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Saturday, 30 November 2013

5 Questions & Review - Barstro, Nazaret, Lanzarote

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!


Keep up to date with what's going at Barstro on Facebook




Friday, 15 November 2013

Recipe - Ropa Vieja

Having recently returned from Lanzarote where myself and my gorgeous wife were able to enjoy plenty of the wonderful food that the island had to offer. From travelling around the island to visit some of our favourite restaurants, to sampling the best of the rest at the Festival De Tapa, our taste buds were buzzing for the whole two weeks.
One evening, whilst eating at La Cantina, Nicola ordered the Canarian Stew. On the menu the dish was called Ropa Vieja, but what I didn't realise until we got home was that the name translates as Old Clothes. The odd name of the hearty stew of pork, chorizo & chick peas had me puzzled but after a little Google-ing, I was able to get to the bottom of what turns out to be an interesting story, part history/part folklore.
Ropa vieja originated in the Canary Islands, which was the last place ships from Spain would stop on the way to the Americas. It wasn't unusual for the returning Spanish ships coming back from the Americas to stop on the way home. As a result, The Canarian culture is very similar to the Caribbean as well as Spain. The original version of ropa vieja contained leftovers, but later became a shredded meat dish with chickpeas and potatoes in the Canary Islands. It is believed that the Canarian immigrants introduced Ropa Vieja to the Spanish colonies and the dish spread across the Caribbean, as well as parts of South America.
There are many theories as to how the dish was named. One of the more popular ones is a story about a man whose family was coming to his home for dinner. Being very poor, the man could not buy them enough food when they came. To remedy his situation, he went to his closet, gathered some old clothes (ropa vieja) and permeated them with his love. When he cooked the clothes, his love for his family turned the clothes into a wonderful beef stew.
Some versions in the Canary Islands contain beef, chicken or pork, or a combination of any of the three, often bulked up with potatoes and/or chick peas. So with this information under my belt, plus with a little input from Zoe (part owner of La Cantina), I decided to make my very own attempt Ropa Vieja.
Ingredients
  • 200g pork shoulder, diced
  • 200g braising beef, diced (I used beef shin)
  • 100g chorizo, diced
  • 1 large leek, chopped
  • 2 stick celery, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 2 large potatoes, cubed
  • 100g butternut squash, cubed
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
  • 1tsp smoked paprika
  • 1tsp hot smoked paprika
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 1 tbsp umami paste
  • 200ml chicken stock
  • 200ml beef stock
  • 400g tin chick peas
Method
  1. Heat a good glug of olive oil in a pan before adding the pork and beef. Brown the meat before adding the chorizo.
  2. After a few minutes the chorizo will start to release it's spicy oil. At this point, add the garlic, leek, squash, celery, red pepper, and chick peas. Cook on a medium heat until the vegetables begin to soften then stir in the umami paste, tomato purée and the paprika.
  3. Add the stock and bring everything to the boil before reducing to a simmer. Add the potatoes to the pan then cover with a lid or piece of tin foil. Cook for about an hour, stirring occasionally to ensure that the contents don't stick to the bottom of the pan. If the stew looks to be drying out, feel free to add a little more water.
To serve, spoon a generous amount of the stew into bowls with thick slices of chunky bread on the side. This is a proper hearty dish, full of big flavours & tender meat that would be perfect for a cold winter evening. My own version of Ropa Vieja tasted pretty close to the flavours that Nicola had experienced at La Cantina and defiantly something that I will be making again.
Remember that Ropa Vieja is traditionally a dish prepared from leftovers, so if you're struggling to thing what to do with the leftover meat from your Sunday roast this weekend, have a rummage around the vegetable drawer and spice rack to see if you've got the basis for your very own 'old clothes'.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Review - Restaurante Isla De Lobos, Princesa Yaiza hotel, Playa Blanca, Lanzarote


As the cold winter evening draw in, our recent holiday to Lanzarote seems such a long time ago. Since we've come back I have managed to post up a couple of food stories so far and hope to get a couple more written up in the coming weeks.
The resort of Playa Blanca is peppered with a large number of 4* hotels, as well as a few 5* hotels, all of which blend in with the luxury villas spread across this growing resort. Within a short walk from our own villa, stood the Princesa Yaiza, a hotel that is often regarded as the most attractive of all of the islands places to stay. (often the destination of the rich and famous)
We had enjoyed drinks at one of the hotels bars during our first week and as we sat in the luxurious surroundings we decided that we wanted to try out one of the restaurants within the hotel before our holiday was over. After a quick chat with Elisa on reception it was decided that the gourmet restaurant, Isla De Lobos, was the best place to experience 5* dining, so with that advice taken on board we booked a table for the following week.
Restaurante Isla de Lobos is located deep within the Princesa Yaiza Hotel complex, overlooking the sea and the cluster of Islands that the restaurant takes its name from. We were seated promptly by the Maître d' and left to get comfortable as we looked over the menu. Whilst we waited, our waiter arrived with some warm breads, flavours butters and wonderful homemade grissini before taking our wine order.
I've written before about the rising popularity, and our own love of Lanzarote wines which meant that we had no difficulty in choosing wine to accompany our dinner and before long we were savouring the fantastic rosé produced by Bodega Stratvs from just up the road in La Geria.

