Wednesday 19 October 2016

Aponiente, El Puerto de Santa Maria, Spain.

We've now visited Aponiente every September for the last four years. We've followed them from the small, smart cosy restaurant where it once was (now their own tapas bar) to the imposing sand coloured 18th-century flour mill where it now stands on the edge of the shores of the Atlantic.
Our tastes have also matured in tandem with the exquisite cuisine you will find here, all sourced from the ocean. I've always found it's a wise time to visit a two star restaurant when it's pushing for a third star as is so clearly the case here. I document this fourth meal here as the finest yet, both in terms of food, (always sublime, this time even better) but on this occasion extremely slick and stellar service from the team, maître d' Cristóbal Torres and sommeliers Lucia Fuentes (photo below) and Juan Ruiz Henestros.

On this occasion we opt for the slightly shorter Mar en Calma Menu with a few additions.
Fish loin Ibérian style ~ Blue fish sobrasada ~ Chips, little shrimps and lemon.
Roasted sardines.
Almond taco with dry salted fish.
Squid cake Cuttlefish cake. Plankton sponge cake. A beautiful little plate of 'cakes'.
Scrambled eggs, green garlics and shrimps.
Sea and mountains.
Three ways to eat mackerel ~ Sea urchin royal. I loved this dish, the flavours always immense.
Café de Paris Oyster. Utterly divine.
Stew dogfish ~ Discard of fish in clay with fried bread sauce. At the beginning of the meal, Ángel León shows us a display of fish that are normally discarded by fishermen. Naturally they make it into a beautiful plate of food.
Moray popieta in grenobloise sauce.
Pressed sepia. 'Choco a la presa' an elaborate dish prepared at the table with some flourish. I believe the press is from the now closed Can Fabes, the first Catalan restaurant to be awarded three Michelin stars.
Fish eye.
Cucumber, watermelon and herbs.
Cherry and chocolate. A beautiful 50 year old Sherry they let us sample.
They also kindly made me a little birthday cake!
Aponiente has very much evolved into a three star restaurant, this is especially evident in this meal. There's little more I can say about this unique restaurant, our favourite anywhere. There is nowhere else quite like it. I will be very surprised if Aponiente doesn't reach the top ranks of restaurants in Spain and the world to achieve the highest accolade.
Previous reviews here.
My interview with head chef Ángel León.
Dinner cost us £281 for two with wine.

Thursday 13 October 2016

Nacho & Friends Part 3 - Oriol Castro, Eduard Xatruch and Mateu Casañas.

On the 15th November we have invited to Manchester three chefs from one of Spain's hottest restaurants right now. 
Oriol Castro, Eduard Xatruch and Mateu Casañas were head chefs of the famous elBulli restaurant (undoubtedly the most influential restaurant of our generation, see our experience here from 2004).
Since they opened Disfrutar, their one Michelin star restaurant in Barcelona has been the hottest ticket in town. 
It'll be a huge honour to welcome all three chefs here.
They will again be cooking with chef Nacho a tapas menu such the one you will see at Compartir, their casual restaurant in the magical and picturesque coastal village of Cadaqués.
Some of their dishes below. Mussels with Béarnaise sauce & Tomato, Parmesan cream and lemon. 
This event will be at Iberica Manchester on the 15th November

Wednesday 5 October 2016

Nacho & Friends Part 2: Mark Poynton.

The idea behind Nacho & Friends is that if Manchester doesn't currently have a Michelin star, we could invite chefs here who have stars in their own restaurants to guest chef for one night. This would give people a chance to eat this style of food who may not necessarily travel over to Spain for dinner. This time we had a British chef Mark Poynton of Alimentum in Cambridge who created a seasonal Game tasting menu with Ibérica executive chef Nacho Manzano (photo below) especially for the Manchester Food and Drink Festival.
Unlike the other events in the series, this one would be exclusive to Manchester only and what another superb night it was. Ibérica yet again really pulled out the stops for this one, the service was excellent and the food as impressive as you'd imagine.
Both chefs and Ibérica's Group Head Chef César García are always in the kitchen, they don't just put their names to the event.
We begin with Venison Tartare, charcoal mayonnaise, turnips by Mark Poynton. Such a beautiful and delicate dish.
Autumn /Otoño by Nacho Manzano. A lovely seasonal course from Nacho's restaurant Casa Marcial.
Asturian Bean Stew with Hare, another rich and hearty dish by Nacho Manzano.
Pigeon Liver Parfait with smoked bacon & pineapple jam, hazelnut praline & horseradish vinegar gel by Mark Poynton. One of the dishes of the year for me, simply stunning. This flavour intensity and combination is what this sort of food is all about for me.
Deer loin, Jerusalem artichokes & roast garlic & honey alioli by Nacho Manzano.
Poached & roasted wood pigeon breast, potato, mushroom, red wine & parsley from Mark Poynton.
It was way too dark to photograph some of the courses including the puddings; Rice Pudding Brandy & Truffle by Nacho Manzano and Brilliat Savarin Mousse, cheesecake crumble, end of season strawberry & black olive from Mark.
Watch this space for details of the third Nacho & Friends, you really won't want to miss this one either.

Further Reading. Nacho & Friends Part One: Quique Dacosta.
My interview with Nacho Manzano