EL FARO: A SHINING LIGHT IN CANARY WHARF
I hate it when this happens.
There I was safe in the knowledge that all Spanish restaurants in the UK were useless, a view that I had promulgated on more than one occasion. Then, what happens? One comes along that is not only not useless but actually very good indeed.
And, El Faro, in the unlikely setting of Turnberry Quay near Canary Wharf, is very good indeed. The closest I have come in the UK to the restaurants and food we eat so regularly and with such gusto in Spain.
El Faro is owned and run by people from Northern Spain, the menu, with a extraneous additions for the locals, reads much as one would in Spain and the extensive wine list is a well priced delight.
We became rather excited when we saw the menu and ordered five starters. The lovely Madrilena front of house seemed a little concerned that we would not finish out main courses, but she has obviously not seen us eat.
Pulpo all Gallega was spot on, warm soft slices of octopus drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with paprika. The pimientos de Padron was a sizeable portion. Easily the highest pepper to cost ratio of any restaurant I have been to in the UK ( shame on you Fino) Daditos de cerdo, were chunks of crispy confit belly pork thick with the scent of thyme and honey.
The croquettas were probably the weakest starter, but agreeable enough. Filled with chunks of Jamon, but a little less creamy than I like. They still didn’t last long, mind you.
Best of all, was a large plate of Jamon Iberico. Expertly hand cut, as it should be, from a large whole ham at the counter. This stuff is the real deal, the Cinco Jotas ( five acorns ) brand and you can taste the acorns in the rich silky fat. Often in the UK, when you can find ham this good the cutting is not up to snuff or, heaven forfend, the hack it off with a machine slicer. Here, the cutting was spot on and the ham was served with slices of pan con tomate where the rich tomato juices had soaked through the bread. With the possible exception of a huge steak. A plate of this would be my choice for a last meal.
Talking of a huge steak, the main courses are on the money too. Various cuts of Galician beef are on offer including the 600gms chuleton de buey which caught HP’s attention.
I am a bit steaked out after yet another fine example at Hawksmoor ealier in the week, so went for the Codero Lechal ( baby lambikins to you and me ) which came from Catalunia.
The chef also comes from Catalunia and, like all Spaniards from that area can’t leave well alone. So, here, instead of just a plate of meat as you would get in God’s own country, there were a few unnecessary additions like some roasted tomatoes and crushed potatoes. Not awful in and of themselves, but a little pointless. They did not detract, however, from what was as perfect and echt a plate of Spanish grub as I have ever got my mouth around in this country.
The beef chop was cooked rare as requested and required the necessary chewing that all good beef should. It came with a fat slab of beefy fat too without which it is just a hunk of dead protein.
The Codero lacked the crispiness of lamb from an Asador but was a pretty good stab at this staple of Northern Spain.
We pondered on dessert, but, as they had no “helado mixta” on the menu HP went straight to a well made café solo and an Orujo Blanco while I sucked down a Pacheran.
I mentioned the wine list, didn’t I? Well, it deserves another mention. This is a serious wine list for lovers of Spain. The obvious Rioja and Ribero are complimented by wines from all regions of Spain. One of us was celebrating, one of us was drowning our sorrows ( a long story ) so we had a couple of bottles. A deliciously leathery Pequera Crianza and a more unusual Alzania from Navarre which gave of a heady waft of licorice the moment the bottle was opened.
We pushed the boat out a bit and this was reflected in the bill of £180 for two ( of which the wines were about £70 + ) so, a very decent meal here would come in about £100 including service which was entirely charming even when the place began to fill to capacity.
Spain and Spanish food is our thing as you may have gathered if you have read the blog for a while. It takes a lot to impress us when we are not in Spain and few places in London capture that sheer generosity of spirit that the Spanish have in such abundance.
Well, El Faro is not just close, it’s the real deal and, if it were not for those bloody roasted tomatoes in one of the pictures, I would almost think these were photos from one of our recent visits.
It’s that good. Go there.