CASA BRINDISA: TOP TAPAS IN SOUTH KEN
DH's niece is six years old today, bless her.
When we called her to wish her many happy returns, I explained that her present would not arrive until I headed up North next week, as it was too big to post. There was short silence before a small voice on the other end of the line piped up.
“Is it a whole leg of ham?”
I have seldom been more proud and it is proof, if any were needed, that the apples in our family seldom fall very far from the tree. As reward for her good taste, I shall add a little extra gift to her goodie bag, a packet of Joselito Gran Reserva from the recent tasting organised by Brindisa. I will, of course, have to oversee the eating of said Jamon as matters of such import cannot be left solely in the hands of a six year old.
Thinking of matters Brindisa, it is barely a month ago when HP called to say he was enjoying a terrific meal at Tierra Brindisa in SOHO and, on Thursday, I found that they had just rolled out yet one more place, this time in South Kensington, within spitting distance of The Victoria & Albert Museum. Quite why you would want to spit at The Victoria & Albert Museum, I am not sure.
“Damn you and your exhibition of Victorian corsetry, damn you to Hell”
DH, of course, had to give the new place a try and arrived for our reservation to be shown to a splendid table overlooking the bustling kitchen. The locals, including a significant number of Spanish ex-pats, had got wind of the new opening and, despite the fact it is twice the size of the other two branches, it was already filled to capacity with noisy diners.
Thoughts that Brindisa may just be stretching themselves too thin were dispelled with the arrival of some Marcona almonds and Gordal olives stuffed with orange and marjoram, which we sucked on while looking at the menu. Each branch has its own little twists, but we started as we would in Spain, with an assorted plate of pig related products, this time of the Teruel denomination. They displayed the obvious advantages Brindisa has over other Spanish restaurants in London, in that not only are they preparing the food, they are also sourcing and buying it for themselves and others. It means that the ingredients are never less than primo and, while Teruel piggies are the equivalent of flat cap wearing Northerners to their Extremaduran aristocratic cousins, they still know how to put on a pleasing show, the lomo in particular gaining appreciative moans from HP.
The simple croqueta is the yardstick by which DH judge all Spanish restaurants and, at Casa Brindisa, the frying is fresh and greaseless and the filling is creamy and studded with little nuggets of Jamon. As good as any we have tried. Equally good was the restaurant version of the sandwich, which has punters queuing for an eternity at Borough Market with slices of fiery chorizo layered with sweet peppers on toasted bread, the sausage alone worth standing in line for.
Two main course dishes followed. The foie on top of a mound of lentils had been cooked perfectly with a slight salty crunch on the outside giving way to a blubbery melting inside. While the lentils had been overcooked a little until they had become mushy, the idea of spiking them with a Pedro Ximinez vinegar to cut through the fat was a good one. They just need to get the timing right.
An Iberican pork loin, on the other hand had been prepared correctly to medium, but had not been allowed to rest sufficiently so the bloody juices began to leach onto the serving plate. This bothered DH not a jot and we decanted them into a small bowl of olive oil mash that came with the meat, but I can imagine some balking at this particularly in a dish costing £15 a pop. A matter of timing, but a small quibble for a lovely piece of pig.
One of HP’s favourite dishes from Tapas Brindisa is a slab of deep fried Monte Enebro goat’s cheese drizzled with orange blossom honey. I had never tried it, but could understand the appeal although by now I was beginning to develop some slightly unnerving beads of sweat on my brow from the amount of food that was working its way through my system.
However, just as women seem to have the “second stomach” to call on specifically when desserts are on offer, DH too can discover extra capacity when needed and it was welcome now as we saw a plate of piping hot croquetas delivered to a neighbouring table. It just had to be done, they really are that good and our pudding order came in deep fried, creamy, ham studded form to create a perfect if slightly alarming ending to the meal.
It’s not cheap, good ingredients seldom are, but on this early showing £70, including a beer for HP and a 12.5% charge for efficient and friendly service, seems like reasonable value for money, particularly in a part of town that is a bit of a barren wasteland for decent dining options. Casa Brindisa is very good indeed maybe even good enough for a six year old little girl on her next visit to London.
When you are talking about one of DH’s nearest and dearest, that is very high praise indeed.