdough, cultured butter, beurre noisette & sea salt. Embarrassingly, I possibly had three or four portions (servings not pieces) of this fabulous bread.
60 day-aged beef tartare, cauliflower & sauce tonnato.
Hand-dived Orkney scallop cooked 'a la ficellel in sea urchin butter. This is the finest scallop I've ever eaten. Even better than the one we had at Hedone in London. The quality of this product is seriously impressive.
Pollock cooked over coals, smoked butter, Yorkshire asparagus & confit lemon.
Fattened guinea fowl, 36 month-old Parmesan, wild garlic & Vin Jaune sauce.
'Guess' Elderflower panna cotta, frais de Bois, wild strawberry sorbet & vinegar granita. I'm afraid we failed in the taste test with this one, I blame the booze.
Pain d'Epices egg. A wonderful end to a supreme taster menu from chef Josh.
Le Cochon Aveugle is a seriously good restaurant with wonderful food and fine service from Vicky and the team. They deserve all the accolades they get.
I'm sure Anthony Bordain would have loved it here and at Cave. There's not much more of a recommendation I can give than that.

Monday, 3 June 2019

My Top 10 Pintxos Bars in San Sebastián.

These are my personal favourite pintxos bars from several trips to Donostia over the years but are not necessarily 'the best'. There are often occasions where one or two bars really shine (I've tried to account for that on this list) but standards in general always remain extremely high in San Sebastián. For our next trip in December it may change again and we're always on the look out for bars we've not tried before. Please let me know your favourites and I'll try to visit them if we've not already.
1. Borda Berri.
A couple of times now the first thing we've done on arriving is go to Borda Berri for their supreme risotto. When those wonderful plates of brothy mushrooms and idiazabal (Basque cheese) arrive, I'm in seventh heaven. Also the beef cheeks are not to be missed. Must eat: Mushroom Risotto.
2. Bar Bergara.
As we're usually staying in the old town, whenever we make a trip over the river, we always head here. It's all good (and different) but I love the little pintxos pastries they do at Bergara.
Must eat: The Udaberri, courgette and crayfish tart.

3. Zazpi. 
We always head here for a long boozy lunch. It's a wonderful place to drink the lovely Keller beer and eat as many of the beautiful little plates of food as possible. Must eat: Oxtail Ravioli.
4. Zeruko. I'm always excited to try new and different stuff whenever we visit Zeruko and our meal at the new sit down Zeruko was impressive too. Must eat: La Hoguera (smoked cod).
5. Casa Urola was shut on our last visit, otherwise I'm sure it'd be further up our list. Must eat: Scallops.
6. La Cuchara de San Telmo.
We've rarely been here and it's never less than packed out but this place has to be done when in town so you must fight through the crowds. Must eat: Carrillera de Ternera.

7. Atari. We always end up at Atari at some point in the evening often for cream cheese ice cream but having tried quite a few things at random here, (like the foie) it's all so good. Must eat: Cream Cheese Ice Cream.
8. Mendaur Berria.
This more modern bar with a large TV screen showing football doesn't look that promising but I can assure you that the cooked to order pintxos are tip top. Must eat: Sea Urchin.
9. Gure Txoko. Another must visit in Gros.
Must eat: Soft Shell Crab.
10.  A Fuego Negro. 
We always find ourselves drinking here late at night, usually worse for wear. Must eat: Mini Burger.
Finally my top tip. I just realised looking at this that I rarely pick up pintxos from the bar tops. The best ones are always cooked to order.
What didn't make the list. Ganbara is great but quite expensive so it's not one of my personal favourites. I know Nestor is a lot of peoples top tip for the txuleta but the timing of adding your name to the list never quite works out time wise for us plus we have a few none meat eaters in our party. There are others still I've never been to Bar Antonio, Bar Sport and loads more.  Oh I just realised I never added La Viña for their cheesecake which is a must too.
So what would make your Top 10?
Further reading: Another recent list I like is this one from LuxEat.

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Enxaneta at Tast, Manchester.

On our previous visit to Tast, manager Fernando Marques told us of their plans to open the upstairs room and create a high end dining experience, much closer to chef Paco Pérez's two Michelin star restaurant in Barcelona, Enoteca Paco Pérez.
Enxaneta at Tast has been open for a few months now. Just a quick look at the menus online, I notice for instance that the squab dish in Barcelona is described in the same way as the one we had in Manchester. So although it may not be exactly the same dish, I think quite a few dishes would be similar variations of those found in Barcelona and elsewhere. This can only be a good thing, we're getting tried and tested world class Michelin star dishes from a two star restaurant but here in Manchester at last. (This is one of the reasons why I believe Enxaneta at Tast will get a star in the next guide, more of that later).
 We finally sampled the 10 course menu (£95 per person) as follows.
A few nibbles to start: AMANIDA CESAR  (Caesar salad). PADRON PEPPER.
BUNYOL DE CAÇA (Squab Bunyol in tempura) we swapped the squab for the prawns in tempura.
PESOLS PURS (Pure Peas).  All these snacks were lovely and set us up beautifully for the main courses.... OU BENEDICT, MARI. (Sea egg Benedict).

