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Wednesday, 3 November 2010
Tapas aboard the Ferry Sherry and Camino @ Puerto del Canario
Being so obsessed with food, I enjoy the variety of flavours and textures and whenever I find myself eating out, I tend to order a lot of dishes. I find that tapas, dim sum, mezze or zakuski are the perfect meals where I can taste all the variety I want without ordering a silly amount of food. So when Krista Booker invited me aboard the "Sherry Ferry" heading towards Camino's newly opened branch at Puerto del Canario (aka Canary Wharf) with a bunch of other food bloggers, I did not have to think too hard.
Camino was right in front of us - I cannot think of a more hassle free or enjoyable way to get around London.
Following the success of the original King's Cross location, the new Camino at Canary Wharf, opened in September 2010 with stunning river views. The decor is casual but stylish with exposed Victorian brickwork, reclaimed oak and pine floorboards, and patterned Andalucian tiles.
On our visit, head chef Nacho del Campo had put together a tasting to show some of the highlights from his menu. Commendably, all meats are free range and the fish and seafood are from sustainable sources with the provenance clearly declared on their website.
We were served a selection of tapas dishes including "Anchoas con Pimientos" @ £5.25 - anchovies and piquillo peppers with sherry reduction - these had a nice balance between the saltiness of the fish and the sweetness of the peppers and sherry sauce.
"Higos con jamon" @ £5.50 - grilled stuffed fig with Mahon cheese, wrapped in ham with rocket and sherry reduction - this was another delicious dish with a sophisticated combination of flavours and textures (definitely a dish I would like to replicate at home).
"Chipirones a la andaluza" @ £5.75 - crispy fried baby squid with alioli and lemon - one of my favourite tapas, the baby squid was very tender with a crisp batter and went well with the citric/garlic flavours of the alioli.
"Pulpo a la parrilla" @ £9.75 - octopus tentacle with olive oil, mash and paprika - the grilled octopus was surprisingly tender with a delicious char-grilled flavour from the "parrilla". I loved the abundance of sweet, smokey paprika which seasoned both the meat and the mash.
"Arroz negro" @ £6.50 - black rice made with cuttlefish, squid ink and Calasparra rice, with baby squid and alioli - a Valencian dish, this was in my opinion one of the best tapas of the evening and one I will certainly order again. The rice, blackened by the squid ink, was creamy and tasted of the sea.
"Croquetas de jamon" @ £4.75 - Serrano ham croquettes - lovely and crisp on the outside with a generous filling of cured serrano ham.
"Pinchitos de pollo" @ £5 - herb marinated free-range chicken skewers - I can't think of a better accompaniment to a chilled glass of beer.
"Presa Iberica" @ £9.50 - Iberian black pork shoulder cooked medium rare - another seriously good dish, this was one of my top three tapas of the evening. Iberian black pigs are raised semi-wild in Spain; they eat large quantities of acorns which gives them their unique flavour. The ham from this animal is highly prized, and is aged for 30 months. It is beautifully marbled and can cost four to five times more than other hams like Serrano. It is the daddy of all hams.
"Chuleton a la parrilla" @ £9 - Scottish 'Mathers Black Gold' rib eye steak, matured for 28 days and served basque style - all beef at Camino's is sourced from free range cattle from Tanner Farm in Somerset. The steak was perfectly cooked and seasoned simply with sea salt. I really enjoyed this and at £9, I thought it was well priced.
To accompany the meat dishes we had "Papas arrugadas" @ £3.75 - sautéed potatoes with 'mojo picon' and "Pimientos de padron" @ £4.50 - sautéed little green peppers with sea salt. These were both adequate if slightly unexciting.
I enjoyed the "08 Pinot Noir from Vinas del Vero" @ £24.50, it had some subtle red fruit characters, and despite its youth, showed some complexity and hints of vanilla from the 10 months maturation in French oak.
For dessert, we had a medley of some of their signature desserts including "Tarta de Santiago" @ £5 - almond tart from Galicia with warm vanilla ice cream, "Bombita de Crema" - mini doughnut filled with custard, and "Helado con Pedro Ximenez Sherry" (ice-cream with PX) @ £5.50.
To accompany our desserts, a delicious 75 ml glass of chilled "Moscatel from Vall de Xalo" @ £3.50 was served. This was highly aromatic with honey and orange peel on the palate and great acidity.
The wine list is exclusively Spanish and has a comprehensive representation of 22 regions throughout the country from Jerez and Galicia to Priorat and Ribera del Duero. There are many choices of both red and white wines below £20 per bottle and I note that the mark up on most bottles is little more than double the retail price. This is commendable considering that the standard mark up in UK restaurants is now a whopping 4 to 5 fold.
For the deeper pocket, there is also a special selection of "Los Canones Grandes" or "Big Guns". These are iconic Spanish wines like the "07 Naiades Naia Vina Sila" @ £45 which won the Decanter Magazine best white wine, or the "99 Vega Sicilia Unico" priced at £290.
Cost: The London Foodie was a guest of Camino but I have indicated prices of all the dishes I tried. I estimate that a meal for one person including 4 tapas dishes would cost around £25 (excluding drinks and service).
Likes: excellent quality ingredients and cooking at reasonable prices. My top three recommendations are "Chipirones a la andaluza" @ £5.75 - crispy fried baby squid with alioli and lemon, "Arroz negro" @ £6.50 - black rice made with cuttlefish & squid ink and "Presa Iberica" @ £9.50 - Iberian black pork shoulder cooked medium rare.
Dislikes: the lack of a clear separation between the bar and restaurant areas may not make for a very relaxing dining experience (if that is what you are looking for).
Verdict: I enjoyed the excellent, authentic tapas at Camino, and was impressed by the comprehensive and well priced wine list. The crisp baby squid, black ink squid rice and Iberian black pork shoulder steaks were truly delicious and I cannot wait to have them again. Highly Recommended.
If you fancy a free bottle of Platinum Brut Cava with your meal from either Camino Kings Cross or Canary Wharf, click here.