As we cast our eyes over the a la carte menu, there were so many starters and mains that sounded great so we were delighted to see that there was a well priced 5 course tasting menu that just happened include some of the dishes that had caught our attention.
The restaurant uses organic and locally produced product where and when it can, and also works along the Slow Food philosophy, ensuring that it's diners have the time to enjoy and appreciate the skill of both the kitchen and the hardworking producers across the island. So without further ado, we ordered and sat back in anticipation of what hopefully would be a meal to remember.
The menu boasted five courses plus an appetiser and sorbet. It wasn't long before the appetiser arrived. Any this point I'd like to apologise for some of the poor photography. Out table was halfway in, halfway out of the dining area and a sush, my camera was struggling to work out whether to use or not use it's flash.
The appetiser was a little glass with chilled chunks of poached chicken with pineapple in a sour cream and horseradish sauce, which seemed like an odd combination of flavours but was very nice and helped cleanse our palette before the first of the five courses arrived.
The first actual course was a starter of goats cheese salad with caramelised pistachios, palm honey and mustard vinaigrette. What a way to start a meal! The sharp goats cheese was balanced by the sweetness from the pistachios and palm honey and an almost perfect mix of textures made this possibly my favourite course.
After a short gap, the next course arrived. A huge succulent slightly sweet scallop was cooked to perfection, in a cream of white asparagus, topped with a grilled spears of both green and white asparagus and lime crystals. We both love scallops and asparagus so it's fair to say that we were both happy with the second course. A simplistic dish that didn't lack flavour - I just wish that there had been another giant scallop on my plate!
After two delicious starters, it was time for our fish course, and time for the presentation to be stepped up a notch. We were served Canary Island Stone Bass served on creamed potatoes with confit tomato and almond vinaigrette. There is a lot of debate about the local island fish in Lanzarote, the locally named stone bass, cherne or wreckfish is often attributed to both sea bream and sea bass. The grilled fish that we were served was a well seasoned fillet of what was most likely grouper. Regardless, the giant flaked fillet of grilled fish on our plate was great. Again, the varying textures and flavours made this a plate of food to remember.
So far so good. We were just over halfway through our tasting menu and our taste buds had been thoroughly tested. At this point we were served a palate cleansing Mojito sorbet, packed with plenty of lime and mint flavour. I love the idea of serving a sorbet between courses, especially when moving from a fish course and onto a meat course. We had to make quick work of the sorbet before nature took its course and it melted away. It may have been the start of October but the outside temperature was still in the low twenties at 9pm!
Refreshed after our sorbet palate cleanser, the fourth dish to arrive took our breath away. The roasted Canarian suckling pig with lemon gel and honey glaze was delightful. The suckling pig, or piglet to you and I, was slow cooked at a low temperature for over 8 hours, resulting in the most tender piece of pork that I've eaten. The sweet flavours from the honey glaze, as well as the sweetness from the pumpkin purée was countered by the sharp lemon jelly. The only criticism I could pass here is that I would have liked there to have been more pumpkin or potato to accompany the decent chunk of tasty pork.
So with starters and mains done, we expected our dessert course to make an appearance, however this was interrupted by the arrival of the sommelier and a couple of chilled glasses of dessert wine. When we booked our table the previous week, I 'might' have mentioned to the receptionist that I write a food blog and was looking forward to some fine dining - Id like to take this time to mention that that the Bodega Stratvs Moscatel that was served to us on the night was deducted from the bill , and say a big thank you to the staff at Princesa Yaiza.
Until recently, I hadn't really tasted dessert wine much but always had the impression that it would be sickly sweet and unpalatable but the Stratvs Moscatel was great, with aromas of dates and apricots and a rich taste which lingered on the tongue. I could definitely get used to enjoying this after a meal.
As we nursed our Moscatel, the chef wowed us again with his adaptation of a sailboat. The dessert was a warm pumpkin coulant filled with melted white chocolate, accompanied by a sharp mango sorbet, raspberry coulis and a white chocolate sail. The word coulant means 'flowing, of a spring or river. In cooking terms it is more often seen in the classic dessert - Coulant au Chocolate, or melting middle chocolate fondants. Tonight we had a deliciously light pumpkin sponge with a lush white chocolate gooey middle. Super sweet with sharp mango and raspberry helping to balance things out.
The last two and a bit hours had been wonderful. We had been served five beautifully presented plates of food, in addition to this we had our appetiser, a zingy sorbet plus the moscatel, and our evening was coming to an end. Of course, after such a wonderful meal, it would be wrong to end our meal without a coffee. We both ordered a cortado, the Spanish staple, which were served with some petit fours. The coffee was rich and bold, the frozen cheesecake and ganache filled dark chocolate cups were just enough to leave us feeling properly stuffed.
In recent times we have eaten a couple of very nice meals, and this tasting menu was right up there with the best. The cost for the 5 course tasting menu was €48, about £40, which represents fantastic value - especially when you think of the quality of food that was served up. What made the night even more enjoyable for me was that my gorgeous wife decided to treat me and paid the bill herself! What a result!
If you enjoy good food and like to be treated well, then spending the evening at the Princesa Yaiza is a great way to spend the evening . If you happen to be staying in Playa Blanca, in fact anywhere on the island, take time to visit Restaurante Isla de Lobos - you'll be glad that you did!