The Presidential: In Douro with history, luxury and gastronomy

A sunny and warm morning in Porto was the preview of a nice trip to Douro, but not just any visit, a trip in a historic train, once used by kings, dictators, and presidents, now baptized as The Presidential.

While hundreds of tourists were enchanted by the tiles of the extremely beautiful São Bento Railway Station, some more attentive eyes were landing on this train, some pictures here and there, and this presidential train could easily compete with the TGV, and win in terms of fame and beauty!

On time, we are invited on board in the former press wagon (the most distant from the presidential wagon) and we see the promises of this party with a glass of white Port, a beautiful Niepoort Dry White,  always a good way to welcome friends.

The train starts moving and among the bustle and excitement, we meet our travel neighbors, a British couple just arrived in Porto, with whom we would spend the rest of our lunch and travel.

We started with stories and toasts (renovating the stock of Port wine) and the noise of the conditioned air, also known as “open window”, us being living an historic experience!

The least interesting part of the trip was therefore done, et voilà, we are invited to the dining room, in this case, a lunch, to spend the next two and a half hours enjoying the chef Miguel Rocha Vieira’s cuisine, while watching the astonishing Douro scenario and the staff’s juggling!

Ivo Peralta, Fortaleza do Guincho’s sommelier presents the first wine of the lunch, a sparkling Bairradino Água Viva from Niepoort 

We started with the sea and its representations, being the sea one of the most important elements of Miguel Rocha Vieira’s cuisine at Fortaleza do Guincho. Among delicate snacks, like the “edible” shells and the butter, also representing the sea, we highlight the mussels with pepper and the red pepper and the seaweed butter.

  Impressive technical detail put into the sea elements recreation

While we enjoyed the appetizers, with also the always delicate Acushla olive oil, we could already sense in the room and hallways, the aroma of the shellfish broth that would water the sea soup to follow.

Perfectly cooked seafood, with an accomplished contrast of textures and a sea flavor explosion, quickly taking us to the opposite direction of the train. A dive into the ocean, nicely accompanied by the white Redoma 2016, mineral, fresh and with a delicate salty touch that makes all the difference.

The wonderful Conciso, the red Niepoort produces in the Dão region

Seabass, artichokes, and Azores squid 

After the soup, the fish! A nice portion of sea bass, with Azores squid, artichoke, and a red wine sauce. Sea elements, combined with earth notes that are usually the signature of the chef’s fish dishes. Very good! And very well combined with a Dão wine, served at a lower temperature, demonstrated all its power and versatility. A very elegant wine!

While the landscape becomes even more amazing – one of Douro’s magical features, as we enter through it, and travel on its route, it becomes increasingly beautiful and imposing – we also travel to Alentejo with a dish of black pork.

 The art of putting the sauces on the plate during the trip is one of the funniest moments; you sure need a steady hand and some luck! 

A great homage to the animal and its region, with a pork loin, corn puree, acorns and a xárem. A nice dish, I wouldn’t mind seeing recreated with a more moist and tasty cut. On the glass, we ride back to the Douro, with the classic red Redoma 2014, less concentrated than in previous years, with an excellent acidity and a very charismatic vegetable side.  

 Algarve’s Delicacy, with carob, almonds, and figs

To finish our travel around Portugal, we went to the Algarve, in a very well accomplished fusion of usual the sweet elements of the region, a fig and almond cake, orange flower ice cream, carob and crunchy biscuit, all very nicely connected with an English sauce. Great ending, even more, when enjoyed alongside a rich White Port 10 years, where the dry fruit notes went perfectly with the dish.

But the pleasures don’t end here, not in this presidential train that wants to make our experiences unique. After Pinhão, we continue our travels to the amazing Quinta do Vesuvio, one of Dona Antónia’s great passions – the famous Ferreirinha – nowadays in the proud hands of the Symington family.

The access gates to some of Quinta do Vesuvio’s vineyards

We disembarked in Vesuvio, the train and the staff head to Pocinho to a deserved lunch and rest. Meanwhile, Gonçalo Castel-Branco, the mentor of this project, invites us to visit the Quinta and the Cellar where some of the most classic Ports and table wines of the region are produced, or simply enjoy the peace and quiet of Douro, in the terrace.

 Quinta do Vesuvio

Knowing this Quinta quite well from other journeys, we opted to enjoy the good weather felt and the calm of this place to enjoy a cigar and some Symington wines, namely Graham’s Single Harvest from 1972.

A wine with an interesting history for the current Symington generation, being the first wine selected for ageing, by Peter Symington, after acquiring Graham’s, and that years later, his son Charles, his winemaker successor, came to bottle. Rich, endless and super complex, a Tawny that completely fulfills me.

Back on the train, we are received with piano notes at the Bar, while the sun starts to set and Douro gets an amazing colour.

 Time to head back and try to discover some of the charms of the river and the landscape we left unnoticed in the ride in. Proof you really can’t resist Douro and after several hours of train travel and some hours at Vesuvio, we still can’t take our eyes off the view, despite how many charms and moments the train provides for us.

After Pinhão, we are again at the table for a little snack, a Portuguese homage, with noble products, showing the excellence of our products, with canned goods, Qualifer sausages – the emblematic Pinhão’s butchery, worthy of a visit, cheeses, with highlight to the Queijo da Ilha, 24 months cure, and, of course, the delicious Gleba bread, that no one can stay indifferent to.

There was also time for more wine! Always with the Niepoort stamp, always a synonym for satisfaction, and some sweets, produced by the resident chefs Vitor Areias and Rui Santos.

And in between, a visit from one of the historic candy sellers from Régua, and the sound of the Portuguese guitar, full of emotions and a very Portuguese sentiment.

After nightfall, we head back to our cabin to end the journey comfortably and have a nice chat, where the obvious topic was the retrospective of the magical day aboard the train.

Almost in Porto, with our hearts more than conquered, the team decided to warm our souls and stomachs, with a recreation of the classic caldo verde, perfect!

As the journey ends, it’s time to say goodbye, congratulate the organization and the entire staff, for becoming true actors allowing us to merge into a unique scenery. A true show!

Now what? We must wait for 2018 for a promised return.

The Presidential

Versão Portuguesa

Photos: Flavors & Senses 

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Le 5 Codet

In this constant search for luxury, we often find ourselves in the spotlights and glitter of the “see and be seen”.  For me, that search ends, precisely, when I get this sick need to “show off”.

Luxury is more than that, it’s discrete, intimate, the simple subtlety not everybody seems to understand.

We no longer seek the great palaces, the exaggeration of luxury, the invasive and servile service… we search the genuine, empathy, comfort, and above all, privacy.

First Impression
When I saw Le Cinq Codet it was simple to understand its bourgeois and bohemian contemporaneity, characteristic of the area it is located in Paris.

The Rive Gauche has the ability to make us travel in time and in the most interesting Parisian bourgeoisie history, bohemia!

A former telephone central with an unpretentious and elegant touch, a mix of art and nature, and the best location in the city, are just a few of the qualities of Le Cinq Codet.

