Monday, 26 September 2016

Messina, Marbella, Spain.

One thing I've learned from my travels is to never try and second guess how you will feel about a particular restaurant. It's only by eating there yourself that you really know what it's going to be like. It may seem obvious but sometimes highly rated places you have high hopes for can ultimately disappoint. The opposite happens too. I had anticipated that Messina in Marbella would be a solid (recent) one star restaurant that would be pretty good. But I was not prepared to be blown away. We were! The food is excellent here. Especially the mid part of the meal of seafood, prawns, sea urchin, eel and crayfish dishes are exceptional, perfectly matching our own tastes. Chef Mauricio Giovanini and his wife, Pia Ninci (the maitre d') were away too. In their absence, the front of house and the kitchen performed admirably, a faultless meal with the superb service. The restaurant in the evening is romantically lit but this is not conducive to the best food photography so please excuse the lack of photos.
We sampled the slightly longer Menu Messina. (Priced at 78€).
Creamy parsnip with foie gras shaves. Typical Malaga's preparation with cauliflower and pistachio. Typical Argentinean manioc flour and pesto bread with marinated sardine. Sea urchin mi cuit and celery water. A beautifully simple combination, the rich sea urchin blends so well with the celery.
Shrimp and cold gazpachuelo. Eel, foie gras and cold dashi (an extra course).
Crayfish, coconut and red cabbage. Scarlet shrimp served with orange and basil sauce, pine nut and beans sprout. Boned Lobster: Body, head and pincer prepared with piquillo peppers sauce and the tartar.
Red Mullet with typical Argentinian sweet corn stew.
Thin slices of cured Iberian pork, creamy chilli and macadamia nut yoghurt.
Shredded Malaga's baby goat. (This was fine but we didn't love this course quite as much as the rest).
Desserts were lovely too. Green apple: sorbet and verdejo.
Red apple: Roasted ice cream with sponge cake and white chocolate ganache.
Creamy black and milky chocolate, dulce de leche and peanut.
We were so impressed with Messina, it was the icing on the cake of our final night in Spain,

In 2014, the Spanish newspaper ABC awarded Messina the 'Best Creative Cuisine Restaurant in Spain'.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Antonio, Zahara de los Atunes, Spain.

Antonio is a traditional hotel and restaurant right on the long windswept sandy beach of Zahara de los Atunes. They specialise in fine local tuna here and the quality is unsurpassed. We walked in early for a mid week lunch and within the hour every table had been taken. Spanish folk tend to flock to the very best places with the most superior product unlike here in Manchester where cheap is king.
They bring us a fresh complimentary octopus salad.
Tuna Tartare. Very good but slightly over salted for our taste.
Foie toast and jamón ibérico. A perfect combination.
The pièce de résistance, red tuna sashimi. Absolutely beautiful. There is no need to add anything to product of this quality.
Antonio oozes quality and tradition. It's not cheap but the best things in life rarely are. It's the type of restaurant that the Spanish do so well and are therefore rightfully popular.
Lunch cost us just short of £80 for two.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Hawksmoor, Manchester.

I'm not sure I really like industrial styled restaurant interiors, I think they may look dated in a few years. I much prefer classic design like Hawksmoor in Manchester. It must be one of the most successful interior designs in our city. It feels like it's been there decades rather than eighteen months and it suits their food so well, it's such a beautiful room with such great natural light.
On this occasion we skipped the steak at lunchtime and went for a selection of starters, sharing it all like tapas. The Steak Tartare is a classic dish from this restaurant, I'd personally prefer less capers in my tartar as I want to taste the fresh flavour of the beautiful product which is lost a little.
Since our last visit they've added onions to the Bone Marrow which works well although I'd still prefer it without.
Potted Beef and Yorkshires is enjoyable too, especially when you fill the Yorkshire Pudding with the lovely gravy. Rib Mac and Cheese is I think and exclusive Manchester dish, I loved it, that molten cheese crust with the meaty filling, fabulous.
We loved Hawksmoor when it opened (see here) and still do, it's now an established Manchester classic.
Lunch cost two of us £45 with soft drinks.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Oaxen Slip, Stockholm.

