Makes a change from beer 🙂 My quarterly trek up to Nervión to see my accountant has its compensations. It means I get to try new bars there or, in this case, visit an old favourite. Update on the fabulous Raíces coming soon…
Yeah, I know I should know better, but sometimes hopeful optimism takes over. Like yesterday. I was out having lunch with Peter and saw Caesar Salad on the menu, saying it was made with the restaurant’s own char-grilled chicken. Now I know that chicken isn’t a traditional ingredient in this salad, but I also know that this restaurant has a nice char-grill, so what the heck. And well, as I say, I should have known better.
I had even joked with the waiter that I wasn’t actually expecting a proper Caesar salad, saying that in all my years in Sevilla I’d never had a decent one (other than at home). But I was at least hoping for a nice crisp green salad with freshly grilled chicken and a “caesar-ish” dressing. Nope. What arrived was a plate of bagged mixed greens, some tiny hard croutons, parmesan, and chunks of tired chicken tasting of fridge. So as usually happens in these cases, Peter ate it. 😉
Later on I jokingly put a post up on Instagram saying I should give a master class to chefs in Sevilla who offer Caesar salad on their menu, and apparently ruffled some feathers. Suddenly I was “insulting” chefs, blah blah… who did I think I was, etc.
My point is… if you want to offer a mixed green salad with chicken and parmesan on your menu, go right ahead. Just don’t call it a Caesar salad.
One of the hazards of being a high profile Queen of Tapas and sherry educator is that just when you thought you might get an actual day off you get invited to go out and eat and drink fine food and wines. 😉 This week’s guilty parties were winemakers Finca Allende, and hosts and food pairing providers for their cata (tasting), Abades Triana restaurant.
The setting, the modern glass palace just acros the river in Triana, was actually rather pleasant, light and spacious, with a view of the Torre del Oro and the boats on the river.
The cata itself was conducted by Miguel Ángel de Gregorio of Finca Allende. They are a fairly small bodega from Briones in the Rioja Alta, and it was interesting to learn something more about this wine region. Miguel Ángel, who is clearly passionate about his wines, first arrived in Briones in 1986, and considered the climate, and especially the land, as ideal for the kind of terroire driven wines that he wanted to make.
We tried six different wines, two white and four red, each made with grapes from specific parcels of land, and which paired very nicely with a menu that progressed from a soup starter (salmorejo), through a tartar of urta (fish), a pluma Iberica, and beef to a chocolate mousse dessert. Exquisite.
Thanks to Finca Allende and Restaurant Abades Triana for an enjoyable, very interesting, and tasty afternoon. More on the wines, etc coming up on the Azahar Sevilla blog.
I kind of hit the ground running after getting back from my London Getaway. I had already planned to get together with Jane & John and Sue & Monty, but before those meet ups took place I had the pleasure of being introduced (via email by Annie Manson) to Fran & Kaz Kuzui. Fran & Kaz were travelling around Andalucía, doing some research on Japanese influence on southern Spanish cuisine, and would also be spending a couple of days in Sevilla, so we arranged to meet the evening after I got home from London. They had also tried to meet up with my friend Tomoko in Jerez, but there had been an email glitch, and so I invited Tomoko to come and stay over so we could all go out together.
It was a fabulous evening. Fran is a native New Yorker who now lives in Tokyo with her husband Kaz. Aside from being film producers and art lovers, they are both also food & wine lovers, and as usual Sevilla worked its magic on them. By the end of the evening we had all become fast friends and F & K were already talking about planning a return visit to Andalucía. Come back soon! xx
I have “known” travel and food writer Sue Style on Twitter for a few years now, and we’ve even collaborated on a couple of articles about Sevilla and Andalucía. So I was thrilled to find out we were finally going to have a chance to meet in person.