The view from the hotel is the rather amazing golden dome of the Hôtel des Invalides!

We were warmly welcomed by an employee with a genuine smile and politeness/sympathy in the right proportion, after a few minutes of good talk we realized he was married to a Portuguese woman!

He accompanied us to the reception, our check-in was promptly taken care of, and with the same sympathy and unpretentiousness.

As we arrived early, the room wasn’t ready and we fancied a bit of relaxation in the Lobby as we waited for our uber to take us to a memorable lunch at the classic Le Duc.

At the lobby is quite noticeable the contemporary style of the hotel, sober colors mixed with strong ones and transmitting a live and enthusiastic ambiance!

Pierre-Emmanuel Vandeputte in the Supper Green exhibit

Art is a great part of Le Cinq Codet, reason why the Supper Green Exposition started, from September to the end of October. Here the guests were invited to reconnect with nature through a sensory exhibit by Studio Marant, where art lives harmoniously with the design as a whole. So, all along the hotel, the spaces are immersed in a green wave, an environment also present in the kitchen, with the chef creating a menu especially for the occasion.


An environment that leaves us asking ourselves: “What is the true nature of today’s world?”

After an amazing lunch, we returned to Le Cinq Codet and went discovering our bedroom.

Bedrooms
The bedrooms are one of the highlights of the hotel. They are 67 and are divided into Classic, Superior, Duplex, Deluxe and Family bedrooms and the Suites – Junior, Duplex, Superior and Prestige. With warm and live colors, mixed with white wood, leather and bohemian details with a discrete sensuality, with the touch of the designer Jean Philippe Nuel.


We stayed in a Deluxe, with a generous 29m2. With an extremely elegant contemporary vibe and as functional as I ever seen, and the bathtub in the middle of the room won my heart right away!


The paintings, strategically put on the headboard and the strong colors in the room, gave it its own life. Everything in the bedroom is thought to detail, the care put in the functional part was surely by someone who knows the necessities of the most meticulous client. Both the sofa and the bed had all the electronic functions you could need.

For sure the most functional bedroom I was ever in, and one of the most vibrant and interesting.

Highlight to the last floor, in which the suites have a breathtaking view of the Eiffel Tower and the Hôtel des Invalides, seems you can almost grasp them!


Restaurants
There are three spaces in perfect communion. The restaurant per se, the Patio and the Lounge Bar.

The patio is probably one of the prettiest places in the hotel, a typically Parisian garden environment, with a touch of industrial decor, and also artistic in a contemporary format, transmitting the sensation of comfort and elegance simultaneously. Here are served several meals along the day, if the weather permits!


The Lounge Bar, an extension of the Patio, with a simple glass wall between them, it’s luminous, the environment and the decoration transport us to the 40s, directly to an art deco ambiance.


Last, but not least, and with a cosmopolitan, but also private vibe, we have the Restaurant; Serving the several meals of the day.

Here we had the chance to have breakfast and a very nice dinner, graced by the jazz nights the hotel provides on Saturdays.

If at breakfast the service is simple and effective, with a carefully selected buffet, with the presence of Eric Kaiser pastries, good tea, and great quality cheeses, at dinner, this space becomes more intimate and even more cosmopolitan.

We tasted the specially designed menu of the chef Antoine K’ros to the Super Green Expo, in a combo of ingredients, well accomplished.

Free-range chicken with vegetables  

Highlight to the velvety and delicate cauliflower cream as well as the chicken with vegetables and beetroot cream, where the fresh notes of the pineapple gave another dimension to the dish.

A raspberry “apple” to finish the meal 

Services
Besides all the usual services of a luxury hotel, concierge, wifi, laundry, room service, among others, one of  Le Cinq Codet best qualities is its location, in one of the best neighborhoods of Paris, the 7th.


The hotel is close to some of the best attractions in town, from the Eiffel Tower to the Pont Alexandre III and the Rodin Museum.

But probably one of the best features of the hotel is the Spa, the Sundãri Spa. Here, we can enjoy a perfect relaxation while forgetting the bustle of the city of light.

Equipped with a double room, a sauna and a beautiful terrace jacuzzi that made my delights!
Associated to this space there is also a small fitness room.

Service 
As I said along the text, sympathy, and education in a relaxed environment is the motto of Le Cinq Codet’s team. Young faces and smiles are constant.

There is a way of serving without invading, very characteristic of the new luxury, privacy is the most important, and so, the staff sometimes seems it’s not even there. But if you need something the anticipate they answer to our requests.

Le Cinq Codet is all we search for in this new luxury, or best put, in the new way of taking advantage of it – private, intimate, genuine and unpretentious. The best location in town, allied to these features, make this new Boutique Hotel a mandatory spot.

Le Cinq Codet
Bedrooms from 230€
5 rue Louis Codet – Paris
+33 1 53 85 15 60
contact@le5codet.com

Versão Portuguesa

Photos: Flavors & Senses

Disclaimer
We were at Le Cinq Codet by invitation, whereas this does not alter our work, being the opinion and the text of the exclusive responsibility of the author.

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The Rota das Estrelas: Casa de Chá da Boa Nova

 Some articles sin for being late, but at a month from the 2018 stars revelation, and since this year everything is very quiet as to the names that get or maintain stars (go figure the media phenomena), we are in a good time to speak of those who usually shine the most: the chefs!

And to do so, nothing as good as a “Rota das Estrelas” aka Stars Route dinner, where 4 of the most successful chefs in Portugal gather to dine, with the ocean as background.

The baton went to Rui Paula, the host in his Casa de Chá da Boa Nova, receiving Hans Neuner (Ocean, **Michelin), Miguel Rocha Vieira (Fortaleza do Guincho, Costes, Costes Downtown, *Michelin), Rui Silvestre (Bon Bon, *Michelin), well put… some guys with pedigree.

An irresistible Iberian prosciutto with a sharp cut  

The party started outside, with the typical shy sun of Porto, but with enough Pommery champagne to transport us to a better climate! Also with a flawless Iberian prosciutto nicely cut by Vítor Oliveira from Academia de Corte, and an artisanal smoked salmon made at Boa Nova, a very nice surprise.

 Artisanal smoked salmon

And we kept going with the summer snacks of Boa Nova that we already knew from other visits and a colorful selection of bread, with variety and ingredients for every taste.

Seaweed and sardine macaron

António Lopes (Wine Guru, Anantara Vilamoura) was the invited sommelier to join Carlos Monteiro

During the bustle of organizing the guests, time flies by while enjoying all the charms of Casa de Chá da Boa Nova and its perfect location, that even with bad weather transmits us unique sensations (it is indeed a unique and special room).

At a good pace arises a glass of Cattier “Clos du Moulin” Rosé, the champagne that would be the perfect match for the dish to follow, with its red fruits and verbena notes.

