Tag Archives: Tapas

Tapas, Meze, Light Bites… little morsels of loveliness

I have always enjoyed the idea of small plates of food that you can share so that you can sample what a kitchen has to offer and also a great way to share a meal. I have recently sampled a few meals like this in the last month or so. Firstly on a recent hook up with world renowned chocolatier Damian Allsop in Girona Spain we sampled some beautiful tapas in a back street establishment called Restaurant Curcuma. It was right in the city centre and had a modern simple decor but some great tasty and innovative tapas.

Cod with Sobrassada Sausage
Turmeric scented Croquetas

Highlight for me were the turmeric (the name of the restaurant) scented croquetas, crispy cased and soft unctuous centres and some steamed cod topped with roasted onions, honey and Sobrassada sausage. Innovative flavours simply presented and reasonably priced.

Then more recently we found ourselves back in the town of Whitstable at one our favourites – the infamous and highly popular Jo Jo’s Restaurant where they specialise in Mediterranean meze, – large sharing boards of assorted well sourced cold meats, cheese and small bowls of Hummus, Tzatziki etc as well as small plates of other ever changing specials and regular favourites. The cod or haddock goujons in a beer batter highlight the fresh fish that are ever so popular.

Crispy Pigs Ears...
Crispy Pigs Ears…

I also quietly ordered one of the blackboard specials of  the day… Crispy Pigs Ears with a Remoulade sauce. This was a very generous portion of crispy crumb coated slivers of porcine goodness that were to put it mildly rapidly devoured by even the youngest of our party ( a 4 year old) with gusto.

All that sharing ensured a very respectable and celebratory lunch was had by all.

Then most recently I was invited to a restaurant in the centre of Canterbury that was not on my radar or I had any idea of its existence. I was joining a friend who had been invited for a lunch at Deesons Restaurant where head chef Ross Barden was keen for us to try their newly launched “British Tapas” dishes in this quintessentially modern British restaurant.

The tapas idea here was both innovative and at time quite unexpected and as a whole worked well with some good skilful thought out dishes but then some not so well executed ones.

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We actually sampled the entire menu and were generally impressed but did feel the kitchen was trying just a shade too hard. Dishes that worked really well and were outstanding were a twice baked “Old Winchester” cheese soufflé with a carrot pureé that needed a little more seasoning and sweetness to cut against the savoury nature of the cheese. The Confit hen’s yolk with buttered leeks and crispy chicken skin soldiers was inspired. The Crispy Haggis with a poached egg and parsnip crisps was also flavoursome but technically the haggis was a tad dry from over frying/baking so needed the soft egg to add liquid!

Cider Braised Beef Shin with apple juice and ginger with mash and cabbage was a wonderful unctuous dish but again lacked in seasoning. The Spring Greens with wholegrain mustard worked beautifully as did the charred broccoli with cheese sauce and flaked almonds whilst  smoked mash potato was less popular than the the plain one – it did need more butter, cream and salt.

In fact the seasoning overall throughout the meal did raise the question did “Chef” smoke as a lot of the dishes seemed under seasoned. This is a common situation in many a kitchen and for me something that was drummed into me in my formative years how important it is to season the food correctly and also taste it.

We also sampled a couple of croquette style dishes that when compared to a “Spanish croquetas” sadly missed the mark. The Smoked Cod Kedgeree was a good idea but the large cake like croquette was just to big and clumsy, a good livid coloured curry mayonnaise was much needed to moisten it.

The Pork and Potato Croquette served with an an apple butter was also oversized and would have been better smaller and perhaps served as a threesome. The apple butter on the tapas version did not pack the same punch that it did when served with the a la carte main course of Pork Tenderloin along with Black Pudding crumb and candied walnuts and a cider jus (to die for)

So overall this was a highly enjoyable delve into how we can equally compete with our continental partners and it can well showcase our own culinary heritage.

Deeson’s is a a little gem and I look forward to a return visit as I think if Chef Ross can sort out the issues we encountered he will be a place to watch in amongst the plethora of those  uninspiring tourist eating establishments of Canterbury.

Deeson’s British Restaurant
25-26 Sun Street


A Taste of Spain in deepest Kent…

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Well now it is not often I sit down and review a restaurant via my blog/web site but I think this place is worthy of a mention to those of you who follow my ramblings!

It was a very chilly Saturday morning a few weeks ago with the threat of heavy snowfalls that made me think we must be mad making a hundred mile round trip to meet for lunch with some long term friends.

Well we set off to the East of Kent to the farthest point one can travel to… namely the sleepy town of Broadstairs. Famed as the birthplace of a former UK PM – Sir Edward Heath, literary connections with Charles Dickens and Oliver Postgate of Clangers fame!

The place we were to frequent is the recently launched little Tapas Bar & Restaurant called Albariño … This is also a rather stunning Spanish wine that is a favourite of the husband and wife team that set the place up.

Steve Dray is a local lad having grown up down the road in Westgate-on-Sea before going off on his travels around the UK and then also to foreign climbs. He met his French born wife Stephanie in Manchester. Before they settled back in the Isle of Thanet they had spent a year out on the Caribbean island of the Turks & Caicos with their young son Stanley! We thought them mad to come back to chilly old “Blighty” but Steve had spent the previous six – nine months looking for various business opportunities before he stumbled upon the site he has now opened as Albariño.

The restaurant is located in the old part of the town in the narrow Albion Street with a little garden area opposite and then some lovely sea views for those summery days! Not so inviting on a cold winters day! However, we had what could best be described as a real flavour of Spain on this visit. The place is small, a big long bar dominates the room… Steve had it specially made from old snooker table slate! You can even spot some errant grooves in it made by the less professional “pot blacker’s”. An open plan kitchen enables you to watch Steve beaver away with your order and front of house service is attentive and friendly!

The warm welcome with a glass of Cava kicked our meal off as we tucked in to some big fat green olives and a dish of some homemade chickpea & fennel seeded chips that were light textured and crusty to whet the appetite!

We then chose to partake of the Chef’s selection of tapas whereby we were served a selection of that day’s tapas to share. Well what can I say but they were spot on, an imaginative array of dishes that really got the taste buds tingling! We kicked off with a some braised wild rabbit with artichokes, then came a delightful light tortilla with potatoes and onions, followed closely by a spicy Sobrasada Sausage, Garbanzo Beans and Spinach. We also had an amazing slow cooked Ox Cheek in a liquorice sauce with a garnish of butternut squash and fried sage leaves. Flavours were intense and cooking was top notch. We also shared a meat platter and also had some very good Ham & Cheese Croquettes as well that were to die for!

To round it all off we tried the Chocolate Almond Torta with Honeycomb Ice Cream and the Olive Oil & Polenta Cake with Goat’s Curd that were both to die for!

This was all in all a very good meal that showed some real signs of brilliance! Good solid culinary execution, an overall understanding of ingredients, combinations and balanced flavours. If you look at their web site they also list their suppliers which I feel shows just how serious they are about what they do, they support local suppliers and Steve’s passion to buy as local as possible even though his food is pretty authentically Spanish shows just how small the world is. It also illustrates well how creative the guy is as well!

If you are in the area or fancy a day out then make the trip…Book a table or just turn up – you will not be disappointed and do tell them Hari sent you!

I have used the photos from his web site as well but must credit Matthew Walters with them… they make me feel hungry again!