Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Restaurant Review: Brindisa

I spent the best part of this morning doing the Christmas food shop at Borough Market, which thanks to the ample availability of free samples was great fun.  It was, however, tiring, especially as I kept deciding to buy really heavy things that I didn't need, like bottles of olive oil and a whole celeriac.  Some of the weight was from sheer quantity and cheese has to take most of the blame here.  Either way despite guzzling samples of parmesan, sausages, smoked salmon (the Shellseekers supply is highly recommended, it was absolutely delicious), etc, etc I decided that lunch was in order.

You might have read an article I posted a while ago about the best snack/quick stand up lunch at Borough Market.  The Brindisa chorizo sandwich was for me a clear winner, so I thought it high-time I tried their proper place just round the corner from their market stall.  I had high hopes given the excellent quality of the produce that they sell and my excitement led to the slightly embarrassing situation of arriving at quarter to twelve, fifteen minutes before the kitchen opened.  No matter at least it meant we got a table, something which can be very difficult when the market is busy, where we proceeded to order a couple of cold tapas and some wine.
Brindisa does tapas, rather than large plates, although some of the portions are well sized for food that you're meant to pick at and three plates and a couple of glasses of wine are probably fine for a light lunch.  Its a very nice location for this as well.  Its on one corner of the market and people are continuously walking past, its tight packed but not so much to be uncomfortable, which creates a nice buzz that isn't so loud it gets in the way of your conversation, something probably helped by the high ceilings.  The decor is clean lined and modern, with high racks of wine behind the bar and shelves full of paprika and other produce high up on other walls.  The seating is split down the middle into restaurant and bar style, with some seating outside for warmer months.

Most importantly the food is very good and they have a good selection of wines by the glass which is useful in a place like this, which is often a stop-off for shoppers.   We started with a place of Salchichon (cured sausage) which was excellent, with a good fat content, that was eased by it being cut extremely thinly.  Next to that was a plate of fresh goats cheese with salted bread sticks.  This was fine, but nothing more and I probably wouldn't get it again.  By the time we had finished these the kitchen was open and our warm food started to arrive.

First some croquettes with jamon.  These are made with thick b√©chamel sauce studded with cured ham then rolled in bread crumbs and deep fried to create a bite-sized portion.   Although they lacked the absolute lightness of a perfect croquette were very good, the deep fried parsley garnish helped add a vivid green colour and fresh note that complimented them nicely.  Alongside this came a portion of fried potatoes with allioli, these were dusted with paprika which gave them a nice sweetness.  These were a good filler but could have been slightly crisper.  Next came, what for me was the star of the meal; Crispy pork belly in quince sauce, two slices of roast belly pork with  a splash of thick red sauce.  There was some salad but this was just there because we're in England, in Spain they wouldn't have bothered and really it did nothing for the dish to have it here.  Initially I thought the sauce was too sweet, but then the salty crackling, crispy with just a bit of chew, started to take over and the astringent notes of the sauce started to cut through the fat that is characteristic of this cut.  Next the flavours of a really fantastic piece of meat began to build overtaking the others.  It was nice that such a simple mouthful created so many different sensations to create something really delicious.  After that I thought I'd be greedy and ordered calves liver with apple salad, which was also excellent, nicely cooked and juicy with sweet, and sour apple going very well.

All in all the meal was very good and around twenty pounds here should buy a good lunch along with a glass of wine, although our couple of glasses of unnecessary but nice pudding wine pushed it a bit higher.  Probably a bit extravagant for a shopping trip, but then Christmas cometh only once a year!

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