Rui Paula – King Crab, Tomato, and Strawberry
A light, fresh and deceptively simple dish. Great rigor in the execution of the fruits, tomatoes, and emulsions, but for a perfect start, the King crab should’ve been the hero, but in the end, it was a bit dry and cut to small.

Hans Neuner – Oyster, smoked foie gras and pineapple from the Azores
This dish brought me memories from a great meal at Ocean, where this dish stood out from the rest. Not being at the same level of the version presented at Ocean (for obvious reasons), with the pineapple taking a bit over the dish. Yet, an irresistible starter!

Good pairing with the creaminess of the bubble and the fresh ending of the glass of Billecart Salmon Blanc Des Blancs.

Rui Silvestre – Lobster of the Atlantic, egg yolk and Imperial caviar
Some dishes, despite having the noblest ingredients, and the best execution, don’t get us excited. It lacked soul (and possibly a broth) to take it to the next level.

Accompanying the dish was a Principal Rosé 2010, a controversial wine around the table, some considering it had lost power and energy, but I enjoyed it and it went very well with the fatter side of the dish.

Rui Paula – A Homage to Fisherman
The inspiration came from a Chora (a traditional soup of our fishermen’s recipes), here present in the sauce, and in the foam giving life to the dish, where the textures and the fishes created the perfect symbiosis and made of it the dish of the night. Very good!

To go with, a perfect choice, one of my favorite wines from the Vinho Verde region, the Ameal Escolha 2015, a great year, in which this example of a 100% Loureiro showcases in all its splendor, with freshness and lots of complexity.

Miguel Rocha Vieira – White grouper, artichokes, and squid from the Azores
I like the way the chef Miguel Rocha Vieira usually thinks his fish dishes through and the way he adds them strong contrasts of earthy flavors, with beetroots, carrots or in this case, the artichoke. Technically flawless in the presentation, despite having some flaws in the cooking of the fish – it is one of those cases that if prepared by his team during a normal service would make us applaud it!

It was an excellent moment, even more, when paired with the 2015 Niepoort VV, the great white Dirk Niepoort created at Bairrada from a combination of Maria Gomes and Bical.

Rui Paula – Corn and roast sauce
It’s impressive to see the evolution of Rui Paula’s cuisine in the last few years, I remember less than ten years ago him serving his roasted lamb, his Loin steak pastels, and then the evolution to dishes like roosterfish with lime risotto, and some risky textures and presentations. Evolution is just that, to learn, create and execute, and in Rui Paula’s case learning to leave some elements aside and highlight those he decides to use.

Here presenting a good game of textures around the corn, with a puree, corncob, baby corn, blini and popcorn (unnecessary), sweet flavors, tunned by the seaweed and the roast sauce, that despite not being much did wonders to the combo.

And if up to this point the wine choices were great, this moment was not the exception, with the impressive Quinta da Pellada Primus 2015. Still very young to be totally appreciated, but an impressive wine, for its minerality, acidity or its freshness and longevity in the mouth. A great wine!

Pre-Dessert 

A pause in the dinner and the pre-dessert arrives, well worked by Rui Paula’s team, with warm and rich flavors of the chocolate, fig, and cherry. Very good!

Rui Paula – Hazelnut, cereals and toasted bread 
A dish I tasted on a previous visit to Boa Nova. A combination that transports us to breakfast, with its comfort flavors and ingredients very well worked.

Yet, after a long meal, I would opt for something lighter and fresher to finish (always my type of option in a menu dinner).

To finish not one, but two, wines; a Porto Dalva Colheita 2007 and a Madeira Barbeito “Bual” 1995. Both in excellent shape, but the Madeira won my heart for a final sip. Ricardo Diogo and his team are making such great wines!

And speaking of wine, a highlight to Carlos Monteiro and António Lopes work, both for the great selection of wine we were presented with and for the way they harmonized it with the dishes.

Final Remarks
Events like the “Rota das Estrelas” are not “extraordinary gastronomic moments” because each chef shines brightest in its own kitchen, his habitat and with his team. But for sure are great parties, gastronomic parties, wherein a dinner you are able to gather 4 or 5 names that won’t easily gather again and taste dishes that otherwise we would’ve to travel around the country to taste (well, but the food is already the main reason I travel for!).

About this dinner, I have to congratulate the chefs and mostly the host, Rui Paula, who received cooks and guests in his unpaired scenario with his usual savoir faire.

A toast to the chefs and the new stars to come!

Versão Portuguesa

Photos: Flavors & Senses 

Rota das Estrelas

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Ichiban

We’re in the middle of the political silly season, with our rulers shooting attacks and excuses everywhere, typical among our governors and their opposition. But don’t worry, I didn’t change the topics of the blog, I just want to thank a certain range of politicians that made a lot more for Portugal than many of our own, and I speak about the Japanese Embassy, that with exception to the memorable master Yoshitaki, presented our country two of the greater banners of the Nippon cuisine in Portugal.

Firstly was Tomoaki Kanazawa – know preparing to leave to Japan again, to our misery! – and after was Masaki Onishi that substituted him in the embassy and who three years later headed to Porto to open this Ichiban.

As the name indicates (Ichiban means “First” in Japanese), the restaurant was the first space in the city to present a cuisine purely Japanese influenced and without the typical sushi-fusion-Brazil we used to find in 2011 and nowadays.

It must’ve been difficult this adaptation of the chef to the city and the guests to his purist approach, where he doesn’t seek to invent or reinvent but to perfect the already simple. A meticulous and detailed work, the Japanese way.

The restaurant, located in Foz do Douro, occupies a small space in front of the ocean, divided into three small floors, of minimalist decoration to the good Japanese style with light toned wood bringing comfort and coziness. Each room has its detail and each can fulfill different tastes, downstairs you can watch the work of Masaki Onishi in the kitchen (the chef puts the sushi making in the hands of his crew, dedicating himself to the Japanese cuisine dishes), on the ground floor you can enjoy all the bustle of the restaurant and the work of its Itamae, and it’s here in the counter we choose to stay; there’s also the upstairs floor, where we stayed in the last visit with the ocean views.

Already seated and with our orders made, they suggested a small snack (2€) as couvert, and usually travels between fish dishes and black pork stews, in our last visit we were awarded a light and tasty black pork salad, with thin slices of meat nicely combined with a light sauce and the freshness of the greens.

Tako Yaki (5,5€)
Tako Yaki is the Japanese answer to an octopus “patanisca“, small dough balls filled with octopus and specially prepared. Here particularly well done, crunchy on the outside, with a succulent and gourmand interior, even more, when combined with the sweet sauce and the Japanese mayo. Super worth it!

Seafood Okonomiyaki (16€)
The traditional Japanese pancake, made with a dough similar to the Tako Yaki, here nicely filled with vegetables, shrimp, squid, and scallop. A big dose, to share, that despite the excess of sauce, was at a great level, without the flavor of flour and the elements standing out in a good game of textures and sinful sweetness.