XAMPINYONS EN LA SEVA DIVERSITAT (Button Mushroom Diversity). This dish is what it's all about for me. The intense woodland mushroom flavours were just so pleasing to eat, this is honestly one of my favourite dishes anywhere. It was just so good.

CANELÓ D’ESCAMARLANS (Langoustin Canelon). Another beautiful plate of food. We love the rich flavourful sauces Paco Perez is fond of.
ARRÒS DE POLLASTRE I LLOBREGANT (Chicken and Lobster Rice). They've completely perfected these rice dishes. Again, it's the sheer intensity of the flavours which so impressed, and a wonderful chewy mouth feel of the sticky rice. These four dishes were our favourites of the evening.
Head chef Miquel Villacrosa in action in the kitchen (above).
COLOMI, BLAT I MOLE DE 1000 DIES (Squab, corn and 1000 days Moie).
Desserts: LLIMONA, YUZU I MANGO (Lemon, Yuzu and Mango).
XOCOLATA I GALETES (Chocolate and Biscuits).

To conclude, we were extremely impressed with Enxaneta at Tast. The food is spectacular and the service from Fernando Marques and head sommelier Filippo Zito is stellar (we know both of them from The French).
As I told the team at the time,  I believe this restaurant will win a Michelin star in the next guide. Why am I so sure? The brilliance of the food leaves me in no doubt at all. That and the pedigree of Paco Pérez (who has several stars at restaurants in Spain and elsewhere) along with head chef Miquel Villacrosa (formerly at 1 Michelin Star Restaurant Cinco in Berlin).
Enxaneta at Tast is a world class restaurant. It is without doubt the finest high end food we've had in Manchester.

The photos in this review were shot quickly as I ate. 
To see my proper photographic portfolio of commissioned work and to commission me please see my website here.

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

The Best of 2018.

We don't eat out as much as we used to. So when we do, it really needs to count. I am reluctant to take a gamble on an over hyped ultimately disappointing restaurant. For this reason there are quite a few old favourites this year with a handful of new gems, Xu in London and Tast in Manchester amongst others.
Etxebarri, Axpe, Spain.
This ultimate temple of the finest produce is always an absolute joy and even better, they let us sit on the terrace with views over to the mountains which we find to be even more special than sitting inside. The best thing I ate all year was their beef chop (pictured below).
Ynyshir, Machynlleth, Wales.
We celebrated Mrs Bacon's Birthday in style at what we consider one of the most impressive restaurants in the UK. A superb meat heavy taster menu from Gareth in an idyllic setting. (Not French Onion Soup, pictured below).

Zeruko, San Sebastian, Spain.
The new Zeruko a few doors down from the old branch (still there) in San Sebastian was a real surprise. It's more of a proper sit down restaurant than a pintxos bar. Presentation is often quirky as ever but everything still tastes good like this fabulous Pig's Snout & foie gras pictured below.
Mina, Bilbao, Spain.
Another return visit to one of our favourite restaurants is always such a pleasure.
XU Teahouse & Restaurant,  London. Such a fantastic lunch in a fine interior. I knew I'd like it but it was surprisingly our favourite on a recent London trip. Everything we ate was wonderful.
BRAT, London. Inspired by some of our favourite Spanish restaurants, it was inevitable that we had a good lunch here last weekend. Some highlights pictured below, the txuleta and the grilled wild mushrooms transported us back to the Basque country.
BAR FM, Granada. A second visit to this superb gastro bar with some of the highest quality seafood I've ever eaten.
Tast, Manchester. We enjoyed our first few trips to Tast and recently returned for more. We look forward to the high end dining room to open up in February.
El Campero. Zahara de los Atunes, Spain.
It was an unplanned trip to Zahara as we escaped the storms in Almeria, so we had to dine on tuna in a hundred ways at this old favourite modern gastro bar.
Deliciosa Marta, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain.
I never thought a restaurant in Gran Canaria would ever make the list but this place really impressed us. It's usually reserved for weeks in advance but we managed a last minute lunch booking. Deceptively simple and beautiful food reminded me of Sticky Walnut in Chester.
Special mention should also go to two excellent restaurants that opened in 2018 in Chorlton. Typical, you wait for years and two properly good local restaurants open at once. I hesitate to put on the list proper as they are clients of mine. (I shot for both of these restaurants this year). But we were seriously impressed by the food at both The Creameries and The Oystercatcher. (Both pictured below).

The Oystercatcher.
Lastly, a special mention to my favourite pizzas of the year (and another local client): Double Zero. I usually have a pizza of my making, four cheese and n'duja which I guess I've eaten more than anything else this year (often in my favourite bar, Strange Brew).
I am a professional food, drink & restaurant photographer. I work all over the UK. Check out my website here: