Restaurant Reviews

Restaurant Reviews

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Fed up with celebrity chefs drizzling sauces over undercooked pieces of meat? I am!

I regularly dine out and am happy to share my restaurant experiences, and views on food, with you.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Los Caracoles

Restaurant

Los Caracoles
Calle Escudellers 14
08002 Barcelona
Spain

Phone 93 302 31 85

Overview

As noted earlier, Eva and I went to Barcelona the other week for a well earned holiday. Despite being on holiday, we managed to continue on our mission to seek out new dining experiences and tried out a number of very enjoyable restaurants and eateries.

One of these being Los Caracoles (The Snails), a marvellous grill restaurant (famed for its spit roast chickens which can be seen roasting, against a large vertical barbecue, through the front window) situated near La Rambla.

Ambience

Los Caracoles is a family (Bofarull) run restaurant established in 1835.

The restaurant was a hive of activity, the cooking being done "open plan" so you can see as you enter the restaurant the chefs labouring over the wood fired barbecues.

There are several rooms in the restaurant, we were taken to one away from the barbecue area. The restaurant is decorated in light colours, with numerous photos of Spanish celebrities who have dined there adorning the walls. Cured hams hung from the ceiling.

Menu

The menu offered an excellent selection of steaks, chicken, seafood dishes and roast suckling pig.

Service

The service was very friendly and efficient, the menu was in English and the staff spoke English.

We were made to feel welcome.

Food

I started with the selection of cold meats, which was a mouthwatering array of chorizos and hams. The bread rolls that came with it were rather amusing,as they were shaped like snails

Eva decided to save herself for her main course which was a paella. This was a very fine dish indeed, containing a variety of seafood; clams, mussels and squid served in a bed of rice which had been cooked in a fish stock.

The taste was well balanced and not overpowering, and the fish were fresh and not overcooked. Eva was well pleased with her choice.

I had a sirloin steak for my main course. This was a very fine cut of meat, rich, thick and with just the right amount of fat to add flavour. The steak was succulent and tender, just right. It was served with French fries, grilled pepper and a grilled tomato.

The meal, which included a bottle of good bottle of Albario Pazo De Barrantes and a very good measure of cointreau, came to 88Euros before service.

Overall Opinion

A fine restaurant, which we will visit again when we return to Barcelona.

Friday, July 21, 2006

The Ultimate Hangover Cure

The Ultimate Hangover Cure

Lightly toast one slice of white bread, butter it and spread a good layer of marmalade on top.

Then place a poached egg on top of that.

An ideal way to improve your blood sugar levels, and banish the hangover.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Paco Alcalde

Restaurant

Paco Alcalde
Almirall Aixada 12
Barcelona
Spain

Phone 221 50 26

Overview

As noted earlier, Eva and I went to Barcelona last week for a well earned holiday. Despite being on holiday, we managed to continue on our mission to seek out new dining experiences and tried out a number of very enjoyable restaurants and eateries.

One of these being Paco Alcalde, a charming fish restaurant (famed for its fresh seafood) situated near the seafront in the old fishing port.

Ambience

Paco Alcalde was established in 1921, and is still owned and run by the founding family.

It was located just off the seafront in one of the narrow streets of the old fishing village of Barcelona. In case you are worried about walking past it by mistake, don't be! Standing outside, day and night, is one on the staff who greeted us warmly when we arrived and ensured that we had a nice table.

The restaurant is bright, cheerful and charming; it is decorated with cool tiled walls, and numerous ornaments related to fishing and the sea.

It is famed for its seafood, which is selected and prepared fresh every day.

The restaurant has a smoking and non smoking section, as well as a private function room for larger parties.

Menu

The menu offered an excellent selection of freshly caught local seafood, as well as steak and chicken.

Service

The service was very friendly and efficient, the menu was in English and the staff spoke English to varying degrees. They also offered to help us with our three or four words of Spanish.

We were made to feel very welcome. Indeed when it came time for the cointreaus, at the end of meal, we were poured two rather magnificent measures (enough to swim a goldfish in!).

When we left we were offered warm and hearty handshakes by the staff and a friendly adios!.

Food

I have to confess that I am not that fond of fish, so I stuck to the meat dishes; and started with a cannelloni.

This was rather good, unlike the Italian version it contained no tomatoes but instead was very meaty and was smothered in an unctuous bechamel sauce. I was more than happy with this as a starter.