Moriwase Tempura (16€)
Moriwase means “chef’s choice”, so he is in charge of choosing the products we get. Among a variety of vegetables, highlight to the asparagus and also the shrimps, flawlessly fried in a thin and crunchy dough. Also good the sauce and freshness of the daikon and grated ginger.

Ryukyu Mackerel (10€)
A mandatory dish in each of my visits may even be one of my favorite on the menu. Kind of a mackerel tartar in larger cubes, prepared with the ryukyu sauce, typical of the region of Okinawa, freshened by the ginger, lemongrass, and chives.

Sashimi Moriwase (price according to the number of pieces) 
Is there any better way to enjoy the work of a sushi man than seeing his sharped knives going through the fish, there is! But we’re on to it! Sashimi with a great variety of fishes (always one of the strengths of Ichiban), where we loose the notion of how many white fish we tasted, some like pigfish, garfish, or the brill, we can’t easily find in other restaurants. Highlight to the thickest and purist cut that allows us to taste the fish in all its glory, as well as to the Tamago (omelet), that brings a sweet ending after so much fish.

Nigiri Moriwase (price according to the number of pieces)
And here it is! To see the ability of the chef molding the nigiri and then tasting his shari (sushi rice) is when you see his work in full! High score to the quality, flawless in every visit. Highlight to the good cut of the fish, some of them nicely complemented with toppings. When there are sardines and the remaining “blue fish”, you just have to enjoy!

Sea Urchin Gunkan (variable price)
There is when there is. One of the mottoes of those who choose the quality of the product and Ichiban is a good example of that. When there’s sea urchin – certainly not the big dishes full of it like in Hokkaido – we have to end our meal with this explosion of ocean and iodine in the mouth.

Accompanying was the usual Japanese green tea, seemed to me a kukicha, always the poor relative of the meal, not for its quality, but by the way it is prepared, the water is always way too hot, when it shouldn’t pass the 70/80º, burning the tea and losing many of the seaweed and fresh notes of the green tea. An area deserving of some attention!

The service flows between the shy Portuguese of the chef’s wife, always alert, and a young Portuguese team. Always friendly, not pretentious and not very technical, compensating with the knowledge of the menu and the available fish.

Final Remarks 
Masaki is a man of few words and to see him you need to peek through the glass of the cuisine, but the thing is every dish reflects his culture and personality – rigor, a bit of austerity, authenticity, and mystery.

That’s the feeling when we dive in the most typical Izakayas dishes or the most accurate Japanese dishes, an ocean of discoveries and balanced flavors, an interpretation of a nation and its culture.

Ichiban is fish and rice, it’s sushi in its purest and raw state, but in reality is more than that, it’s a restaurant with a serious and true cuisine, and for that, it won the award of Specialized Restaurant, in 2016 and in 2017, in the Flavors and Senses Awards. So we’re not talking just about a great restaurant in Porto, but also one of the best Japanese ambassadors in Portugal.

Take note:
If you haven’t discovered Ichiban’s cuisine yet, you can also choose one of the best menus in the city, with sushi and cuisine options, with prices among 17€ and 21€, accordingly to the day and the number of dishes.

Ichiban
Average price: 40€ per person, without wines
Avenida Brasil, 454 – Porto
226 186 111

Versão Portuguesa

Photos: Flavors & Senses

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Rustichella d’Abruzzo at Antiqvvm’s table

Since its opening, Antiqvvm, has been the stage to a wide range of themed dinners, where Vitor Matos chooses an ingredient or invites another chef with whom he shares his kitchen.

One of the last events combined both, joining the mastery of William Zonfa – a Michelin Star at Magione Papale in Abruzzo – and the excellent products from Rustichella d’Abruzzo.

Vitor Matos and William Zonfa

Rustichella is, as the name indicates, a company from the region of Abruzzo, producing several types of durum pasta since the 20’s, being nowadays one of the main references in the market, not only for the wide variety of products and formats, but mostly for the quality of the product. If you’ve cooked with them you can easly notice the difference from the most used brands. It’s for sure a great product, but just in case, we were in the right place to put them to test…

  After a toast watching the sunset in the amazing garden of the restaurant, we were presented with the concept of this particular dinner, as well as the brand, through Giovanni Gianni (exportations director).

Fregola Sarda with basil, tomato, and mozzarella fior di latte ice cream
And the party started with the dish that revealed as the simplest and most interesting of the night. Fregola (a type of pasta in the shape of little balls) cooked al dente, with an amazing sauce of fresh basil taste, enrichened with the tomato powder and elevated by the contrast of flavor, texture, and temperature of the mozzarella ice cream. An amazing dish of William Zonfa, in which all the elements stand out, by themselves, and in the combination.

DOP “Azeitão” cheese Ravioli with sage butter, black chanterelle and monks cress 
The first dish of Vitor Matos it’s also a version of one of his classics, here with the ravioli prepared with Rustichella’s flour and presenting an excellent texture and good combination of flavors where the highlight goes to the richness of the butter. Very good!

Paccheri stuffed with codfish “brandade”, clam stew, half cured cod and black pork prosciutto 
A dish in which Vitor Matos brought us Portuguese flavors combined with the Italian pasta paccheri, filled with a brandade a bit inferior to the codfish of good texture accompanying. A combination of several elements to the style of the chef, but where the final result ends up pleasing and surprising us. High score to the herb foam that is refreshing in a very rich combo of very Portuguese flavors.

Spaghettone del Leone with boletus, summer truffle and almond mousse 
Another William Zonfa’s dish, who in contrast with Vitor Matos worked with few elements in each of his proposals. A spaghettone of amazing flavor and texture, nicely paired with the other elements, in which only the summer truffle little or nothing added to the dish for its lesser quality – had it been a good black truffle in its season and we’d have a great dish here.

Classic Panettone Rustichella d´ Abruzzo with Azores caramelized pineapple, mascarpone, roasted peach with honey and lavender, white chocolate and Kaffir lime ice cream 
Another dish with a long list of elements, with highlight to the nicely worked fruits and the freshness of the kaffir lime ice cream, ending up with the panettone being a secondary and unnecessary element in the final combination. A good ending!

  Petit fours or Vitor Matos’ small jewels 

The harmonization of the dishes was in charge of wines from Abruzzo, that despite not being of great highlight in quality terms, worked well and some of them improved alongside the dishes.

The service was simple and with some typical flaws of these events where you need to serve too many people at the same time.

Final Remarks  
Rustichella d’Abruzzo assumes itself easily as one of the best pasta producers available in the market. And if the goal of this dinner was to present a brand and a product of excellence, that goal was more than accomplished, it’s not possible to stay indifferent to the quality of this pasta, even more, when worked by the hands of two starred chefs.

In my case, I believe I have to return to Italy to eat the Fregola Sarda with basil, tomato, and mozzarella ice cream again, at the William Zonfa’s Magione Papale.

Antiqvvm
R. de Entre-Quintas 22o – Porto
+351 22 600 0445
antiqvvm@gmail.com

Versão Portuguesa

Photos: Flavors & Senses

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Terminal 4450

Terminal 4450 isn’t a surprise for anyone, from the best-informed foodie to the most distracted client, everyone has visited or heard about Ricardo Rodrigues’s project in the former Cruise Terminal in Leça da Palmeira.

