I’m doing things slightly different today.
Crispy fried calamaries, sliced for convenience, dressed with black squid ink and garnished with lime. Simple, effective, appetising. By now, I’m ready for oxtail and apple foam.
Seven reviews in search of that dish, the question must have crossed your mind: What is London Eater’s absolute favorite?
It’s time I address that question. My favorite dish might be a japanese-peruvian recipe, but if I had to choose one place…
West London in Spain
My first brush with Spanish food was a nice little eatery called Cafe Espana on Old Compton Street in Soho. It was there, I was first introduced to tapas, sangrias and paellas. I have this friend who was fascinated by Spanish culture; she loved the food, the language, the movies, the men (sorry, I had to be cheeky).
While she gawked at everything else, I savoured the garlic chicken casserole and patatas bravas. the Spanish indeed eat well and I was converted.
Good things come in small sizes
Tapas are small dishes to share. They come in the cold varieties, ham & olives and also the hot ones, fish in sauce, chicken in garlic, you get the picture.
As with all things anglicised, some of it kind of gets lost in translation. I’m told that in Spain, the tapas concept is completely different to what we have over here. In Spain, its more like bar nibbles to compliment the drinking. We have roasted peanuts, they have calamaries, olives and warm bread.
Over here, UK tapas is a full blown cuisine. Faux-cuisine, unauthentic, in-genuine, call it what you like, for me there’s only good food and lousy food.
It’s a lovely space, I go on about a restaurant having soul alot, this place is kind of where that started.
The moment you enter the restaurant, it’s like you’ve stepped into another world. The vibrant walls are decorated with beautifully striking portraits complete with Spanish flair. The staff whizz around the restaurant with enthusiasm and vigor. Lowly-lit, candles, black wooden doors and a well-dressed service. It’s abit like showing up for a west end show where the ambiance gushes out to you.
If you can, ask for a table right at the back. The back tables are overseen by a skylight which adds to the atmosphere.
The a la carte is separated into the tapas section, which doubles as appetisers, and a more traditional mains section. All the mains can be ordered as a tapas, which is basically a half portion for half the price.
I would say food here is quite progressive, however it builds on classical spanish dishes. Kind of like a cool remake of a classic movie, think Ocean’s Eleven. The mainstays are premium ingredients with big flavours. They include croquettes with a bechamel sauce and made with fine spanish ham, lightly fried calamaries sometimes with a whipped garlic mayo, slow cooked and then caramlised ox-tail, hake with cockles & mussels and also a very nicely roasted fillet of beef.
One thing to note is that the food is regularly updated to reflect the latest ‘trends’ in the industry. For instance, there was a time last year where it was the craze to do away with light sauces and bring in foams (more on this later on). Though I tend to think of them as constantly evolving to fine-tune their recipes. It’s like an artist slowly adding brush strokes to his masterpiece in an never ending quest for perfection.
If there’s such a thing as perfection.
I’ve had enough poetic gloss, its time to eat
I took my mate Jon (again) and we decided to go tapas style. I’m a big fan of tasters & sampling. It lets me discover without stuffing myself silly. Correction, I still stuff myself silly but with more variety.
This actually brings my attention to Jason Atherton’s Maze, which I think, is similar to Cambio. But that is for another meal and another post.
The first dish were the croquettes, deep fried with serrano ham and bechamel. It is served with a red tomato paste. The pictures don’t do it justice, its gently deep-fried, but really crispy. The filling made me go weak. I always say balance of flavours is key to any great dish. Cambio is all about balance. It’s savoury, appetising, but not too salty and at the same time, everything is smooth, just so creamy and smooth. Not bloaty creamy, but light gentle creamy.
That’s one thing about great chefs, they can make simple food smooth. If you’ve had great food you will know what I mean. The moment it hits your lips, everything feels just right.
The sweet spot
Char-grilled octopus is nicely flamed to give that smokey taste, wonderfully tender yet bouncy at the same time. However, the best part of the dish:
The potato puree.
It marries nicely and compliments the octopussy (it is not a typo) flavour with stunning results.
Think blended potatoes, so fine that its a consistent paste. But its so well binded together that it has the texture of a solid mash, with the fluidity of double cream. I know it sounds abit ridiculous, but it really is that good. It’s just the way the chef pairs and compliments flavour upon flavour, like building a house of cards, delicately balanced, when it all comes together in harmony, it’s like opera. Symphonic and totally edible. Finished off with olive oil and sweet paprika, ladies and gentlemen:
This is the dish.
Next on the list was caramilsed oxtail with fresh green apples and apple foam.