Sue and her husband Monty were travelling with friends in Jerez and said they would have a free day in Sevilla before their flight left on the evening of lunes santo (Holy Monday) at the start of Semana Santa. This turned out to be a bit trickier than I had considered, with traffic issues and whatnot, but in the end we managed to get together for a lovely afternoon tapeo.
After a plate of perfectly sliced jamón Ibérico and some fabulous Goya manzanilla pasada at Las Teresas we headed over to La Azotea Santa Cruz for our “main course”. One of our favourite dishes was the courgette and anchovy salad with frozen grated goat cheese. Sue loved it so much she was inspired to create her own version of it when she got home to Alsace.
As we have a mutual friend in San Sebastián – the lovely Gabriella Ranelli of Tenedor Tours (aka Shawn of the North 😉 ) – I’m thinking it would be fun to organize a San Sebastián meetup that would half-way for Sue and me.
A few weeks ago Jane & John got in touch with me, saying they were coming to Sevilla and that our mutual friend Simon Majumdar had recommended that they look me up. Well, it turned out that they were arriving in Sevilla the very day I was leaving for London, but happily they were going to still be here when I got back. Jane had already done some Serious Research on my Sevilla Tapas website, and I also gave them some extra tips to keep them going. And then we finally met up!
Peter also joined us on what ended up being one of our favourite things – an afternoon Tapeo Extremo with new friends – which of course properly began in Bar Las Teresas with a plate of jamón and some chilled manzanilla. A few bars and many glasses of wine later we walked J & J back to their apartment (turns out they were also neighbours!) with full bellies and lots of nice memories.
I think Jane put it best when she wrote on her Facebook page…
Love it when we travel and come home with the best souvenir of all: a new friend!
Yep, she’s even got me “slumming” on FB now 😉 since she refuses to use any other social media. Honestly, the things I do for my friends…
Good times! And although J & J say they seldom return to the same place, they are considering another Andalusian adventure. Fingers crossed.
Greek olives at Old Spitalfields Market
Our final full day in London started and finished at Old Spitalfields Market. We had plans to meet Julie & Steve for lunch at Quality Chop House, but as it was such a lovely day we wanted to get out early and get a walk in before meeting them. Which actually turned into quite a long walk through not very picturesque streets, but we enjoyed the market and I also got to see the Smithfield meat market, which is housed in a surprisingly beautiful building. Along the way I got a message from Julie saying that they were on the train and, if they got in early, they were going to stop for a “quick one” at The Eagle (London’s first gastrobar), across the street from Quality Chop. As it turned out we all arrived there about the same time, and half an hour early for our lunch reservastion, so The Eagle it was.
Then lunch at Quality Chop. I was introduced to QC by the FoodieHub people, when I was invited to the FH Awards back in 2015, and this was my third visit. It is one of my favourite places to eat in London – always amazing food and terrific service. You may even recall that when Julie & Steve came to Sevilla last Christmas I made – or attempted to make – chef Sean Searley’s iconic confit potatoes. And Sean even gave me some advice on Twitter, which I thought was very sweet of him.
Anyhow, this was a chance for Julie & Steve to try the real deal potatoes, along with THAT hereford mince and various other wonderful QC dishes. It was an outstanding lunch and by far the best meal of the trip (you can see details below). Many thanks to Sean and the QC team.
After lunch there was another treat in store for us as Julie & Steve decided we should have a penúltima at a hidden gem of a pub called Ye Olde Mitre. En route Julie told us stories of her time working in the area, and we passed the shop where Steven bought her engagement ring. Although they no longer live in the city, they spent many happy years there and are full of insider knowledge. We were joined at Ye Olde Mitre by my pal @CityJohn. Whenever people dis social media (and in particular Twitter) all I can say is that many of the people I hold dear in my life are people I met on Twitter. And John is one of the most special ones.