Many words have been written, many blogs, much bustle in social media paired with a tunned cuisine, itself with the hand of Nuno Crasto (from Esquina do Avesso) and we get one of the trendiest restaurants in the city, it has even been nominated as Revelation and Trendy Restaurant in the Flavors & Senses Awards – The Best for 2016 and 2017, respectively.

But shall we write a bit more, for those not tired of reading about this Terminal? So where once worked a Bar, the entrepreneur decided to open a restaurant, which is also an “airport” where the trips end over the ocean, the Leça river, the boats, seagulls, and the many fish restaurants in Matosinhos, with a very specific plan, bringing a steakhouse to an area famous for fish.

The graphic brand and the identity of the restaurant worked by Ricardo and the designers from Another Collective were the first signs of success around the restaurant – an area that deserves and should be more worked on by Portuguese restaurants.

As I said, the idea of an airport starts in the access sleeve, goes through the bags and the check-in desk, ending at the table with the passport, aka the menu.

Installed in the wide wood tables that bring a bit of rustic to the cosmopolitan environemnt of the restaurant, and with another stamp in our passports we start another trip!

Couvert

Of the couvert, the already famous salty popcorn with a seasoning that changes on a daily basis (oregano in our last visit), and the jars, here with a simple, but good, combo of feta cheese and olives.

 Roast beef meat bread (7€)
One of the several available starters are the “bolas” (meat bread), with different fillings, here we chose the roast beef, better than in our previous visit, in which my hatred truffle oil in excess buffered all the other elements. The meat was perfectly cooked, nicely paired with elements that gave it freshness and greasiness. A good start!

Ox tartar(10€)
If we’re here to eat meat, the tartar is mandatory. Simple and competent toasts, well cut and tasty meat, despite the modest seasoning that could’ve been richer and slightly spicier, positive note to the crunchy onion and the grains of mustard.

Grilled Pork Ribs (10€)
That sinful meat, perfectly cooked, moist and well seasoned. High score to the sweat and sour sauce in contrast to a less accomplished coleslaw.

Artisanal sausages (6,5€)
Still one of the best proposals since the first time we tasted this foreign inspired dish. Good sausage, flawlessly cooked, nicely combined with potato mash and onions, giving a good game of textures and contrast of sinful flavors. High-level comfort food!

 Large Chop (36€)
In an already rich and heavy meal, we still had to go with the chop, that despite not coming from an old animal was of good quality and taste. Lacking just some notes of charcoal!

A note also the sides, usually the less accomplished elements of this Terminal 4450, where of highlight are the great fried polenta sticks and the rice with small bits of chorizo, once again revealing themselves as the right choice.

Meringue Lemon Pie (4€)
The desserts are one of Nuno Castro strengths, and where he shines the most and the presentation of this lemon pie deconstruction is a good example of that. Good texture combination, the freshness of the lemon sorbet nicely contrasting with the sweetness (in excess) of the lemon cream.

A nice ending to an already long and heavy meal!

To accompany our meal our choice wasn’t the usual red wine, but instead, the amazing Loureiro of Quinta do Ameal which 2015 harvest is particularly amazing. One of the great Portuguese whites!

As to the service, nothing to point out, young, efficient, smiley, good knowledge of the menu, attentive and caring with the client, even in a full house.

Final Remarks
Terminal is not one of those trendy restaurants where you only want to see and be seen, or where you want to be for the environment rather than the food. It’s a safe value and a wining bet by Ricardo Rodrigues after Esquina do Avesso and Sushiaria, showing the young business man has more cards to play in the restaurant scene of the city.

A restaurant with a strong brand and identity, combined with a simple cuisine, options for every taste and correct prices. It can still improve in several aspects, from the quality of the produce (already has some aged meat promising to make a difference) to small details of the room and the service, but the path is well thought and we just have to come back and taste the new menu!

 Terminal 4450
Average price: 30€ per person, without wines
Avenida Doutor Antunes Guimarães – Leça da Palmeira

+351 229 954 020

Versão Portuguesa

Photos: Flavors & Senses

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Puro 4050

Puro 4050 is one of the most talked about restaurants in Porto since its opening, located in the agitated Largo de São Domingos, “it had everything” to work even before it opened…

As if “having everything” would be so simple and easy, but in reality, after Cantina 32 (see), Luís Américo and Inês Mergulhão could only create another success.

But let’s go step by step, the cuisine has the lines Luís Américo has been defining – and well – for his spaces, after Mesa (yes, I was one of those who loved, a lot, to dine in a “nursing home”), simple cuisine, product unfolding, balance of flavors and textures, some international influences, dishes to share and focused in cold cuisine, among many other things. Here he introduced a different detail – making all the difference! – betting in a differentiating product, the Buffalo Mozzarellas coming straight from Campania.

Combining with the accurate aesthetic sense of Inês, that makes any of her restaurants worthy even just for the visit, deceptively simple spaces, cozy and welcoming, but at the same time cosmopolitan and agitated, transmiting the idea of us being in any big European capital (the amout of tourists also contributes for that!).

Already installed on the delightful terrace, and between some toasts with a young  Soalheiro de 2016 – already very promising – arises a modest but comfortable olive oil, accompanied by an even more interesting and delicate buffalo butter, that helped along the bread prepare our stomachs to what would follow.

Burrata, Parma DOP Prosciutto, Rocket (12€)
And off to a good start, with a great Burrata, clearly the best I ever tasted in the city, of a creaminess and richness beyond comparison. It’s impossible to go wrong with this classic combination! Very good!

Mozzarella Afumicatta, laminated courgette, pepper jam and poached pear (11€)
Another fresh dish where the star is the mozzarella, but this time in a smokey version, that won’t quite be the best choice to a less attentive client. Its notes and textures are very different from the common mozzarella. Here served with a good combination of flavors, with highlight to the excellent pepper jam and the fruit, that we already knew from the Cantina.

Pizza Focaccia, caramelized onion, mozzarella, black garlic and del piquillo peppers (6,50€)
Although at a good level, it was the least interesting proposal of those we tasted during this dinner. Highlight to the use of black garlic, and the balance between sweetness and acidity creating a good symbiosis among all the elements!

Beef Tataki, mushrooms and truffle (8,5€)
By truffle, know the use of the irritating truffle oil/butter, each day more famous around here! But moving on because the dish is much more interesting than that – perfectly cooked meat, of good texture and flavor, nicely paired with some moist and earthy shimeji mushrooms. Simple and well executed!

Octopus Risotto and chestnuts (12€)
In my point of view and assuming we are not in front of a risotto but a good rice dish, this is one of the great dishes of Puro, inspired by the Brazilian cuisine, using coconut milk and palm oil, and a bold combination of octopus and chestnuts, at first weird, but then great – this while I ask myself why there’s not a recipe already with this combination in Trás-os-Montes. Rich, greasy, sweet and with a great texture. It’s worthy to come back just for this rice (as I have…)!

