Rob & David’s eponymous restaurant has only just toasted its ten year anniversary. A decade and a bit, largely recognised as one of a handful of institutions of Iberian cooking in the business. Not forgetting the Eyre Brother’s first effort, The Eagle, which has already entered the annals of culinary legend. It predates the rise of the Brindisas and – in certain respects – is seen to have nurtured its growth. After all, Jose Pizarro did spend his first years in London with this fine establishment. The restaurant celebrates cooking from the Iberian peninsula, with the roots established in Portuguese cooking. Perhaps due in no small part to David’s upbringing in Mozambique, a former Portuguese colony.
Today, there are many luminous representatives of Iberian cooking in the city, dare I say, that Spanish cooking has hit a high level of consistency. Whatever formula that may be applied to running successful Spanish restaurants which appeal to Londoners, has been perfected. Copita, Salt Yard, Jose/Pizarro and even the post-Pizarro Brindisas just to name a few of the current crop of small plate leaders all produce lovely food. Progress is inevitable, but I believe there’s always a sense of romance when visiting restaurants with a bit of history.
The Alpine cabin ambiance does remind me a little of Pizarro – Slick yet down to earth, with a long bar which entertains a more familiar menu of tapas. One which is adamantly self-proclaimed to be set apart from the ‘ersatz’ competition for its ‘gutsy flavours’. Croquetas, gambas, prego and tinned sardines. Here, tapas certainly do read more like bar snacks than full meals.
At the dinner table, the civilised ALC is laid out as three course meals. Starters include Spatchcocked quail cooked in sherry vinegar; Pressed Madeira and Porto-marinated foie gras. For mains Portuguese baked spiced rice with duck, chourico and smoked touchino; Globe artichoke with sauteed wild garlic, swiss chard and peas on a spinach pancake; Grilled Mozambique tiger prawns piri-piri, pilaf rice, cucumber, coriander and sherry vinegar.
Anchovies, pimientos, olives, capers toast and a soft boiled egg, £7.00.
I started with something easy, opting for what essentially is anchovies on a bit of toast. The anchovies were certainly gutsy. So salty I washed down each bite with half a glass of tap water. I have to confess, the dish is a little boring, one could say it feels home-made, but with so many preserved ingredients on the same plate, I was yearning for something warm and freshly cooked (like clams).
Grilled fillet of acorn-fed Iberico Pig, marinated with smoked paprika, thyme and garlic. Patatas probres – Oven potatoes with green peppers, onions, garlic and white wine, £21.00.
This sort of pink pork was novel and bold at one time, but now its nearly commonplace. A regular fixture at Parle’s Dock Kitchen, and unsurprisingly, there’s a cut down version of simply grilled ruby red dollops of iberico fillet at Jose’s sherry bar.
I could be wrong, but this particular dish – in essence a David Eyre signature – may have kicked it all off. The pork had a wonderful fragrance about it, it certainly is not innocent like the rest of its non-acorn fed brethren, and ultimately its accompanying flavour profile is much more intense.
After all, these are cut from the prized pigs with body fat that ooze like the most complex of olive oils. Sizzling, hearty and rustic. With a buttery tenderness that melts on the fork. I noted the lovely colours of the potatoes and the juices it were bathed in. A creamy beige akin to a flowing wedding dress. Like a blushing black pig wrapped in satin. The residual heat of the potatoes were fabulous. Heavily seasoned and I hazard a guess, that it is only made more complex by absorbing some of the lovely juices from the pork. A wonder to eat.
It’s terribly elegant, classic and a sterling example of meat and potatoes. There were so many flavours swirling around the plate, but perhaps just one too many. My palate was slowly overcome with spiciness, which eventually drowned out the natural flavour of the pork. Only just approaching the wrong of queasy as I finished the plate.
Perhaps I have grown accustomed with Jose’s version served simply with a few sprinkles of paprika, and much more daringly rare than this. Then there is Nuno Mendes’ addictive version served with a savoury Portuguese bread pudding. Both in my opinion do a better job of reigning in just enough to highlight the natural awesomeness of iberico pork. I think David’s signature dish is almost too rich, by comparison.
Burnt cooked cream, £6.00
To finish, a classic cooked cream fit for St Joseph’s day! Smooth cold vanilla custard encased in a caramelised sugary roof.
I paid £45 for food and a glass of Graciano. Eyre Brothers is a certainly a solid restaurant, food is mostly good, if a touch rich, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, for those of you who still enjoy a kip after a big meal. There is an unshakable sense of nostalgia, or more accurately, a sense that I have visited a precursor to the current state of affairs. I feel that its younger counterparts have eclipsed its classic offerings with lighter and more playful interpretations of Iberian cooking. However, it doesn’t change the fact it is still a classic.
The Gist of It
70 Leonard St. EC2A 4QX
Tel : 02076135346
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