Finally it was time to say goodbye, and Peter and I decided to walk over to the Sky Garden bar atop the hideous “walkie talkie” building, to try and catch a glimpse of MY SHARD at sunset. It had suddenly occureed to me that I hardly had any photos of the Shard from this visit. And so over we walked, and up we went, only to find that we were too late to walk outside on the viewing platforms (which close at 6 pm). So close and yet so far! And so I had to make do with taking a shot of my beloved Shard from inside. I’ll know better next time.
By this time a few hours had past since lunch and we were thinking that a snack before going home would probably be a good idea, and so that’s how we ended up back at Old Spitalfields Market. But not before passing through Leadenhall Market, which kind of popped up out of nowhere. So by the time we got to Taberna do Mercado (almost 20,000 fitbit steps since leaving home in the morning) we were ready for a drink and a snack. We shared chef Nuno Mendez’s fabulous tempura green beans, and a couple of the Portuguese butties. And then it was time to find an Uber back to the apartment and start packing for home.
Smithfield Meat Market
chef Shaun Searley and his famous confit potatoes
Quality Chop House
- Smoked cod’s roe, cured egg yolk
- THOSE confit potatoes
- THAT Hereford mince, dripping toast, watercress
- Nettle gnocchi, walnut, Cornish Yarg cheese
- Middle White pork, beetroot, seabeet
- Chicken livers, prune, mustard, pear, hazelnut
Ye Olde Mitre
Peter, Steven, Julie and John at Ye Olde Mitre
obstructed view from the Sky Garden
the Spitalfields goat
Taberna do Mercado:
prawn rissoís, presa pork bifana, rump steak prego
and THOSE tempura green beans
So this was it! The day I’d been looking forward to and dreading in equal measure. Also it was the main reason for being in London for this particular London Getaway, to be one of the judges at the first World Sherry Awards. I say “dreading” because I had never judged anything at this level before, and wasn’t sure what would be expected. Happily my friend Owen @sherrymonster44 (another sherry educator and co-owner of four fabulous tapas bars in southern Wales) had also been invited as a judge, so I knew there would be at least one friendly face. As it turned out, I needn’t have worried. The people running the event were super friendly and I immediately felt right at home. Or as “at home” as possible at the elegant Caledonian Club, where the tasting was being held. You will have to wait until May to find out which wine was chosen as the winner, and I hope to be invited back again next year.
After the tasting Owen had to get back to Wales and I met up again with Peter, who had spent the afternoon visiting a couple of museums. As we were near Harrod’s – and as I had never been to Harrod’s – we went to Harrod’s! In fact, we decided to do a three-posh-store circuit and after Harrod’s we also stopped off at Harvey Nichols and Fortnum & Mason. I think a few years ago I would have found these places more interesting, especially the food courts. Anyhow, we stopped for a drink in the upstairs lounge at Harvey Nicks, as we still had a couple of hours to go before meeting up with John again. Then we found out John was going to be delayed, so we went off in search of a pre-pub snack in nearby Soho.
My first choice, Boca di Lupo, was already packed at 6.30 pm and we were told to come back in an hour or so to see if there was any space then. Uh… no. Then I remembered Zelman’s. This turned out to be an excellent choice. We were immediately shown to a comfy spot in front of the glass-walled “open” kitchen and our server couldn’t have been nicer. So different from the “fake-friendly” treatment elsewhere the previous day. Our snack was a massive smoked beef short rib, which we shared with a side of triple-fried chips. We honestly wished we were hungrier so we could try more dishes – Zelman is already at the top of the list for my next London visit.
By the time we met up with John I was pretty tired, so we just had a couple of drinks and a nice chat before I called an Uber to take us home.
Owen finds a secret passage behind fake bookshelf door at the Caledonian Club
cool Tudor style buildings just off Regent Street
the Egyptian escalator in Harrod’s
chillin’ and rechargin’ at Harvey Nicks
fall-off-the-bone smoked beef short rib at Zelman Meats
triple-fried chips with Holy Fuck mayo (their name, not mine)
pubbing with John and Peter
For years I’ve been bumping into Pilar and Juan Antonio at various food & wine events around Sevilla, and we always say we will meet up sometime in Cádiz. Pilar has a food blog called Túbal Aquaviva and is originally from Sevilla, but has been living in Cádiz since 1992, after she and Juan Antonio got married. Above is the only photo you’ll see of all of us… it turns out that Pilar is just as camera shy as I am.
