Warning: this post contains medieval history. Spanish medieval history. Don’t say you weren’t warned.
La Cuina is one of those little gems everyone should know about. Lurking up a Canton side street- where Patagonia stood- you find yourself wondering where you heard ‘compact and bijou, Mostyn. Compact and bijou‘ as you enter. The ground floor houses a mere two tables but the majority of the space is given to a sumptuous Spanish deli, creaking with wines and cheeses and oils and charcuterie and all sorts of odds and ends that have you cursing that fortnight til payday.It’s reminiscent of the wonderful La Lunya in Liverpool One, but on a more space-conscious scale.
Luckily we got in when we did. Due to a bit of a cock-up on the organisation front we hadn’t booked yet we snaffled the last available downstairs seats, by a stroke of luck. The lunchtime menu is tapas-only, but evenings see a more formal dinner menu.
The choice on offer was well-considered. After our waiter had endured some well-meaning teasing from my mother about his being from ‘New Castile’ (they don’t half have long memeories, these Iberian types)* we rattled off our order and awaited the parade of dishes.
(An aside. The concept of going out and sitting down to tapas is still faintly odd. Some of my best memories are of cousins taking me on Tempranillo-fuelled, freewheeling trips around a cavalcade of tiny bars, stopping at this because they do great sardines, or heading for that one for the tortilla…a far cry from having it all plonked down in front of you as you stay seated. Anyway…)
Prawns were garlicky, lemony and sweet- pretty much what you need and want from prawns. Chorizo (don’t get me started on people who call it ‘chuh-rit-so’. They irk me) and new potatoes fried to perfection: simple cooking of good ingredients, a quintissential tapa and a must-dip for the crusty bread and punchy, peppery organic olive oil on the table.
The baked leeks (‘calcots’- why does that word make me think of Carmella Soprano telling Tony what’s for dinner…) might not have looked immediately prepossessing, but inside the brown paper parcel they were full of sweetness and silkiness, abetted by a superb Romesco sauce.
So far, so good, then.
The two varieities of Pyrenean butifarra we ordered (del perol and negra, respectively) were a cute spin on sausage and mash in their own mini casserole dishes.
Anchovies on goats’ cheese and toast were a triumph. Robust saltiness and mildness and crunch and chew in a bite. The highlight.
The pork metballs, loosely packed and flavoured with apricot and served with a sweet, almond-flecked sauce were a resounding hit.
Next: the acid test. My mother’s croquetas are the stuff of childhood memory and family fame. We opted for the jamón variety and they did not disappoint; crisp and molten and salty and savoury and earning the (almost) ultimate accolade- “Almost as good as mine!”
You’ll have to forgive her. They really are that good.
You recall that anchovies and Garrotxa cheese which was such a highlight? This trumped it. Just. Sobrassada is perhaps not as well known as it might be in Britain; this was a cracking example of just how good it can be, to convert any unbelievers.
Soft, spreadable paprika sauage sat on a sharp yet creamy cheese and toast that should feature in some kind of ‘How To Warm Bread Expertly’ guide. A slick of honey completed it. Absolutely wonderful.
We left full and happy. And some of these- in particular, the anchovies and the sobrassada- have been popping into my mind since Saturday. As late-birthday-plus-thanks-for-looking-after-the-baby treats go, it did the job.
11 Kings Road
La Cuina on Urbanspoon
*My family’s home town, Valladolid, is part of Old Castile and has a proud history. It was the site of the Spanish court for many years, until it decamped to (you guessed it) Madrid. And while Madrid has its football and its culture and its art, Valladolid has its Ribera del Duero and its lechazo and its cochinillo and its morcilla and had them first. Or so says my mum. Madrid is a relative newcomer to Castile, since the 18th century, but these timescales move to glacial pace…
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This blog is a very simple thing.
I won’t try to sell you any hand lotion, exercise programmes, coffee syrups or Patagonian nose flutes. You won’t find tips on dating, ‘wellness’ or yoga mats.
I write because I love it (and food, as indicated by my increasing girth). Greed happens to be my Deadly Sin of choice, but at least it is never shy of providing me with subject matter.
A simple thing, then: all you get is me wittering on semi-coherently about places I’ve eaten at; hence a ‘restaurant blog’ rather than a ‘food blog’, although there are a few recipes scattered throughout.
From mezze to Michelin ‘fine dining’ and all points in between.