Last year we were treated to one of the best meals that we have ever eaten when we dined at Casa Roja in the Lanzarote resort of Puerto del Carmen. The food served up by head chef Paul Campbell was outstanding and when coupled with the service that restaurant manager, Viktor Domahidy delivered front of house, meant that we had a memorable evening. After the busy dinner service, we were lucky enough to grab a quick chat with Paul and learnt a little about his background in the industry and get a feel for his love of using fresh local produce as much a possible.
When we returned to Lanzarote this year we were staying in the resort of Playa Blanca but had been planning on a trip to Puerto Del Carmen in order to return to Casa Roja, however shortly before our return we learned that both Paul and Viktor had left Casa Roja. It didn't take too long to find out that the pair had left in order to set up their own venture - Barstro, a bistro with a twist. In the sleepy town of Nazaret, Paul and Viktor have very quickly put a new pin on the Lanzarote food map with a restaurant that is wowing both locals and tourists alike, not just as a place to enjoy delicious food with family or friends but as an exhibition venue for local artists and photographers.
Since his decision to move with his family to the Canary Islands back in 2003, Paul has enjoyed taking on new projects such as Casa Tegoyo, which quickly became one of the finest restaurants in Lanzarote. Paul is now doing what he loves to do, where the key ingredient is simplicity. The aim is for Barstro diners to feel relaxed, and enjoy simple but good food... Always with a twist!
Here's Paul's Story;
How did you get started?
Westminster college is where it all began and then through my early years working in London at Claridges and with Gary Rhodes. High profile, high pressure, but great fun, and I feel very privileged.
What’s the best piece of business advice you could give?
Don’t rush into anything, take time to think about your ideas and listen to the good advice around you, BUT always follow your gut instincts too, it can be difficult to juggle these!
Where would you like to see your business in 5 years time?
We have a achieved far more than we could ever have hoped to achieve in the four months since we opened the doors at Barstro. The sky is the limit, but for now we are enjoying the here and now. The plan is for the business to still be making us happy, and also ensuring that every guest who steps across the Barstro threshold feels the same.
If you could only have one of your own products, what would it be & why?
As much as I would love to think about my favourite product, its actually impossible. So much of what I do is about team work, and the same rule applies to the products I use..If forced to choose a product I rely heavily on, it would have to be good fresh local herbs and vegetable produce.
You can invite one person (living or dead) to your last meal – Who would it be and why? …and what’s on the menu?
Georges Auguste Escoffier, one of the most important leaders in the development of modern French cuisine
I would invite him to try my take on suprêmes de volailles Jeannette (jellied chicken breasts with foie gras). This would be followed by my own version of a pêche Melba. Both of these dishes are his creations, but I would throw in a Paul Campbell twist!
Having read so many good things about Barstro in its first couple of months, and knowing that Paul had wowed us before with his skill in the kitchen, we knew that we would be making time to drive through to Nazaret before our holiday ended.
Our last day was a busy one, I had been invited onto a radio talks how on the radio station PowerFM where Gerry's Kitchen had the opportunity to help spread the word about the fantastic food and wine on the island, promote some of the places that we love to eat, as well as a little self publicity.
Barstro is very easy to find, just 100 yards off of the main road through Nazaret, and when we arrived we were welcomed by Viktor as if we were long lost friends. After a bit of a catch up, We were seated and left to look through the menu whilst Viktor arranged our drinks.
Since Barstro opened its doors, Paul has been making changes to the menu on a regular basis. This allows him to make best use of season products as well as keeping thing fresh for the regular visitors to the restaurant.
With a good choice of appetising tapas, savoury starters and hearty main dishes, there were plenty of options on the menu. We ordered four tapas plates to start with, knowing that we could order more if we need.
In true tapas tradition, our dishes were brought out as soon as each one was ready. The first being the Goats Cheese & Sweet Pepper Tart which was an explosion of colour and taste. The buttery pastry base topped with sharp goats cheese and wonderfully sweet roasted pepper, and peppery rocket leaves. This was such a simple idea but executed perfectly. We both loved the tart and agreed that it would be a great starter dish in its own right, and as a shared tapas dish it worked a treat.
Next to arrive was the Crispy Aromatic Duck. The duck was a great example of Paul putting his Barstro twist on a Chinese classic. The presentation was fantastic, with two crispy duck legs stacked over roasted leek and courgette, drizzled with hoisin sauce. The slow cooked duck was so tender, practically falling from the bone, the skin was crispy and full of flavour. The authentic flavour in the duck were every bit as good as I would expect from a quality
The third tapas dish to arrive was both myself and Nicola's favourite. We both love chorizo and chickpeas so this casserole was always likely to satisfy us both, which it certainly did. Chunks of spicy, smoky chorizo in a rich creamy sauce with perfectly cook chickpeas topped with a couple of chunks of warm bread for dipping. The sauce was packed with paprika, thyme and garlic and tasted just wonderful. I could easily have spent all day with just a bowl of sauce and a warm baguette for company.
The last dish to arrive was a bowl of marinated fresh Lanzarote cheese which was accompanied by cornichons, roasted peppers and loads of fresh herbs in olive oil. Once again, the dish was full of flavour, with rosemary, thyme and bay leaves helping add subtle flavour to the creamy island cheese. This dish was a great balance to the three warm tapas that we had ordered and as we forked the last few pieces of cheese from the bowl, we were both glad to have made the journey through to Barstro.
Every plate that came to the table was presented beautifully and tasted exactly as I would have expected. The four tapas that we ordered were of a good size and we were both feeling a a little stuffed by the end. In fact, were so that we had to turn down the dessert menu. (This may have been partly down to the fact that earlier in the day, we had scoffed a lovely carrot cake that had been give to us by the wonderful Sarah from English Cakes Lanzarote).
I'm glad that we took time to get through to Barstro as the service was excellent and the food that came out of Paul's kitchen was delicious. Barsto is one of the reason that I encourage holiday makers to island to hire a car and get out of the resorts. There are plenty of fantastic restaurants around the Islands and Barstro has very quickly become one of my new favourites. Lanzarote should be proud to have a chef of Paul Campbell's level pouring his heart and soul into turning local produce into wonderful food.Anyone who has visited Barstro already will have met Viktor & Mercédesz Domahidy. Along with Paul Campbell they are co-owners of the restaurant, and partners in crime running the floor. They´ve been working together for many years, since meeting during their careers on board the Royale Caribbean Cruise Liners. Viktor has worked as a highly professional fine dining maître d', but prefers to run the Barstro floor in a less formal way, creating a relaxed vibe. With Viktor's keen eye for service coupled with Paul working to the philosophy of 'La bonne cuisine est la base du véritable bonheur' - Which means, Good food is the foundation of genuine happiness, you can be sure that Barstro will continue to pleasure diners for years to come!
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