Anyhow, when Peter and I first arrived in Cádiz for the final Birthday Getaway, after dropping off the luggage at our hotel, we made a beeline to the central market (really, my favourite food market in Spain) and Pilar met us there for Beer O’clock. I originally thought we were just going to have a nice beer and a chat, but Pilar had bigger and better plans for us. We were about to be taken on a Tapeo Extremo, with some cool cultural bits thrown in along the way. First stop was to visit the old salazones (fish salting plant), the remains of which are to be found in an obscure side street. Later we were shown where to find the also not-very-well-known Oratorio de las Cuevas, which have original Goya frescos in the upper chapel. And by then it was time for some refreshment, so we made our way over to Salicornia to properly start our tapeo.
Here are Peter and Juan Antonio at Salicornia – the latter arrived shortly after us bearing some fillets of fresh salmon he’d picked up at the market for lunch at home, having not been fully informed about our Tapeo. So after we’d tried some delicious dishes off the menu (butterfish ceviche, boletus and truffle rice, presa Ibérica carpaccio) chef Juan Höhr Herrera made us some amazing fresh tuna tartare with Asian spices and wasabe from Antonio’s “catch of the day”.
Another place on Pilar’s list for us to visit was La Curiosidad de Mauro, recently moved from the original location in Puerto Real. But before that we had to stop in at what turned out to be one of my favourite “discoveries” of the entire trip, a tiny hole-in-the-wall fish place called the Mini Bar. Here we met Paco, who’s been serving up super fresh no-nonsense fish dishes for 45 years. Seriously, you can’t spend money there. But as we had other other fish to fry (so to speak) we just shared a ración of fritos variados and were on our way. Mauro’s was also very good, but after the last two spots, which seemed much more relaxed and natural, we felt a bit like we were obliged to like the food… I dunno, it was a bit too “gastro-bar” for me.
We finished up (as one always must when in Cádiz) at the fabulously OTT Café Royalty, for their famous picatostes, which go perfectly with either coffee, cava or cocktails. Just to be sure, we had all three. The picatostes are a bit like a very thick French toast, dusted with icing sugar. Delish.
At this point we were joined by Ania @ania_marchlik but that’s another story… 😉
It was a great day, and it was so lovely that Pilar and Antonio took such good care of us. Gracias amigos! xx
After years of “meaning to go” to Abantal, Sevilla’s only Michelin star restaurant, I decided that my 60th birthday was a good excuse for a decadent splash out meal. I’ve known chef Julio for many years, and even worked with him on the Turismo Sevilla tapas app, so I was looking forward to finally trying out his place.
We did the tasting menu – descriptions are below, and you can click on the photo above to enlarge the image…
- razor clam with cauliflower cream on fried wonton
- garlic soup with egg yolk and seta foam
- quisquilla (prawn) carpaccio with seaweed and artichoke pilpil
- red tuna galette, orange escabeche, cucumber granita and mint foam
- seasonal mushrooms, sopa morisca purée, truffled egg yolk, onion bizcocho
- confit cod with spinach and garbanzo purées
- presa Ibérica with truffled pumpkin cream, grapefruit, lime
- passionfruit creme with mint granita and chocolate
- orange wine zabayon, torta de aceite, mandarin, cinnamon
This was my second Michelin experience. The first was pretty much a disaster at the JC García Restaurant in Málaga, also a 1-star like Abantal. This time the experience was actually quite pleasant, with excellent service. But the food was somehow lacking. Nothing was terrible (as at JCG) but nothing was exceptional either. Still, it was a lovely afternoon and a very nice birthday present – thank you Peter!