Eva decided to save herself for her main course which was a paella. This was a simple (by British Spanish restaurant standards) dish, containing langoustines, clams and squid served in a bed of rice which had been cooked in a dark fish stock (squid I would say). Note were you order this dish in the UK, it would be stuffed with all manner of seafood, peas and peppers.

That being said, less is more; the dish was well balanced and not overpowering, and the fish were very fresh. Eva was happy with the "simple" version.

I had an entrecote steak for my main course. This was a good thick cut of meat, rich, thick and with just the right amount of fat to add flavour. The steak was cooked just right, and was very tender. It was served with french fries and a grilled tomato.

The meal, which included a bottle of good bottle of Torres Vina Sol and two very large cointreaus, came to 52Euro before service.

Overall Opinion

A superb restaurant, which we most certainly will visit again when we return to Barcelona.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Advice To "Professional" Chefs

Check your egos and temperaments in at the front door, before you enter the kitchen.

When a customer asks you to fry an egg, do it; don't argue that you are too busy. The customer comes first, not your egos, vanity and arrogance.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Mi Burrito y Yo

Restaurant

Mi Burrito y Yo (My Donkey and I)

Paso de la Ensenanza, 2
Barcelona
Spain

Phone 93-318-2742

Overview

Eva and I went to Barcelona last week for a well earned holiday. Despite being on holiday, we managed to continue on our mission to seek out new dining experiences and tried out a number of very enjoyable restaurants and eateries.

One of these being Mi Burrito y Yo (My Donkey and I), a charming steak house near La Rambla.

Ambience

The surroundings were very quaint and rustic, the specialties on the menu were roast meats cooked on an open fire at the entrance level. Downstairs was a small dining room and bar area (with a most sucullent smoked ham sitting atop the bar) upstairs was a larger dining room with a piano for entertainment.

Menu

The menu offered a good selection of steaks, pork, fish and other Spanish dishes.

Service

The service was friendly and efficient, the menu was in English and although our waitress did not speak that much English we had no trouble making ourselves understood.

Food

We were given a large basket of freshly baked bread, two fresh tomatoes, two large fresh garlic cloves and a bottle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar at the outset.

The idea being to cut the tomatoes and garlic up, place them on the bread and drizzle the combination with oil and vinegar (DIY brushetta).

What may seem to be rather simple idea was in fact absolutely glorious on the taste buds, and is something that we are inclined to institute at home for our own meals.

Having munched our way through our "Spanish canape", we then proceeded with the serious business of eating our meal.

Eva started with a hearty bowl of vegetable soup with fried croutons. This was a splendid dish, not too thick but neither was it too watery. The balance of vegetables and potatoes were just right, with the croutons added a crunchy texture to the dish.

I started with the tortilla, a homemade omelette filled with cheese and mushrooms. This was unctuous, the omelette (as it should be) was still a little runny and combined perfectly with the mushrooms and cheese. An ideal starter.

Eva chose a light dish of carpaccio for her main course. This being Spain it was not that "light", and consisted of a good sized dish of thinly sliced beef interspersed with cheese shavings and drizzled with olive oil. She was very happy with this dish, the more so because the soup had been very filling.

I chose the pork fillet for my main course. This consisted of two very generous cuts of pork, seasoned with herbs, which had been cooked on the open barbecue. The taste was superb, and the meat very tender and succulent. In my view it had been cooked to perfection. The dish was accompanied by a baked potato and grilled tomatoes.

The meal, which included a bottle of good bottle of Spanish wine, came to 70Euro before service.

Overall Opinion

A splendid restaurant, we heartily recommend it.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Pret A Manger Heathrow Terminal 1

Pret A Manger Heathrow Terminal 1

I recently passed through Pret A Manger at Heathrow Terminal 1, and tried the smoked salmon sandwich on brown buttered bread. I have a few observations and some advice for Pret.
  • The butter was barely noticeable on one slice of the bread, and non existent on the other. Given that the sandwich was described as buttered, there should at least be some evidence of butter.


  • The sandwiches are cut in half, and are presented in their boxes with the filling side visible. In the box the sandwich looked well stuffed with salmon. On close examination this effect had been achieved by the old catering trick of piling up the filling in the centre, and leaving the edges bare; ie never judge a sandwich by its presentation box.


  • The counter tops, where the customers can eat their sandwiches, needed to be wiped down; and the floor need to be swept.
In catering, attention to detail is everything.