On the last evening of our Stockholm trip we make our way back to Djurgården on the ferry from our hotel in Gamla Stan, the old town. Can there be a better way of visiting a restaurant than by boat?
It was an easy journey as well and scenic too via the Gröna Lund Amusement Park. It's only a short walk to Oaxen Slip, a smart water front bistro that looks from the outside like a boatyard warehouse, inside too with boats and paraphernalia hanging above you.

We order a selection of dishes to share, mainly starters. This helps keep costs down as well as letting us sample a variety of dishes.
Oaxen dried pork neck ~ Deep fried onion filled with smoked marrow. This was a doozy, it explodes warm smoked marrow liquid on your tongue, delicious!
Tartar of topside with mustard mayonnaise, sour cream & sour-dough croutons. A great version of steak tartare.
Smoked Shrimps with garlic mayonnaise. We still talk about these smoky prawns as we've not had any quite as smoky as this before.
Grilled chick pea bread with tongue of lamb, braised endive, anchovies & artichoke cream. The bread was so perfect but we struggled to taste the lamb's tongue.
Seasoned, roasted cauliflower with mint & pumpkin dressing. A favourite of Mrs B's. We compared this favourably to an unsuccessful cauliflower course we had in the UK that was way too bitter. (Cauliflower is ubiquitous right now it seems). This was just right. Also Norrøna herring with potato, butter fried rye bread & sour cream and French Fries & Smoked Mayo.

Dessert to share ~ Sorbet of raspberry with lemon verbena, roasted white chocolate & almond cream. (Another good one).
We ended our trip to Stockholm in real style strolling from the restaurant at dusk and back onto the waiting ferry. We loved our evening at Oaxen Slip, maybe next time we'll get to visit their Michelin Star Oaxen Krog too on the same site.
Dinner cost us £108 for two.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Gastrologik, Stockholm.

Already in August we start thinking about the best meals of the year. Sacha in Madrid, certainly, Quique Dacosta of course, Ynshire Hall is up there too. Aponiente next month will, I expect be top notch as ever. Gastrologik in Stockholm might just top the lot of them though. The food here was truly sensational, such clarity in the flavours. The service too is impeccable. To be honest it's a joke that this place is just a one Michelin star. To my mind it's a two at the least.
Most days the tasting menu is different, based on what's good that day. Chefs Jacob Holmström and Anton Bjuhr 'let today's produce decide'. So what we ate on the 30th July could be completely different from what you eat. They work closely and passionately with their local suppliers (I know this as they kindly gave us a little book at the end of our meal). Lots of places say these sort of things about local and seasonal but in this case it really does translate onto the plate. I often file these places under 'worthy' rather than joyful sometimes it's forgotten that the food should always above all be delicious. Not the case here.
The product is up there with the best we've eaten too and with such intensity of flavours. The restaurant interior too matches the simple yet beautiful food.....
Flat-bread with broad beans, smoked sour cream and carrots.
Oyster from Mollösumi with cucumbers, chamomile and spruce.
Sourdough bread made of spelt from Warbrokvarn with hand churned butter from Kittelberget.
I struggled to limit my bread intake, the bread is excellent here.
Wild salmon from Junkön with green strawberries and blackcurrant leaves. This is so good!
Garlic from Ugglarp with baked cream and enzymatic fermented garlic.
Chard from Rosendal with grilled butter and wild herbs.
Soured potatoes and vendace roe from Junkon, onion and fennel flowers.
Flowers from the garden with mackerel and broccoli.
Quail from Vidbo Norrby with grains, peas and parsley.
Suckling Pig from Hornsborg with cabbage, horseradish and blackcurrant.
Fresh goat's cheese from Löfsta with potato and flowers.
Lovage and green sorrel.
Berries from Törnvik, cream with cherry stones.
Roses from Rosendal with raspberries and beetroot.
Propolis and bee pollen vodka Pia's kalvdans with red currant and angelica. Sweet, salty, sour.
All these plates of food and not a weak course in any of them. It was almost impossible to choose a favourite but the oyster, the salmon and strawberries and the garlic courses were amongst the best dishes of the year. The desserts too were superb. The bottom line is this for me; everything we ate here was bloody delicious. You'd imagine this would always be the case with restaurants like this but it isn't. You really can't underestimate how good this place is. I don't really score any more but this is a 10/10.

The tasting menu for two plus a couple of drinks cost us £ 313.36. 
If you can't get in, Speceriet next door is their gastro-pub. 
Next time we're in Stockholm I hope we will do both.