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Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Mina Bilbao.

Some years ago our friends were telling us they were visiting Bilbao, "oh you must go and eat at Mina" we told them. They wisely took our advice and naturally loved it as we had expected. The thing was, our friend Mark had never really experienced 'fine dining' before. He now completely understood why we travel and spend lots of money on just a lunch. He really 'got it'. Mina I suppose was his gateway drug. In hindsight, Mina was a perfect choice. Since then our friends have been with us to the wonderful Bar FM in Granada and now we returned to Mina together, somewhat appropriately. 
If anything, it was actually better than last time. After some serious discussion, we all opt for the longer tasting menu. There was just too much good stuff to miss out on. The real draw here at Mina are the intense flavour bombs, this is what we come here for. The food is sensational with no apparent weaker dishes.
Oyster Gillardeau, gin and a citric touch.
Mussels in lemongrass, coconut soup and hot tomato. 
Spider Crab topped with passion fruit emulsion. 
Black Cheese, mushroom and crunchy chicken. 
Smoked Txitxarro, cauliflower and cider.
Aubergine confit with red tea served with white prawn. 

The purple onion from Zalla. 

Roasted scallop served with vegetal broth.
Smoked Bluefin Tuna belly pastrami served with herbs curry.

Bone marrow cake served with spiced potato crunch.

Charcoal grilled Txipiron with roasted bird broth and mushroom stew.

Lobster & Foie.

Tamarind, Perrins and toffee. 

Farmhouse milk, Ras al Hanout and persimmon.  

The flavours are clear and intense, like electricity on your tongue. As I was pontificating at the meal admittedly two bottles of wine down): in all honesty, it's a bit of a joke that Mina has just the one Michelin star. I've eaten in a couple of disappointing one stars this year that can't hold a candle to this restaurant. To my mind the food is on a par with anywhere in Spain and (along with Martín Berasategui) is my favorite meal of the year.

When I came up with the idea of Nacho & Friends at Ibérica. (where we invited the best Spanish chefs to cook for us here in Manchester), chef Álvaro Garrido was the first person who I asked. He was keen to come but sadly this is unlikely to happen due to a change in personnel at Ibérica. It would have been amazing to have chef Álvaro cook for us here.
Previous review here.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

The Bacon Guide to Andalucia.

We've been going to Andalucia almost every Summer for the last eighteen years. Here are some of the highlights of the restaurants and tapas bars we've enjoyed over the years. This list is not exhaustive, there are plenty more great places out there to try.
Great modern tapas bar. Don't Miss: Fideos Negros (black noodles). 
La Cosmopolita.
Combining innovative and traditional cuisine using fine produce.
Don't Miss: The Prawns & Bone Marrow.
Bar FM.
Stunning seafood produce. Some of the best quality we' ve had. (Pictured below).
Don't Miss: Anything.
Bagá. Brand new gastro restaurant from Chef Pedro Sanchez. (Pictured below).

Michelin star Moorish inspired taster menus. (Pictured below).
Pura Tasca
Excellent local bistro in the Triana neighbourhood. Don't Miss: The Risotto.
La Azotea.
Modern Tapas. Don't Miss: The Pig's Cheeks.
La Brunhilda.
Smart innovative gastro bar. Don't Miss: The famous 'crack' burgers.
Vineria San Telmo.
Contemporary tapas. Don't Miss: Squid Ink spaghetti.
Sanlúcar de Barrameda.
Casa Balbino.
Not as good as it's reputation, nevertheless you have to go for the famous Tortilla de Camarones (shrimp fritters).
El Puerto de Santa Maria.
Our favourite restaurant in Spain (or anywhere). Innovative seafood taster menus. (Pictured below).
Don't miss: Anything.
Jerez de la Frontera. 
La Cruz Blanca.
Traditional tapas with modern touches. (Pictured below). Don't miss: It's all good. The waiter told us to stop ordering I got so carried away!
El Faro de Cádiz. Traditional simple inexpensive tapas at the bar. Casa Manteca.
More of a bar really but a visit to this old school joint is a must when in Cádiz. (Pictured below).
Conil de La Frontera. 
Francisco La Fontanilla. Traditional restaurant right on the beach.
El Campero
The superb flagship tuna outpost is the only reason to visit this scruffy town. 
Zahara de los Atunes.
El Campero also have a tapas bar here too serving pretty much the same menu.
Trasteo. Fusion eclectic raciones. Don't Miss: The Tuna Tacos.
Restaurante Antonio. Classic local seafood dishes.
Don't miss: Tuna Tartare. (Pictured Below).

Los Marinos José
Seafood restaurant on the seafront with the best product imaginable.
Don't miss: Anything it's all good. The carabineros were the best we've ever had.

Beautiful food, service and interior. One of the most impressive one stars we've dined in.

De Locos Tapas.
You must book this little place as their cutting edge Basque inspired tapas are rightfully popular.
 We plan to visit the Almeria region again next year.... 
Illustration and all Photos ©BaconontheBeech.



Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Bar FM, Granada, Spain.

