Thursday, October 26, 2006

El Pirata

5-6 Down Street
London W1J 7AQ
Tel: 0207 491 3810
Visited 25 October 2006-10-26

This is without a doubt my favourite Tapas restaurant in London on account of the food and the fantastic atmosphere. I find that many, even good, tapas places over cook the tapas, over complicate it or simply don’t have the right quality ingredients. Also, usually the selection consists of the usual gambas a la planche (spelling?) and some ham. Non of this applies to El Pirata which has a huge variety of tapas, a quality of ingredients that is as good as anything in Madrid and a completely traditional kitchen.

Another, reason why I like El Pirata is the atmosphere; it is somewhat off the beaten path even though it is in Mayfair. This results in more locals and business people and less tourist. This is a very good thing as far as I’m concerned. The restaurant also has a bar running the length of the upper of its two floors. This where people come for a quick drink and a tapas or two and give the whole place a very lively feeling just like a classic Madrin Jamon place.

I went there yesterday with a client for a quick dinner and a bottle of wine. We had:

  • Jamon Iberico “patas neras” or black feet; absolutely the top quality dried ham;
  • Gambas pil pil, spicy giant prawns very good but not very exciting;
  • Calamares Romana or deep fried squid – you gotta have it even if it is pretty dull;
  • Croquetas de Pollo or deep fried chicken crockets… he insisted! although they are very good if you like this kind of junk;
  • Chulettas or roast lamb cutlets – excellent, thin, crunchy yet moist;
  • Fabada a bean stew with chorizo and belly pork, this is an all time favourite;
  • Table de Quesos Catalana or cheese board with Catalan cheeses… love their dry manchego style cheese;
  • And a couple of bottles of Protos Crianza 2001 to wash it all down with. Actually, at £31 per bottle the Protos is great value for money.

Couple of Carlos I to finish off and we where ready to go home!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


I used to be married to a Philippina and consequently have a great love of their cuisine. Their food is a lovely blend of Asian and European, specifically Spanish which creates many interesting combinations. Adobo is simplicity itself based upon a Spanish stew and Asian curry and can be made using very cheep ingredients.

Take chicken pieces and pork and brown in oil in a heavy bottomed pan. The pan should be a braising pan that can be closed for food to simmer. The pork needs to be somewhat fatty and belly pork is ideal although one can use any cut. You should allow about 250 – 300 grams of meat per person.

When the meat is browned add loads of garlic (this really is to taste but whatever looks like a lot to you is probably about correct), rice or white vine vinegar, thick soya sauce, salt and 1 tbs of whole peppercorns, 4 or so bay leaves. The proportion should be 3:1 vinegar to soya. Bring to fast boil then lower heat to a simmer and cover. Let cook for about 30-40 minutes, until meat is soft.

When you think the meat is ready, taste the sauce and meat to see what's missing. I add about a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar to sweeten the sauce. Use sugar or honey if none is available.

Take the meat out of the sauce and put it in an oven tray and brown on all sites in a medium heat oven. When brown put in a clean serving plate and poor over the sauce. Serve with white rice.

PS: I love adding a plantain banana to the sauce shortly before it is ready. My ex thought this was sacrilege but I think it’s a great addition. Just make sure you don’t leave the plantains in there too long as they will disintegrate.

L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon

13-15 West St.
London, United Kingdom WC2
020-7010 8600
Visited 21 October 2006,

Came there with my friend Steingo after the Opera at 22.00 last Saturday hoping that the queue for the Atelier was not too long. As the hostess was explaining that the wait was at least 40 minutes a gentleman, who looked suspiciously like Steinbrenner the US Vogue food critic, suggested we try upstairs at La Cusine as he assured us loads of tables had become available. We asked for an upstairs table and got it! Fancy that in one of London’s hottest restaurants.

We had the eight course tasting menu and I was massively disappointed. Much of the food was good but good in a let’s lace this stuff with loads of rich and expensive material kind of way. There was fois grais, truffle and cream over everything and in a tasting menu it was just too much. The highlight for me was an small pre starter that consisted of fois gras mousse, pork reduction and a very light parmesan mousse all layered. Truly inspirational. Other dishes such as the fois gras filled quail where excellent but again not exactly inspirational.

The bill came to 300 quid for two with two bottles of vine so I really was looking to be amazed. Given Robuchon’s reputation and the number of Michelin stars the man has been awarded I think they could have done better.