Wagyu Ossobuco, Puro’s potato puree (25€)
The noble massaged meat, here presented in one of its “inferior” cuts, but full of flavor. Good texture of the meat and good connection with the sauce, enrichened with the few marrow I could take from the bone. Very good! And very well paired with the Puro’s puree, which is, in reality, a potato mash with caramelized onion, that gives it another character and life!

Porto Tawny Tiramisu (4€) and Lemon Crème Brulée with Amaretti
Without the wow factor, two desserts well accomplished, with highlight to the freshness of the lemon and the contrast of textures with the biscuit and the creaminess; and a good pairing of the Port and the chocolate in the case of the Tiramisu. A good chapter!

Chocolate Salami with Amaretti (3,5€)
It seems to be the fetish dessert of the restaurant; still, it was the least captivating for me. Interesting texture and flavor of the amaretti in the mouth, but without great history!

Buffalo Ricotta Pie, pumpkin jam (3,5€)
And I left the best for last! The best dessert of the night, elegant and fresh like the ricotta, and rich like a good pumpkin jam. A very well created dessert that is sure to end a good meal with a plus!

That and a memory of a famous pumpkin fondant with cream cheese that Luís insists in not repeating and many try to replicate without success.

A positive note to the agility of the service, the fruit of a well-thought menu and the sympathy of the team, that without great formalism and technical rigor are well matched with the food and space.

Final Remarks
It’s certain and I have already left it very clear that it’s not in this register I like to see Luís Américo, but it is what the market and life have requested from him, and what he does, he does well, so you can see by the success of the spaces he heads and the consulting jobs he does around town.

Even so, it’s always a good “Portuguese” excuse to visit Macao!

This Puro 4050 is a breath of fresh air in the city, a space with everything to every taste, from the simplest to the boldest, from the vegetarian to the anti-gluten. It’s a bold space, agitated and tasteful, which is positioned in a cosmopolitan side that Porto also needs and deserves! Offering unique produce, like the excellent mozzarellas and some irresistible combinations!

See you soon!

Puro 4050
Average price: 25€ per person, without wine 
Largo São Domingos, 84 – Porto
+351 22 2011 852

Versão Portuguesa

Photos: Flavors & Senses

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Quinta do Ameal

It was the year of 2013, we were in a wine tasting waiting for our glasses to be filled with Quinta do Ameal Loureiro, and despite already knowing the wines, we hadn’t met their producer, Pedro Araújo. Nice, smiley, and very passionate in his words, after a good talk about his wines, he confessed us he was creating wine a tourism at his farm. Showed us some pictures, talked about his ideas and his enthusiasm was so contagious we already expected something brilliant!

Years passed by, we kept running into Pedro in wine tastings and he always kept his enthusiasm, but nowadays all those captivating ideas are real. In 2016 we almost went to see and feel the reason of so much enthusiasm, but something unexpected got in the way!

The cellar where the great wines of Ameal rest 

But finally, in 2017, we went and I perfectly understood the passion in Pedro’s words, and just like that my passion for Quinta do Ameal and its wine tourism was born.

Nothing gives me more joy than mixing luxury with pure nature, wilderness, in its purest state. And that’s how I define Quinta do Ameal, a refuge in the middle of nature, mixing perfectly with the luxury present in every detail.

Casa Grande

Quinta do Ameal is a property in Ponte de Lima dating back from 1710, it counts with 30 hectares and it’s where Pedro creates and produces white wines of excellence, from the caste Loureiro.

It was acquired by the family in the 90’s, after the sale of Ramos Pinto, yes, Pedro has the history of wine running in his veins, being the great-grandson of Adriano Ramos Pinto. The Quinta was completely abandoned but an excellent recovery work was done here.

From the 30 hectares of the farm, 14 are vineyards, the rest is virgin forest, full of strength, and where Ameal Wine & Tourism Terroir occupies the space of the former houses, recovered and thought by Pedro, with a touch of good taste not common to everybody!

We arrived in a marvelous sunny day, Spring welcoming us with open arms, and the colors of nature as good hostesses.

The path from the entrance of the quinta to the houses is divine, surrounded by vineyards on one side and pine trees on the other with over 200 years of life and history, showing us a strong influence of the Mediterranean climate, with these imposing trees from the Old World!

Pedro welcomed us with his usual smile and immediately made us feel at home.

Around the Quinta there are several activities available, you can just stay around the pool all day with nature as background, or go for walks and discover paths among the trees, flowers, and vineyards, romantic corners and just get delighted, or even appreciate the different products growing in the land that assure a range of biologic options.

For the most adventurous souls, you can organize several activities in the Lima River, like the Kayak descent. If you enjoy walking, nothing like a good, long walk of 40km in the fabulous eco path with the Lima River as a companion.

For wine lovers, this place is magical, start with a visit to the vineyards, with Pedro as the guide, then visit the cellar and finish with an excellent wine tasting accompanied with some snacks.

Well, but now let’s talk about the recovery of the old houses. The main building, called Casa Grande, aka Big House (would’ve been the main house of those who lived here) has the biggest number of beds and a living area, the tasting room, or lounge, as you wanna call it, and three suites (Jardim, Camélia, and Glicínia), I mean they’re like houses, but we’ll get there!

The house among Bamboos and Vineyards 

A few meters away from this House, we have the House Among Bamboos and Vineyards (the former herdsman’s house) and why the name? Because of its location, surrounded by bamboos, that give it an oriental look, and some of the wonderful vineyards!

There are other buildings spread around the farm, the two former cowsheds yet to recover – maybe one day they can turn into a barn allowing the guests another great activity – the Housekeeper’s house (pleonasm aside!), and the offices.

But talking about what’s important…. my suite!
We stayed in the suite named Jardim (garden), and as the name indicates it had direct access to a huge garden, almost like a private nature corner just for me!

There are bedrooms, and then, those places you want to live in! And I felt exactly like that here. The feeling I got as soon as entering was that I could live there, mainly because of the perfect combination of history, elegance, luxury, and rusticity of the decoration.


The white of the walls gave the bedroom a sober environment, while the small areas in stone gave it just the right amount of rusticity, the furniture was the history element, each piece already have been used for other functions, and then restored, even the door of the bedroom was once the door of Pedro’s grandmother’s house!

The bed, besides huge as I love, must’ve been one of the comfiest I ever slept in.

 The room, simultaneously kitchen, living room and dining room, had the same elegance and decoration of the bedroom, art pieces, cozy furniture, rustic enough and with much, much light, coming from the windows perfectly placed. From here we had access to the garden, like a piece of paradise just for us!


By now you must be wondering about Cíntia’s favorite area! Well, let me tell you about this bathroom…. My God…
To start, a shower that could easily fit like half a dozen people!!! Double sinks, like, I mean, the best concept ever, a bathtub aside from wall, perfect decoration detail, much more interesting than the common tub, and books as decor, I can’t get tired of referring that, is there anything more interesting to decorate with? No! And looking at the picture you can see my passion for this bathroom, but there’s a detail you can’t see, the warm floors, and that’s one of the best qualities a bathroom can have!