As you may have guessed, I don't get much chance to blog any more let alone eat out, due to work shooting food in restaurants for my clients. The last thing I want to do with my free time is go and photograph food for blogging after spending a long week shooting and processing thousands of images. It's quite a lot of hard work. However I just have to write about Bar FM in Granada as it was so good.
Maybe I was also influenced by the moment, it was the first night of our Spanish trip and we met up with our good friends Debbie and Mark who have only gone off to live our dream to exit awful post Brexit Britain and settle in an Andalucian village nearby. So we were already in very good spirits after meeting up but it seemed to me like the food here is absolutely sensational. I'll explain why.
But first we begin with some prawns both 'red' (Roja, €31.50) and 'white' (quisquillas, smaller, €30).
Pulpo Seco. (€22).Dried octopus, a speciality of the house.
Puntillitias & Chopitos. (Baby squid, €14). The very best examples we've ever eaten and we order these a lot. Sampled closely together, you could tell the differences between them both. The olive oil they are using is also beautiful.
Anchoas (€2 each).
Cocochas (€18). Different from the hake throat we've eaten before, especially in Basque country. These are less gelatinous and more fish like with a delicate texture. Again the best version of the dish we've had.
Tuna Tataki (€24) and Sashimi de Ventesca. Tuna Belly (€25). Eaten closely together again, these were superb, actually better than we've had at some favourite places (El Campero for example). The tuna belly was unbelievable. 
Our friends had not tried either dish before and were suitably impressed.....Pulpo Gallega (€20).
A fresh tomato salad (€7.50) and Oysters (€4 each).
To finish..
A note on the prices, (much criticised on TA). It's not cheap but the very best rarely is, and if you think more of this as a taster menu for four over typical standard tapas prices, it's reasonable. For the main part we order half portion raciones so we could eat more.
As times have gone on, our tastes have changed. We seem to much prefer restaurants like this, serving simple but such high quality product over the overly fussy Michelin star style (with a few notable exceptions). The seafood is sourced from the best suppliers in Catalonia, Galicia and nearby Motril. The service was excellent and friendly too.
Bar FM is an exquisite restaurant serving the best product available. (It's been recently smartly refurbished). On first look it appears to be another one of these gastro bars that have become popular in Spain. But it is so much better than that. Rarely have I eaten seafood this fresh. The quality of the product is so high and so simply, sensitively and accurately treated.
You can imagine similar quality at the likes of Etxebarri, Ibai or Sacha. Yes, Bar FM is as good as those places in my humble opinion. You must eat here.

I booked via twitter but if you turn up as they open at 8pm (or 1 for lunch) you'll most likely get a table as Spanish people never turn up early.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Martín Berasategui, Lasarte-Oria, Spain

A short time into the meal we had at Martín Berasategui, the maître d' asked me if I was left handed. (I am. They then amend the placement of the cutlery to take this into account). This attention to detail for me encapsulates the highest level of service here, one of the best restaurant experiences we've ever had. The food too is beautiful, there is nothing here we don't absolutely love from start to finish. Make no mistake, €225+ drinks and service is a lot of money (for us) so it is absolutely vital that we go somewhere that is perfect. In our experience not all Michelin star restaurants are worth the money. Some seem to survive on hype and a high number on the World's 50 Best. Martín Berasategui however is well worth the price. Both the food and service were up there with the best we've ever experienced, anywhere.
We opt for The Great Tasting Menu.  (The dates in brackets are the year of origin of the dish).
A selection of bread and butters: boletus, spinach, beetroot and salted.
Rhubarb crunch with “Balfegó” tuna tartar and yuzu gel. (2017).
Mille-feuille of smoked eel, foie gras, spring onions and green apple. (1995).
Ham and truffle 'tortilla'. (2017).
Red Shrimp Royale and dill with Venta del Barón oil. (2014). This was probably my favourite.
Caviar gel with pickles of asparagus and its cream, salted with Añana’s salt. (2017).
Lightly marinated oyster with iced cucumber slush and K5, and spicy apple. (2015).
Tarama with beetroot and sour horseradish. (2017).
Vegetable hearts salad with seafood, cream of lettuce and iodized juice. (2001).
This was quite a few of our party's favourite dish.
Crayfish over an aniseed sea bed and coral mayonnaise. (2017).
'The Truffle' with fermented wild mushrooms and collard greens with 'Alma de Jerez' oil. (2015).
Gallo Celta Galician egg and citrus chicken stock with corn. (2017).

Grilled hake loin, coconut, red curry and liquid and crunchy razor shells. (2017). We recognise the 'Tortillitas de Camarones' element straight away, a variation of the bar snack from Andalucia.

Grilled Sirloin 'luisimi' over a bed of Swiss Chard chlorophyll and cheese bonbon. (2011). This was our requested replacement for the usual pigeon dish.
Desserts. Lemon with basil juice, green bean and almond. (2016).
Almond honeycomb with brittle bits and iced cinnamon. (2016).
Two of our friends had the wine flight to accompany the food whilst we shared a clean and fresh bottle of Mauro Godello (2014). Another lovely touch was when they poured out two glasses of dessert wine " a present from your friend Fernando." A pal from twitter and a friend of the restaurant had messaged them to tell them we were dining with them that day. This was the icing on the cake of a perfect meal for us.
Sometimes I question why we do this, flying abroad a great expense just to eat a meal. Restaurants as good as this one provide the answer to that. If I am paying the price I realised lately that I don't really want to be 'challenged' as a diner. I just want to eat the most beautiful food imaginable and this is what we got at Martín Berasategui.