Homemade artichoke purée, fruity olive oil & crusty bread
The Riding House Café is achingly cool. From the shabby-chic New York-inspired dining room with its sweeping bar, shared tables and bare brickwork down to the distressed metal covers on Dyson airblades in the toilets (seriously…), it’s a lesson in laid-back luxe for a twenty-first century crowd. In amongst the glamorous set of Soho after-work media types typical of a Tuesday evening, you might encounter some more unusual dining companions; a stuffed squirrel, a blue plastic Smurf or a pigeon frozen mid-flight, a light bulb clutched in its beak like an olive branch. A little pretentious perhaps, but somehow the overall effect is on-trend and very enticing; you definitely want to eat in this restaurant.
So what about the food? Does it stand up to the quirky, contemporary design or is this restaurant a matter of style over substance? Continue reading
Fried quail's egg with sea anemone, baby calamari, migas of chorizo, asparagus & roasted garlic cream
It may not actually be in the city itself, and it may have closed for the next two years, but the influence of world-leading restaurant El Bulli is still very much at the forefront of Barcelona’s burgeoning gastro scene. This is a city for foodies, with thousands of restaurants and numerous Michelin stars, the majority of which have been awarded to chefs who have trained with, or under, Ferran Adrià at some point in their career.
A couple of weeks ago Carniverous Boyfriend and I spent two wonderful weeks in Barcelona, soaking up the sights of the city, the sounds of Sonar Festival and lots of sunshine. We also ate extremely well – I’d done a fair bit of research through guidebooks and the blogosphere, resulting in some fabulous meals at Tapas 24, Can Majó and Tickets, amongst others. However, one of our most interesting and exciting – if slightly bizarre – meals took place in a tiny orange dining room tucked away in the quiet back streets of Dreta de Eixample. Continue reading
Yum yum indeed!
Pairing food and wine can be difficult, but when you get it right, it’s absolutely worth it. Some flavours just work together; fresh shellfish with crisp cold rosé, slabs of steak with a bold red Bordeaux or tangy Asian flavours against the mineral spice of Riesling. Perfectly good in their own right, these foods take on a new level of depth and deliciousness when matched with wine.
Falling into a slightly less glamorous category are the foods which, some might argue, taste better after wine (or beer, vodka, whisky, insert celebratory drink of choice here). I’m talking about illicit midnight fridge foraging, the rumble of hunger in your stomach as you head home after a party or evening at the pub, when a certain salty, greasy goodness is required to tickle your tastebuds and satisfy your cravings. This is the time for cheese toasties oozing melted middles on sticky fingers, hot buttered toast, crispy chips and bacon sandwiches.
Which brings me nicely onto Tapas24, the much-lauded latest venture in Michelin starred ex-El Bulli almuni Carles Abellan’s Projectes24 stable. Bear with me, there is some reason behind my rambling . . .
A couple of months ago Carniverous Boyfriend’s Dad took us skiing in Baqueira Beret, a Spanish resort in the Aran Valley. Out for drinks in a local bar one night, we bumped into a group of snowboarders from Barcelona (about five hours south of the resort) and decided to pick their brains before our upcoming visit in June. When I asked where to go for great seafood and paella, their answer was unanimous; Can Majó.
Once back in the UK, I got stuck into Google, downloaded a couple of Barcelona apps, and started researching what and where to eat. Remembering the Spaniards’ advice, I looked up Can Majó and discovered that it’s something of a Barcelona institution. Continue reading
Sharing food is great. I’m not talking about the kind of ‘sharing’ when someone leans over and pinches the crispiest looking chip on your plate, or when an eagle-eyed, weight-watching girlfriend suggests her loved one goes halves on dessert. Absolutely not. I’m talking sharing in a specific context i.e. the joys of tapas-style dining.
No longer confined to the Spanish cuisine which inspired it, tapas-style eating is perfect for big groups. It allows you the opportunity to be both adventurous and gluttonous, ordering numerous little dishes to compare, contrast and comment on without having to commit to one main meal. If you’ve ever sat in front of a menu racked with indecision (followed shortly by food envy when your companion’s meal arrives), then this is the perfect format for you.
The internet is incredible. Terrifying and wonderful in equal measures, it has completely changed the way we think, communicate and develop on a daily basis. While as a child I found it funny to think that my parents grew up without TV and computers in their family homes, my kids are going laugh at their dinosaur mum who can remember the arrival of the internet, rise of mobile communications and had her first (definitely not touch screen) phone at the ripe old age of 15.
The internet has also had a huge impact on the foodie community. Where once we relied on a handful of suited and booted Michelin men to dictate our restaurant choices and Delia provided the first (last and only) word in creative home cooking, we’re now inundated with photos, blogs, news, reviews and instant updates from anywhere around the world. Pretty much every restaurant now puts its menu online, celebrity chefs and home cooks alike post their recipes for anyone to see and a world of wonderful bloggers write and tweet their way through culinary highlights to suit every taste going. When started blogging back in February, one of the first recipes I made was Dan Lepard’s Tahini Flapacks. I tweeted a link to my recipe post, mentioning his name, and within 6 hours I’d had hundreds of hits on a pretty much unknown blog, gained several followers on Twitter and received a photo from a woman based in the States who’d found my recipe and baked the flapjacks as a teatime treat for her kids that afternoon. All because of the internet. Incredible.