Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Ricard Camarena, València, Spain.

If you're in València for a weekend as we were, you can eat breakfast, lunch and dinner all at a  different Ricard Camarena restaurant. 
El Mercat Central de València is such an impressive space, larger and less expensive than Barcelona's Boqueria. The quality and variety of the fish and seafood section alone is truly amazing to see. Camarena's Central Bar always seemed to be completely full when we wandered around. We finally managed to get four seats and ordered a good tortilla, proper freshly squeezed orange juice and decent coffee to start the day of eating rather well. I wish we'd have been in town longer to try other stuff on the menu. The constant queue of locals really say it all.

For lunch we chose the one Michelin Star Ricard Camarena Restaurant as we find a taster menu is much better to manage in the daytime. This restaurant has been on the to eat list for some time and it certainly didn't disappoint. The snacks element to begin with is especially good, wave after wave of beautiful little bites come and go. For the mains part of the taster menu we choose mainly fish and seafood dishes; cocochas are always a joy, tuna back cheek is another fine choice. The desserts I recall through a fog of fine wine, were absolutely superb. (Photos below).  
The Menú degustación costs us €90.

Canalla Bistro was one of those places that I could have ordered practically everything off the menu. It's a a hipster friendly bistro with dishes from all around the world. The Spanish seem to be able to do this very well, I've noticed a recent fashion for tapas bars taking foreign dishes (Thai, Mexican) and putting the Spanish spin on them. I loved everything I ate here. I had two Mexican tacos (ox tail and tuna belly), sweet potato and foie pie, sea bass ceviche and the best and rarest burger I've had for some time. Great fun. Don't miss the 'fake' banana dessert.
What was interesting to me is how Ricard Camarena has translated what he does in three entirely different ways, a casual café bar in a market, a high end Michelin star restaurant and a cool and hip bistro, and we really enjoyed them all. Similarly, Quique Dascosta also has a high end place in the city, a more causal restaurant and a market bar. This constant innovation which trickles down from the highest level from chefs like this is one of the reasons that I think the whole of Spain is one of the most exciting places to eat in at every level.


Thursday, 16 June 2016

5 Great Manchester Tapas Bars.

Only a few years ago tapas bars in the UK were way behind Spain in terms of quality and variety, usually offering the same several dishes everywhere and some even getting their poor produce from a central supplier. Now thankfully we've had a new wave of proper authentic restaurants offering comparative quality as you'd get in Spain. Here are my favourite five in Greater Manchester (not necessarily in any order).
Levanter & Baratxuri. 
I regularly go up to Ramsbottom to photograph for Fiona and Joe and their two bars just get better each time with ever refreshing menus. Don't miss, the Txuleta, (Basque Steak). I also love the new Ceviche at Levanter.
We're huge fans of Ibérica, I especially love their seasonal specials as they were created by their executive head chef, Nacho Manzano holder of three Michelin stars. Don't miss; the Croquetas which are especially good. Below the Pork belly steamed Bao and Fideua with garlic & prawns from the Spring Menu.
El Gato Negro.
Hugely popular and rightly so, one of the best restaurants in Manchester. Don't miss; The Confit of Belly Pork and Carabineros.

Not just an authentic restaurant but a fine deli too. I often just sit in the bar drinking coffee as it feels like a proper Spanish bar on Deansgate. Don't miss; the suckling pig from Segovia.

Tapeo & Wine. 
The new comer, I popped in for lunch recently and was impressed. Don't miss; Gambas al ajillo.
One to watch; Porta Tapas will open in Altrincham in September.

10 Favourite Spanish Tapas Bars.

It's World Tapas Day today so it got me thinking what are my favourite tapas bars in Spain...
1. La Taberna del Campero. Zahara de los Atunes (& Barbate), Andalucia.
You can have everything here as long as it's tuna (more or less), it's the best in Spain. Everything is absolutely superb here too. Don't miss: Assorted raw fish dishes (tartare, loin sashimi, tataki).
2. La Culchara de San Telmo. San Sebastián.
All the pintxos are great and cooked to order but don't miss the Mushroom Risotto.
3. Tickets. Barcelona. Maybe an obvious choice but it's all such fantastic fun. Don't miss: Spherical "Olivas" an El Bulli classic.
4. Pura Tasca. Seville. 
Too hard to choose between places in Seville really but this place sticks in my mind.
Don't miss: Arroz Meloso.
5. Borda Berri. San Sebastián. Sister bar to La Cuchara, a 'must eat' in San Sebastián. Don't miss: Anything really.
 6. La Brunilda Tapas, Seville. Another modern but terrific tapas bar. Don't miss: The 'crack' burger.
 7. La Gabinoteca, Madrid. A buzzing gastro-bar. Don't miss. The Potito, egg, potato and truffle oil in a jar. 
 8. El Faro. Cádiz.
Way more old school than the rest, we love this place though and can stand at the bar eating everything any time we're in Cádiz. Don't miss: Albondigas de Ternera con Rabo Guisado.
 9.  Txikote. Conil de la Frontera. A Basque pintxos bar in an Andalucian coastal town. Don't miss: The Carabineros.
10. Zoko, Zahara de los Atunes, Andalucia. Eclectic tapas bar mixing up Andalucian classics like Salmorejo and thai curries with panache . Don't miss the salmorejo with prawns.

We often have a fixed view of what tapas bars serve here in the UK. What is clear from my travels is that in Spain, tapas is lots more fluid and flexible than that. Regional, seasonal and lots more of a pick and mix. Sometimes taking from other countries (Japan and Thailand for instance) and making it their own. There are so many more to try.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Chef Week at The French: Dan Cox.

Here are some highlights of a fantastic evening at The French last Friday with Chef Dan Cox Executive Chef at Fera at Claridge's for Simon Rogan.
Snacks; Squid, oyster, herb bunch ~ Chicken wing, radish and malt ~ Sole, smoked pork, lovage.
Green and white asparagus.
Portland crab, flowering stems, fennel, seaweed.
Also Carrots with ox tongue and elderflower (not pictured).
Steamed cod, sweet bell turnip, black truffle.
Roast lamb, summer cabbage and hyssop.
Meadowsweet, Pershore cherries, sheep's milk ice. (Below Chef Dan Cox & sommelier Filippo Zito).

We're all huge fans of The French and chef Dan so it was one of the highlights of the year for us, in terms of food and impeccable service as ever from the best FOH in the city.
Read my interview with Dan Cox here.