Monday 30 June 2014

Etrusco, Corfu, Greece.

I very nearly cancelled our booking for Etrusco. The food looked impressive on the photos but I wasn't totally convinced that it was the best use of my dwindling funds. It isn't a Michelin star restaurant, and I only had the recommendation from a friend of a friend off twitter. There are no recent blogposts either, and you can never really trust Tripadvisor can you. Besides, I tend not to think about so called 'fine dining' in relation to holidays in Greece. The food generally tends to be good but simple, hearty and traditional. Michelin stars are thin on the ground especially in comparison with Spain, although there are four in Athens I think.
I decided to gamble on it and I'm so glad I did, as it turned out, it was excellent. It's a good 25 minutes in a taxi from Corfu town and as we arrived in a beautiful courtyard onto the corner table, we were the first there. When the appetisers arrived, I got the feeling that we were onto something.
First a map of Corfu with five amuse bouche, dotted around the island. Especially of note was a 'homage' to El Bulli; a single Spherical Olive, but Greek versions (and they were as good as the ones we had in Tickets last year). Others were modern interpretations of Greek dishes, beautifully crafted.
Good quality bread.
Next 'Mediterranean flavoured octopus Carpaccio'. This was good but not outstanding.
"Beetroot in its natural environment"
Scallops on the rocks.
Risotto with veil of rose petals, hints of spice and smoked king prawns.
Cod a la plancha (Variation on a Corfu tsigareli).
Slow-cooked barbecued lamb, vegetables on the ember, olive oil stones of Corfiot spices. This was probably the finest lamb I've ever eaten, amongst some very strong competition from Simon Rogan restaurants in particular. One mouthful transported me back to childhood at my Grandmother's house, the perfect combination of fat and rich intense flavour.
Risotto with veil of rose petals; perfect.
Desserts. There were quite a few. "Reference to a pina colada" is the only one listed on our menu. There were many other extra courses too, the latter part of which were too hard to photograph as the sun set and the camera struggled in the dark romantic light. We did too, there was an awful lot of food, well worth the €80 for the longer taster menu. (It's €50 for the shorter, there is also a la carte). I can't even recall any poor courses, everything simply worked extremely well, there was no posturing or elaborate presentation for the sake of looking pretty. One mains (the stunning lamb) and one pudding especially impressed, a sweet Tzatziki was one of our favourite desserts of the year. It was so light and refreshing; a perfect end.
Tzatziki dessert, simple and brilliant.
Chef Ettore Botrini deservedly won the 'Best Greek Cuisine award 2014', and for us, this restaurant is worthy of a Michelin Star. He balances the traditional with the modern perfectly in the way that the Basque chefs excel at. I think it's fair to point out that the food here isn't anywhere near as innovative as say Azurmendi or El Celler de can Roca, but most importantly, it works. (I'd say this was one Michelin star level food in our experience).
Service was good although slightly slow and unsure at times, cutlery was placed on our table a few times only for another member of staff to remove them and place new slightly different ones down. However, trifling things like that don't bother us (we're not TA 'reviewers').
It was a magical night at Etrusco in a beautiful setting. If you're anywhere near Corfu this Summer and appreciate gourmet food, make a trip here, we're so glad we did.
To see the photos in high resolution, click here.

Thursday 12 June 2014

Summer Holidays.

We're off on our holidays to swim in the sea. See you in July for more eatings.

Wednesday 11 June 2014

Vietshack, Manchester.

There's been such a massive buzz about Vietshack on twitter. They've only been open just two weeks and they've sold out every day it seems. That tells you something right? The Arndale food market might not be your first choice for lunch but choose your seats well (we like the window stools by the Micro Bar) and it's not so bad.
We'd already had a few chats on-line and I also met someone else I'd had food conversations with on twitter. @AfoodSmith was waiting in the queue too, which was a bit mad as I had no idea if she was a man or a woman before I actually met her and her daughter! The guys at Vietshack were very friendly too, so we set to order.
In the first batch we had;
Bahn-Mi (Pork, £3).
Cow Burger (£3.50).
King Prawn Summer Roll (£2.80).
Plus two coolers, Mint and Raspberry (£1.20 each).
We enjoyed it all so much I went back for a Viet Wrap (£3).
It all came to just over £11 I think, or thereabouts for quite a big lunch for two. Amazing value, and the food was super; light, fresh, spicy and just damn tasty. It felt healthy too. So the hype was well justified. Lovely food, lovely people and great value. My number one choice for cheap eats right now. They're hoping to open a proper restaurant in the Northern Quarter too. But for now, my advice is to get there as early as you can because they're queuing for this stuff and it's well worth queuing for.

Viet Shack on Urbanspoon

Tuesday 10 June 2014

The Nags Head, Cheshire.

I turn down most previews I get these days, and I don't really like opening night parties with canapés and PA networking, but this one really appealed to me. From the same stable as Michelin starred Northcote (where we visited and thoroughly enjoyed just before I started this website), The Nags Head is Ribble Valley Inns first foray into Cheshire. They obviously know that the local market will sustain a quality dining pub. On the way, and not far off The Yew Tree inn in Bunbury has been on the 'to eat list' for a while and we've also enjoyed The Pheasant Inn in Higher Burwardsley in years gone by too. If only we had somewhere like this where we live in Chorlton, but the market is very different (it's style over content here).
The interior has been done very sympathetically with some style and money although some people may not appreciate the actual shotguns built into the tables. The old stocks and the tethers for horses in the car park are a cute touch.
As the previewed food was on the house, I won't review it as such, (it was a trial run and not open to the public), but I will cheat a bit and say that the quality of the beef especially was really superb, some of the best we've had in the UK. Northcote head Chef Nigel Haworth was in the kitchen on our visit. The only thing I wasn't especially inspired by was the main menu itself, there wasn't a lot on it that really excited me, but I guess experience tells them what sells. I'd just loved to have seen some slightly less obvious dishes; beef cheek, pork belly perhaps, (although these are quite common now), just some different stuff to the usual steaks etc. However the quality of the produce was self evident on our visit and we left very happy indeed...just one thing, we needed more gravy, one tiny jug is never going to do for pigs like us.
Angus Beef Tartare, Cauliflower & Horseradish, Roast Marrowbone, Sourdough Toast.
Roast Marrowbone.
21 day aged Roast Rump of Beef, Yorkshire pudding, Roast potatoes, mash, seasonal veg, shallots, gravy.
Quality beef.
Treacle Tart.
Rhubarb Crumble.
To see the photos in high res click here.

The Nags Head on Urbanspoon