For Iberian excellence, Tom samples two London restaurants… from his own kitchen
Nieves Barragán Mohacho is one hell of a cook. I first tasted her food nearly 20 years back, at the great and pioneering Fino in Fitzrovia. Then followed her through the Barrafina years and on to Sabor, the place she now owns with her friend and business partner José Etura. I’ve never had a bad bite.
The Sabor en Casa box (£90, and delivery from £10) is, as you’d expect, magnificent. Postbox red Càdiz prawns, sweet as young love, with a sigh of garlic and nudge of chilli, cooked for a few seconds in a hot pan. Octopus is vac-packed with some olive oil, and warmed in the bag. The dish is finished with salt and smoked sweet paprika. For a second, when I close my eyes, I could be in a Galician bar, rather than cold lockdown London.
There’s a tortilla mix, ready to be gently fried in a small pan, impossible to muck up. Although not having a small frying pan, I use a saucepan instead. And ham croquetas, deep-fried in vegetable oil (also included), the béchamel centre so light and oozing that it feels like eating a hot, pig-scented cloud. Beetroot salad is clean and fresh, with a great honk of fresh horseradish; arroz negro (rice cooked in squid-ink broth), while beautifully rich and surprisingly delicate, is blacker than Satan’s soul. A huge blob of aïoli adds pungent allure. For pudding, a glorious prune cheesecake, not over-sweet, with a Pedro Ximénez sherry sauce.
Then over to Portugal, and a box from London’s Bar Douro (£90, and delivery from £10). A plateful of pata negra ham, the flesh streaked with swirls of alabaster fat. More croquetas, this time flavoured with smoked sausage, more robust than those from Sabor, but every bit as good. There’s a salt cod hash, where pearlescent flakes of that Portuguese staple are mixed with crisp straw potatoes, a couple of beaten eggs and a fistful of olives. It takes minutes to cook and seconds to devour. A vast lamb shank, slow-cooked in red wine, and reheated in the bag, bleats with ovine depth, while grilled cabbage comes with soubise (puréed grilled onions) and roasted, garlic-heavy potatoes with paprika and herb oil.
Simple dishes, but not the sort you’d usually cook at home. Two boxes of pure Iberian delight.
Drinks: Olly’s best online wine picks
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WINE OF THE WEEK: XINOMAVRO JEUNES VIGNES THYMIOPOULOS 2019 (13%), £11.50, The Wine Society. Fine wine in bargain form. Vibrant, complex, bright; this is peerless.
PASQUA PASSIMENTO ROSSO 2017 (14%), £8.99, Majestic. This rich, sleek and fulsome red is stunning with a spaghetti bolognese.
BERRY BROS & RUDD ALBARIÑO BY BENITO SANTOS 2019 (13%), £13.95, bbr.com. A peach carved from crystal! Stunning purity from this own-label ace.
GOUGUENHEIM BLUE MELOSA 2015 (14%), £15.80, tanners-wines.co.uk. Magical Malbec – think mint choc chip meets wine. A generous, rich red.
ADNAMS NERO D’AVOLA 2017 (13%), £7.49, adnams.co.ukadnams.co.uk. Immense value for a juicy, plummy weekday red. Liquid sunsets!
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