You know what? Luxury is definitely in the details!

One of the best rooms I’ve ever been in, for sure!

Another fascinating detail about Quinta do Ameal was the fact I felt in a family home, always feeling pampered, in details as perfect as waking up in the morning and having breakfast at the door!

Obviously, this breakfast was taken in the garden, accompanied by the most sublime sound of all, the sound of nature!

Concerning meals, there’s not a restaurant (yet!!!) but the meals are assured at any time, that you can warm up or prepare in the suite or in the main room at the Casa Grande, so you don’t have to leave the quinta. But Ponte de Lima is also a place of good food, so if you need, the team of Quinta do Ameal has a series of good options to indicate you.

Main Room

Talking a bit about this room, it follows the same decorative line of the bedrooms, contemporary details, comfort in every detail and elegance. It’s also equipped with a kitchen that turned into the perfect place where we were able to cook and have a dinner with friends, with good music and good wines! The perfect evening!

And speaking of good wines, that’s exactly what is produced in this Quinta, some of the best white wines produced in the region of “Vinhos Verdes” and in Portugal. So, you can imagine we were “forced” to a tasting of Quinta do Ameal’s wines, working as a warm-up to the amazing evening I referred!

Quinta do Ameal Escolha

As you can see we had no thirst problems 

Among the tasted wines, the highlight goes to the 2015 harvest, both the Escolha and the Solo Único where in great shape, but the one that more easily conquered us was the Loureiro from 2007, showing the great aging ability of the wines and their elegance.

Those wishing to stay at Quinta do Ameal with friends or family, the ideal is the House among Bamboos and Vineyards, because it’s an authentic villa, with two huge bedrooms and common areas perfect for any mortal.

Another particularity of this house is the amazing and very Asian outdoor shower, taking us immediately to an exotic place somewhere in the world, the Camélia Suite also has this detail.

Suite Glicínia

The truth is these details and corners that make it different from everything else wouldn’t be possible without the vision and the traveling culture of their thinker, and in that Pedro was perfect.

Quinta do Ameal and its project Ameal Wine & Tourism Terroir are the perfect refuge if you just want to go away for a while and seek for a small piece of paradise on Earth.

The rough nature is, at the same time, virgin and pure; and it is felt so strongly you can’t put into words! This place is as much as authentic and genuine as it is unreal!

A special thank you to Pedro and the team of Quinta do Ameal for all the love!

See you soon…

Quinta do Ameal – Wine & Tourism Terroir
Bedrooms from 230€
4990 – 707
Refóios do Lima Ponte do Lima – PORTUGAL
+351 258 947 172
quintadoameal@netcabo.pt

Versão Portuguesa

 Text: Cíntia Oliveira | Photos: Flavors & Senses

Disclaimer
We were at Quinta do Ameal by invitation, whereas this does not alter our work, being the opinion and the text of the exclusive responsibility of the author.

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StreetXO

David Muñoz no longer needs introductions, since in 2010 he ripped apart Madrid’s gastronomic scene, winning the first Michelin star with his DiverXO  (nowadays the only three-starred restaurant in the city), in a creative fusion, radical and even theatrical of the Mediterranean cuisine, with Asian flavors and ingredients.

But don’t be fooled if you think Muñoz is the fruit of the Basque avant-garde school, which so many names have brought to the spotlight; Muñoz started his career a bit through the good taste of his parents that took him, frequently, to the Madrid classic Viridiana, of the chef Abraham García, where he ended up working when he finished his studies, and to which he still pays an homage nowadays in his menus. Later he headed up to London where he worked for several years in Asian restaurants like Nobu and Hakkasan.

A training that worked up as the base for his creations, where technique and genius combine to create an experience of shocks, flavors, and even feelings, that in many cases you love and others you hate.

This said, his arrival in London to the opening of StreetXO – an informal space, inspired by Asian street food that had open in 2012 in Madrid, and which success made it one of the most wanted in town – made a lot of ink run, among newspapers, critics and opinion makers.

So we couldn’t miss a visit in our last trip to London. Located in the elitist neighborhood of Mayfair, the decoration was in charge of the visionary Lázaro Ros-Violàn, whose works leave no one indifferent. This StreetXO is not the exception, with an ambiance recreating the crazy imaginary of Muñoz combined with a strip club and a sci-fi movie like Blade Runner.

You just can’t stay indifferent!

Already installed we are quickly and joyfully accompanied throughout the menu, while the team takes the time to show us their knowledge of the menu and try some suggestions that meet our taste. The menu is divided in small moments of finger food and dishes to share, like good street food.

Our meal started with the arrival of cocktails, like good Londoners, and the Liquid Kitchen (aka the bar) of the StreetXO is also bold and creative, combining with the menu.

Excellent Dry, sweet and Sour!!! and the Pineapple slow roasted over coals, which, in the first case, combined vodka, cranberries, balsamic and petazetas and the other one an old mix of rum and pineapple, lime and tonka infusion.

Dry, sweet and Sour!!!

Pequinese Dumpling… 
The first dish is also a visual shock at the table, a bold combination of a gyoza with crunchy pork ear (unfortunately not crunchy in all the pieces), alioli with yuzu, pickles, and strawberry hoisin sauce. Well accomplished flavors, with the sweetness and the salty and fruity notes of the hoisin enhanced in a combination that had everything to go wrong, but didn’t! Just a miss in one of the pieces where the ear was not as crunchy as intended.

Steamed Club Sandwich
A small bao, steamed and filled with piglet, ricotta, chili mayo and quail egg. Spicy enough, lickerish and greasy in the mouth, with the ricotta bringing freshness to the combination, although there could’ve been less of it. Very good!

Korean Lasagne XO Style
One of the tastiest and comfiest dishes of our lunch, with a great combination of flavors and textures, a fruit of the combination of the Galician meat with the Korean gochujang spicy sauce, and the richness of the bechamel. High score to the contrast of the crunchy pasta, that is broken up over the dish after served.

Prawn5
When there’s scarlet shrimp at the table, I’m almost happy, when I taste it and it’s well worked then it’s party time! And so it happened with this dish, flawless in presentation and in the combination of elements. Perfect the scarlet shrimp with the right sweetness and moist and full of flavor head. Combining with several textures of prawn, from dim sum, dry prawn chips and a thin and crunchy baby prawn cracker. Rich and tasty sauce, with saffron aioli, almond, and edamame. A great dish!

At this point, we went for the second round of drinks and decided for the boldest combinations of the list, a Tokyo-Jerez Montril’s, in a bold combination of the smoked notes of the lapsang tea, with shiso, miso, yuzu, sake and sherry accompanied by a grilled prawn and its head. The other one was the Yellow Curry, an homage of flavors and cultures that quickly traveled between Europe, Bangkok, and India.

