Monday, 28 September 2015

La Taberna de El Campero, Zahara de los Atunes, Spain.

It would be a mistake as a visitor to Spain to think that all the best tapas bars are just concentrated in the famous places, in the north San Sebastián and the big cities, Barcelona and Madrid. La Taberna de El Campero in the small coastal village of Zahara de los Atunes is in my opinion one of the finest tapas bars in the whole country. In fact this little town is becoming a bit of a food mecca, I'm guessing since the arrival of this tapas version of their Barbate flagship that we've also been to a few years back. (See here). The only difference is that the original restaurant offers larger ración type portions.
This modern, smart tapas bar is the epitome of what you might consider the local food movement; terroir. De los Atunes literally means 'of the tuna' and that's what on offer here. In many different and creative ways. Chef Jose Melero known locally as 'The Master of Tuna' says;
“We never buy tuna less than 30 kilos in weight and mostly around 10 years old. We are extremely careful who we buy it from and we freeze it at minus 60 degrees – or ‘calidad sashimi’ – so we can use it all year round.”
The almadraba, the fishing of bluefin tuna is limited only to May and June when the fish migrate to the Mediterranean. Zahara de los Atunes is perfectly located as the straits are quite narrow. We went twice on this trip and ate most of the tapas dishes on the menu, nearly all tuna based. There wasn't anything we didn't love, it is all superb and very reasonably priced. On the very first evening of our holiday we begin, sat around a barrel in the bar area (my preferred spot) there is a larger room to the rear and side plus seats out front. It's usually really busy. These shots below were before all the Spanish turn up at 9pm (never earlier).
Bon Bon de Foie, mojama and apple cream cheese. (€4.25).
Langostinos en Tempura. (€3.50).
Canelones de Atún. (€4.50).
Lasaña de Atún. (€4.25).
Assorted raw fish dishes (tartare, loin sashimi, tataki, € 22). I doubt you'll get better quality outside of Japan.
Tortilla de Verduras. (€2.50).
Tartar de Calamar. (€5.50).
Tataki with Ajo Blanco (a cold almond soup). (€4.50).
Atún Picante (Spicy).
Second Session.
Albondiga de Atún. (€3.25). Exactly like a meatball made with meat. It makes you realise how versatile tuna actually is.
Pinchito Moruno (€3). Usually pork but you guessed it...
Cococha de de Atún. (€5.75). I've never had these before from tuna. Kokotxas are normally hake or cod throat, popular in the Basque country.
Carabineros. You may have seen me mention these giant scarlet prawns before. They're certainly no cheaper in Spain. But they're worth it. We scoop out the hot brain juices with little spoons.
There wasn't a bad dish in there. Service is perfunctory rather than friendly and you have to more or less beg to get your order in but it's a place you must not miss. You must like tuna though otherwise you may be going hungry.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

The Man Behind The Curtain, Leeds.

I'm starting to write this on Monday 14th September, just before our holiday and four days before the new Michelin Guide comes out. (You'll have to take my word for it). I'm predicting that chef Michael O'Hare will get a new star as I heavily hinted in my last review and that I've being saying for some time. In fact I've already congratulated the chef perhaps prematurely and he thought tempting fate. But I think it's already in the bag. We actually sat opposite the Michelin inspector last time. (The mysterious lone diner from the last review). He caught Mrs B as she was licking the plate which she thinks swung the vote in the restaurants favour. * As I'm sure you now know they did get the star, coincidentally I happened to pick up my phone on holiday just as it was announced earlier than scheduled, amazing news, we were so chuffed for them.
Our recent and third trip last Friday of mainly the new taster menu was as brilliant as previous meals. I won't waffle on, if you've been you know if you've not then you really need to. But you'll be lucky as reservations already hard to get following his winning TV performance on GBM, will now be as rare as hen's teeth following the star.
We never know what's coming, we take it as it comes.
Scottish Langoustine. Mussel consommé, parsley oil. We had a similar dish on our first visit last year, but this was so much better with that flavour hit of the sea that we're looking for.
Spider Crab (txangurro) baked in shell, Fried quails egg, bilberry
Hake Cheek Pil pil, squid Ink.
Apple soufflé. At this point we saying to each other, 'is this it, is this the pudding?' But with Michael being as he is, he never likes to do things the obvious way. This dessert comes in the middle as a refresher!

Black Cod.Dashi of toasted skin, crispy potato, Ink and vinegar. I'm sure he'll hate this but this dish is I think a kind of signature dish. It always gets a ten from us.
Iberian Pork. Pressa and secretos cooked over coal, Smoked Arlington White, boquerone anchovies, cinders.
This is not a dish that they would normally send out as one but a combined selection, our favourites of the day. Scallop Ceviche ~ lamb pancakes ~ veal sweetbreads.
Octopus & XO. (Hand massaged for 20 minutes). Fantastic and so striking.
Milk Chocolate. Olive oil, pork rinds, crispy white chocolate.
Tiramisu. An explosion of liquid tiramisu on your tongue, the best cupcake yet.
Txakoli Zudugarai 2014, Bodegas Txakoli Zudugarai, Getraia, Spain.
Trimbach Gewurztraminer 2012/13, Alsace, France.
Marques de Murrieta Reserva 2009, Rioja, Spain.
Cuesto de Oro Verdejo 2008, Bodegas Lurton, Rueda.

Agusti Torello Mata Gran Reserva Barrica 2008, Penedes, Spain. 
We were talking about the food here whilst on holiday. People often describe it as 'crazy' but for me it's wonderfully creative food that I just love to eat again and again. Maybe it's because we share similar tastes (high end Spanish food) that it always makes perfect sense to me. The beautiful artful presentation is never at the expense of the most important flavour hit.
In my humble opinion there's no reason why chef Michael O' Hare can't get a second star. For us it's the most exciting restaurant in the UK right now. It's also worth noting that it's still cheaper than many taster menus out there and that's including the rail fare. We've already made our next booking for December.
More photos here.
The Man Behind the Curtain Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato