Saturday, 18 April 2015

64° revisited, Brighton

I once read that shit bloggers always start their posts with a quote (I didn’t really read that but it’s probably true). Anyways… a wise Chinese philosopher (Bruce Lee) once said, ‘Mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them. 

Well, I admit to making a mistake. In November last year, after hearing so many good things and reading great reviews, I visited Brighton’s 64°. Despite my dining companions loving it, I left unconvinced.

Having vowed to return to give them another go, I did and it seems that everyone else was right! 64° is good. No, wait… I’m mistaken yet again… 64° is great!

With a small regularly changing menu of four fish, four veg and four meat dishes, the food at 64° is perfect for sharing. As a table of six, we decided to order one of each item (and get extras of the ones we liked most).

The general consensus seemed to be that the Tuna, Jerusalem artichokes and the delightfully summery Tomato dishes were the best.

Six perfectly seared slivers of Tuna came drizzled with passion fruit jus and jewels of pomegranate scattered like they’d fallen from a ransacked Hatton Garden safety deposit box. I hated having to share this one and regret not greedily ordering a plate for myself.

Baked and then fried, the Jerusalem artichoke were fabulous little things. We had eaten some cooked in a similar way at Silo the previous evening and enjoyed them too. I’ve had a go at making them at home but haven’t yet got the skins as caramelised.

Of the meat dishes, everyone’s fave was the Beef rib with bone marrow, wild leek and parsley purée. It was so tender you could’ve cut it with a spoon; luckily we had a knife so we used that.

Although not a fan of them last time, the Chicken wings with kimchi and Barkham Blue cheese were also a winner; the chicken skin was crispier than before and its kimchi coating had a wonderfully deep fermented smack of chilli. The kimchi tuile/wafer/crisp (or whatever they call it) was good too.

The only thing that didn’t completely work for me was the hazelnut purée with the Venison haunch but I’d say that more down to personal taste than any technical or conceptual problems.

I think it's going to become tradition that we eat here everytime we visit Brighton.

Squid, pancetta, celeriac, chilli, gomasio

Salmon, malt, daikon, maple

Scallops, lemongrass, rhubarb – lemongrass purée

Tuna, passion fruit, pomegranate

Jerusalem artichoke, peanut, watercress

Fennel, Sussex Charmer, lemon

Alexander buds, cultured yoghurt, lime

Chicken wings, kimchi, Barkham

Lamb chump, aubergine, garlic, buttermilk

Venison haunch, beets, hazelnut

Beef rib, bone marrow, wild leek, parsley

Rhubarb, oat, whey

Passion fruit, Onken yoghurt, walnut

Chocolate, salted caramel, dulce de leche

Boozy fellas 
Rub bear jelly


64 Degrees on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 16 April 2015

The Sportsman, Seasalter

Everyone has his or her own ideas about what ‘Michelin starred food’ looks like – I’m guessing that, for most, a piece of fish simply grilled with seaweed butter is not ‘it’.

Over the years I’ve been lucky enough to have eaten the food of some of the world’s most highly regarded chefs, dining in some proper swanky places.

There is a common misconception that ‘Michelin starred food’ has to be artfully presented and elaborately constructed; although this is often the case, experience has taught me to distinguish between the real deal and ‘the emperor’s new clothes’.

Far too many chefs over complicate things; deluded into thinking that Michelin inspectors are going to rain stars down upon them because their food ‘looks the part’.

In their hearts, all chefs know that the best food comes from respect for quality ingredients and learning how to maximize and balance flavours, yet it seemingly takes a supremely confident chef to appreciate that less can be more – the Sportsman in Kent is home to a supremely confident chef.

‘Self taught’, chef/proprietor Stephen Harris (and his brother) took on The Sportsman in 1999, just three years after becoming a professional chef. In 2008, The Sportsman was awarded a Michelin star, which it has retained ever since.

The Sportsman serves a short a la carte menu that showcases the best of the seasons and surroundings. In addition to this they serve a Daily Tasting Menu, £45 and a leisurely £65 Tasting Menu, which has to be ordered in advance; we opted for the full jobby.

The meal started with three little snack sized bites and an egg thingy. My favourite of the Canapés was the cheese & onion ‘Crunch Cream’ (my name for it); my wife preferred the brioche toast with lamb’s kidney.

Within the eggshell, a Poached egg yolk, parsley purée & subtle horseradish cream had been combined with sherry vinegar & smoked eel to make a delightful little dish.

On a bed of shells, then came the Oysters – a rock oyster with beurre blanc, pickled cucumber & herring roe / a rock oyster with rhubarb granita & crystalised seaweed and, my favourite, a Whitstable native with home made chorizo.

A dish of beautiful clarity and confidence, the next dish Rockpool was a divine celebration of the most delightful seafood – a dinky native oyster, sweet crabmeat, razor clam, sea beet, sea purslane and a cockle were submerged in a dashi type broth enlivened by crystalised seaweed and a scallop roe powder.

The Bread course came with a home churned butter made with locally harvested Seasalter salt. This was particularly lovely with the treacly soda bread.  Although a little ‘caught’ on the crust, the sourdough had a deep flavor but it was the rosemary & red onion focaccia that particularly impressed.

Another dish full of flavour but free from ostentation was the vibrant Pot roast red cabbage – sweetness from stewed apple and sour notes from fresh cheese were buoyed by a bold balsamic mustard.

A defining moment, the Slip sole grilled in seaweed butter exemplified Chef Harris’s confident, unshowy gastronomy that was so wonderfully refreshing to see… and taste. The characteristics of the juvenile Dover sole, which ensures that the flesh of the fish stays firm, make it perfect for this method of cooking and shows the chef’s mastery of his produce. Absolute perfection.  

With such a tough act to follow, the Braised brill with smoked roe had to be a corker. The intense, bold and creamy smoked roe sauce ensured it was.

There was a long wait for the next course. Eventually two small pieces of bread crumbed Lamb belly arrived with a sweetly sour mint sauce.

Shortly after, the most beautiful piece of Roasted lamb loin arrived, accompanied by braised shoulder, vegetables and gravy. Up until this point, the menu had mostly showcased the Kent coast’s fish but this dish served as a reminder of The Sportsman’s location adjacent to the wonderful salt marshes and the award winning Monkshill Farm, run the Royal School for Deaf Children Margate.

Meringue ice cream, sea buckthorn & sea salt spray – this dish certainly packed a punch – punctuated by hits of a salty spray, the astringently sharp citrusy sea buckthorn dominated with background sweetness from the ice cream and more crystalised seaweed.

Bramley apple soufflé with salted caramel ice cream – the waitress suggested the salted caramel should be placed inside the soufflé but I preferred to eat the ice cream first and enjoy the Bramley apple on its own. Definitely up there with the best soufflés I’ve ever tasted. 

To end, dinky Chocolate tart and Vanilla custard with nutmeg.

I’d been wanting to go to The Sportsman for quite some time – now I’ve been, I cant wait to go back!

Sportsman on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Seville’s Best Tapas “Tapas Trail”

Covering 8 of “the best” taperías in Seville and presenting 36 different tapas dishes, this post is already going to be quite long so I’ll try not to waffle on too much in the introduction.

You’ll probably already know that the word ‘tapas’ comes from the Spanish verb ‘tapar’ which means ‘to cover’; used because bartenders would kindly cover the sweet sherry with a salty snack to stop the fruit flies from having a cheeky sip (obviously nothing to do with making customers thirsty so they drank more). If you didn’t know that, now you too can bore people with this piece of useless information.

When travelling to a city for the first time, I typically spend quite some time researching the places to eat at using published guides, blogs, critic reviews and recommendations from the good folk on twitter. For this trip however was a surprise sprang on me by parents as part of my birthday gift; as such I drew up my ‘hit list’ at short notice using the Michelin guide and a couple of twitter “recs”.

Of the eight places visited, my favourite overall was Eslava – the menu was short yet interesting; there was tradition with modern touches and the people were delightfully friendly.

The only place I wouldn’t revisit is El Burladero – although beautifully presented, I found the food a little lacklustre and the modern hotel dining room lacked atmosphere (you couldn’t eat from the tapas menu outside!).

If you like a modern setting Don Juan de Alemanes and Uno de Delicias are the places to go – both are in great locations by the Cathedral and Gold Tower (Torre del Oro) respectively. The folk behind Don Juan de Alemanes also own the more traditional Robles Placentines around the corner.

For a more traditional tapas experience, El Rinconcillo certainly has the most historical charm. Sadly we arrived whilst the kitchen was having a siesta so could not pick from the full tapas menu (most tapas places in Seville serve hot food from around 12 noon or 1pm; these tend to close around 4 or 5 and reopen after 8pm).

I also rated Casa la Viuda and Dos de Mayo (same owners) - Casa la Viuda is in a great spot for people watching on the corner of a busy narrow street; they serve a small selection of tapas and larger plates at the outside tables but you have to eat in for the full selection of 70+ dishes (most are priced between 2 & 3€). Dos de Mayo is located in a charming little square – there is no waiter service so once you have located at table (or spot at the bar), order at the bar (you may have to clear your own table if they are busy).

Assuming all the tapas were tasty, which they were, I have included a star rating which roughly means something like this: * = tasty, ** very tasty, *** very, very tasty, **** = super tasty and ***** = exceptionally tasty!

(Eslava 3)

What Michelin say: ‘Recognised by the public and critics alike, it is not for nothing that this restaurant has received a variety of awards in different gastronomic competitions. From its kitchens, enjoy tapas based around traditional cuisine with a modern touch, alongside a choice of stews.

Centro de vieira sobre de algas y fídeos de kataifi ****
(Scallop over seaweed purée & kataifi noodles)

Caballa asada con picadillo de tomate, cebolla y pimientos ***
(Roasted mackerel with diced tomato, onion & pepper salad)

Navajas a la plancha con limón ****
(Grilled razor clams with lemon)

Ortiguillas rebozadas *****
(Breaded sea anemone – typical of Cádiz)

Habas con chocos **
(Fava beans with squid – typical of Huelva)

Un cigarro para Bécquer ****
(A cigar for Bécquer – brie pastry cigar with cuttlefish & algae)

Sangre encebollada ***
(Chicken blood boiled with caramelised onions)

Costilla de cerdo con miel de romero al horno *****
(Roasted pork ribs with rosemary honey glaze)

Uno de Delicias
(paseo de las Delicias 1)

What Michelin say: ‘A restaurant with a combined rustic, colonial and industrial look, the latter provided by the high ceilings and exposed ventilation pipes. Traditional-cum-contemporary cooking centred around fresh ingredients.

Patatas Bravas con salsa picante y alioli **
(Potatoes with spicy tomato salsa & alioli)

Croquetas cremosas de gambas ***
(Prawn croquettes)

Epsañolito – Solomillo Ibérico ***
(Iberian steak with caramelised onion & brie)

Foie con compota de manzana ***
(Foie with apple compote)

Chipirones encebollados con arroz Salvaje ***
(Baby squid with onions & wild rice)

Don Juan de Alemanes
(Alemanes 7)

What Michelin say: ‘This modern and spacious tapas bar located close to the cathedral has an eclectic feel. This is enhanced by the healthy and different dishes on offer here, which will appeal to an urban clientele. Updated traditional cuisine.

Jamón Ibérico puro de Bellota ***
(Ibérico ham from acorn-fed pigs)

Croquetas de cola de toro **
(Oxtail croquettes)

Croqueta cuadrada de langostinos ***
(Square croquette with king prawn)

Chanquetes fritos con hilos de huevo **
(Fried whitebait with egg threads)

Arroz negro meloso con chipirón *****
(Rice with baby squid cooked in ink & garlic mayonnaise)

Robles Placentines
(Placentines 2)

What Michelin say: ‘This typical bar is adorned with a profusion of wood on the ground floor, which leads to a dining room upstairs where the decor takes its inspiration from the world of bullfighting. Enticing choice of tapas.

Boqueroncillos macerados en vinagre y aciete de Olivia ***
(Anchovies in a vinegar and olive oil marinade)

Lascas de mojama de atún de Isla Cristina ***
(Dried and salted Isla Cristina tuna shavings)

Pan de bacalao ahumado y crema de gazpacho suave ****
(Smoked cod & a smooth gazpacho on toast)

Bastones de berenjenas con crema de gazpacho **
(Aubergine sticks with gazpacho cream)

Revuelto de matanza **
(Scrambled egg with minced chorizo)

Patatas y champiñones con crema de Roquefort *
(Potatoes & mushrooms with Roquefort cream)

Casa la Viuda
(Albareda 2)

What Michelin say: ‘This centrally located restaurant has a typical tapas bar atmosphere and a huge choice of enticing options to choose from. A great place to meet and chat with friends over a relaxing drink.

Espinacas con garbanzos **
(Spinach & chickpeas)

Cola de toro ***

Bacalao de la Viuda **
(Baked cod in vegetable sauce with potato au gratin)

El Burladero
(Canalejas 1)

What Michelin say: ‘This gastro-bar has a modern decor and is decorated with photos of bullfighters. It boasts a good display of wines and Iberian cold meats, a dining room with two private rooms, and some delicious contemporary tapas dishes.

Croquetas de jamón ***
(Ham croquettes)

Tartar de atún, aguacate y jengibre *
(Tuna tartar, avocado & ginger)

Terrina de foie y cola de toro *
(Foie micuit & oxtail terrine)
Dos de Mayo
(pl. de la Gavidia 6)

What Michelin say: ‘This establishment, which has been fully renovated in a classical-antique style, oozes history and tradition as it dates from the late 19C. Typical local tapas are served.

Paleta Ibérica de Bellota ***
(Slices of cured Ibérican ham shank)

Salmorejo Sevillano con huevo y melva *****
(Sevillian tomato soup with tuna & boiled egg)

Roulade de foie y cabra ***
(Foie gras & goats cheese on toast)

Tostaditas de macerado y alemendras ****
(Smoked & marinated cod with almonds on toast)

El Rinconcillo
(Gerona 40)

What Michelin say: ‘El Rinconcillo occupies two premises, one a former grocery store. This is a compulsory stop on any tapas tour with its authentic charm and sense of tradition.

Morcón Ibérico ***
(A large, leaner type of chorizo)

Queso de Oveja Viejo **
(Aged sheep cheese)

Espinacas con garbanzos **

(Spinach & chickpeas)

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