The team behind the “liquid cuisine”

 Yellow Curry

Tuna, Green Mango, and satay, coconut, tamarind and bergamot sauces
Looking like meat, it’s in reality a tuna cut from the neck of the fish, cooked in the robata and served with interesting contrasts of freshness and textures, given by the green mango and the sauces, taking us in a trip to the Asian skewers. Flawless!

“La Pedroche” croquettes…
Spain meets Japan in this dish, with the croquettes being part of the shari (sushi rice) to assemble a toro nigiri. Crunchy croquettes, filled with kimchi, goat milk and elevated by the smoked notes of the black tea LapSang SouChong. High score to the quality of the tuna and the combination, if they were perfectly fried, it would’ve been a great, great ending!

To finish, there are no desserts on the menu, but it was suggested to us a kind of dessert/cocktail, served in the famous cup of the pink panther (a part of the DiverXO’s universe), made with white chocolate, guava, rhubarb, strawberry and curry with a touch of petazetas to make this ending of meal even more fun.

Dessert 

The service was joyful, with the dishes coming at a good rythm, the team showing knowledge of the menu, giving good suggestions and with general environment of satisfaction, that while as clients is pleasing and motivates us to embrace the spirit of the restaurant, yes you have to enter with an open soul and receptive to the shock.

Manuel Villalba is the right hand of Muñoz in this bold project in the English capital 

Final Remarks
David Muñoz is a creative genius, loved by many and hated by so many others, but the truth is that behind all that image of enfant terrible, Muñoz is a cook, in its purest essence, it’s easier to see him behind the stoves of his restaurants (including this Londoner StreetXO) than in a magazine, TV show or even in the room being a celebrity.

His “dementia”, kindly speaking, is demonstrated in the theatrical environment he creates around a meal and in the unpredictable combinations of ingredients and flavors he uses in his dishes, you may not like it and for sure there are dishes that work better than others, but truth is you can’t stay indifferent to his cuisine.

One of the IT places these days in London!

StreetXO Londres
Average price: £70 per person, without wine or fees 
15 Old Burlington Street, Mayfair – London
+44 020 3096 7555
reservations@streetxo.co.uk

Versão Portuguesa

Photos: Flavors & Senses

Disclaimer
We were at StreetXO by invitation, whereas this does not alter our work, being the opinion and the text of the exclusive responsibility of the author.

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Carousel

When the idea of a Pop-Up restaurant comes to my mind, I admit my thoughts are not always the best, inexperienced cooks from a reality show, dishes with little content in substance or flavor, not very adequate work conditions, among many things that make me feel reluctant about this type of project.

However, in 2014, the cousins Ollie, Will, Ed, and Anna Templeton decided to revolutionize this practice, opening the Carousel, a restaurant with all the capacities, promoting in a curatorship style, the residence of different chefs for dinner at every two weeks. It’s like finding a new restaurant every time, but instead of an inexperienced young person who decided to change his life after a Gordon Ramsey show, we have young chefs on the top of their games, some already with restaurants in different parts of the world, others beginning their projects in London, using this space to present and test themselves, chefs like the Portuguese Leonardo Pereira or Elizabeth Allen, who was preparing to open a new restaurant after conquering a Michelin star at Pidgin.

With its location two steps away from our hotel – Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill (see) – and although not getting a table to dinner, we went to taste the lunch menu created by Ollie Templeton, based on seasonal products, and the offer of the day.

The room is rustic and industrial, quite contemporary, with wood giving some comfort and the long shared tables indicate that here you won’t just have a meal, but a tertiary, with confraternization and discussions among guests.

To start we are awarded with one of my favorite moments, the bread (in London, at least, ’cause in Portugal the good bread is rare), and what a great Sourdough it was, from the famous bakery Bread Bread, served after a second cooking already at the restaurant, good texture, aroma, and flavor. I could stay here without anything else, proving that in the end, I’m an easy to please man, I just need the best, as Sir Winston Churchill would say.

The delicious bread from Bread Bread, served with olive oil and salt flower 

Watercress Salad, apple, nuts and burnt butter vinaigrette
We started with a light salad with all the elements in the right proportion and nicely paired. The detail of the caramelized onion and the flavor of dry fruits of the butter elevated the dish to more than a simple salad. Nice start!

Mussels, artichoke, and toast 
The bread appears once again, this time in a dish, which is always a good harbinger. A bold combination of flavors and textures, of Earth and Sea, with the mussels and the artichoke, that could’ve been memorable if it wasn’t for the acidity, a bit too high, making it a bit difficult to taste all the game present in the dish.

Cavatelli, cuttlefish, and gremolata 
I won the day with this dish, the comfort food of the Italian nonnas here very well represented. Al dente pasta, with good flavors, delicate and tasty sauce with the cuttlefish ink, the mollusk with the right texture. The gremolata brought an interesting freshness. A great dish, here and in every part of the world!

Iberian pork “Presa”, parsley and shallot pickles 
I’m one of those who likes to have my pork very pink, rare, a crime some may say, an insult to public heath, but the reality is that things aren’t already that linear. This to say that even for me, the center of this piece was too rare. Delicious and tasty meat, worthy by itself and just suffered a bit for that detail (maybe in London they like it even rarer than me). Interesting also the contrast with the pickle and the freshness of the parsley, and of course the bread, that pleasantly replaces any sides the meat could have.

Grapefruit Pie
Delicate, fresh and buttery filling, with a velvety creaminess and texture, worthy of highlight, contrasting with the thin cover of burnt sugar and the base. A simple, tasty and not very sinful ending!

Accompanying the meal was, and very well, an alvarinho, a Albariño Zarate 2015, from Rias Baixas, which acidity and minerality were of highlight. An alvarinho of great elegance and freshness that went really well with the simplicity and freshness of the meal.

A remark also to the wine list, based majorly in small international producers, with Vitor Claro and his elegant wines from Alentejo representing Portugal.

The service, as expected from this type of space, was informal, caring and relaxed. I must say the nice employee conquered me right away from the readiness she replaced my bread basket!

Final Remarks 
The Carousel project was born to bring a bit of theater and cinema to the Londoner restaurant scene, creating a concept where it is possible to reserve a ticket to a different dinner every two weeks in their website, with different teams, and very different cuisines and flavors, always with that same cozy and familiar room. It’s a niche project, for sure, but one worthy of accompanying, praising and taste at each new residency, where every presence of a different chef revolutionizes a bit the world of gastronomy. At lunch, the menu brings the simplicity and respect for good products, allied to correct prices without the usual excesses of the area it is inserted in. A safe value, for a comfortable lunch and unpretentious!

In our case, we just have to come back during one of the residencies, who knows of a young Portuguese talent!

Carousel
Average price:
Lunch – £20 without wine or fees 
Dinner – with a £40 ticket per person, without wine or fees
71 Blandford Street, Marylebone – London
+44 020 7487 5564
info@carousel-london.com

Versão Portuguesa

Photos: Flavors & Senses

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