O’ Surf and Turf #timeoutmarkets #lisbon

There are mixed reviews of O’Surf and Turf, Famous Portuguese chef Kiko Martins’ Time Out Market restaurant in Lisbon, where he combines meat and seafood in innovative recipes.

However, we thought the opportunity to try his food without the fuss of organising a booking or the expense of his most famous restaurant A Cevercheria at this informal restaurant was a good one and it certainly worked out that way. It was also fun to soak in the busy, buzzy atmosphere of the markets and watch the chefs at work by sitting inside at the bar for lunch.

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Whilst I admittedly have had better prawns in garlic sauce that we shared as a starter, the other dishes and the bread and snacks were excellent.

The toasted corn kernels and the dips served with the bread, including the soft egg with Paprika was interesting to kick off the meal.

The cod served on a bed of chestnut purée was a fabulous combination of sweet and salty, and the roasted octopus with a smoky paprika sauce and sago flavoured with black squid ink was delicious.

Probably not the place for those looking for more traditional Portuguese fare but definitely a great place to sample some of the emerging and exciting foodie scene in Lisbon.

Fabrica #coffee #breakfast #Lisbon

Stumbled on Fabrica in Rue Das Flores in Lisbon when we were looking for good coffee and breakfast in Bairro Alto quarter in Lisbon.

The aroma of coffee brewing drew us into this very hip, urban cafe, with what I would describe as a mix of organic and industrial interior design, not knowing that the coffee is all grown and roasted in Portugal.

According to their website which I looked up later:

“Fabrica was created with the strong belief that it’s time for Portugal to get to know genuine specialty coffee. Independent from the root, our family’s goal was to establish a unique coffee experience by being involved in every step of production. By forming direct trade partnerships with farmers, roasting on site in Lisbon, and offering a variety of extraction methods, we deliver a remarkable final product to your cup.”

And our experience lived up to this claim. Great coffee, friendly service and a delicious and simple breakfast menu. Just the light breakfast we were looking for after our wonderful Michelin Star restaurant experience at Bel Canto the night before.

Apparently, they now have three locations in both Lisbon and Porto and offer an international subscription service for all of their home-roasted beans. https://www.fabricacoffeeroasters.com/en/about-us/

Beautiful Belcanto: taste sensations, beyond expectations #2michelinstar #lisbon #joseavillez

We went to Belcanto on our first night in Lisbon as a special 50th birthday treat for me, gifted by generous friends.

We had read all the rave reviews and arrived with very high expectations, all of which were well and truly exceeded. I have tried to capture the spirit of the restaurant, the atmosphere and the taste sensations here but it is not easy to do.

We arrived at the low key entrance and were warmly greeted and quickly seated by friendly staff. We instantly felt welcomed and relaxed.

The restaurant itself was a quick 5 minute walk from the apartment we were staying in the Bairro Alto district of Lisbon, an area known for it’s cafes and restaurants.

It is in a beautifully renovated building and reflects an upmarket, elegant but relaxed vibe. The colour scheme is subdued but brought to life with splashes of colour from strategically placed flowers and plants. The tables are set without cutlery with napkins elegantly draped off the tables. The lighting is perfect creating a warm ambience without being dark.

According to a story I read in http://www.wbpstars.com/belcanto.html: “The original Belcanto restaurant was opened in 1958. The name Belcanto derives from the opera style and the famous national opera house in Lisbon is located only a few metres from the restaurant. José Avillez took over the restaurant in 2012 and totally renovated it again in 2016. Today, the interior of restaurant Belcanto is bright, combining lots of wood, green chairs, and luxurious elements.

The Chef Jose Avillez is obviously now world renowned having gained his first Michelin star just 18 months after taking over Belcanto. He trained at El Bulli and according to those who know the Belcanto menu features techniques reminiscent of that famed establishment.

It was great to be able to choose from the a la carte menu, because we knew the tasting menus would be beyond our appetites and budgets! We were so glad we did because even with us just choosing an entree and main each, we were treated to a series of serious amuse bouche (surprises as our charming and playful waiter Joao put it).

We started proceedings with a glass of beautifulPortuguese sparkling wine as we contemplated our menu choices.

We then began our Belcanto experience with the arrival of our first surprise – a small bao style sweet fluffy steamed pastry bun with a delicious salty fish filling reminiscent of the traditional Portuguese sardines paste but worlds away! The tiny bun is served on a plaster cast of the Chef Jose Avillez’s Hand, a symbolic gesture of his offering to his guests. Nice touch.

This was accompanied by an inverted dry martini: the liquid is olive juice and the “olive” is a sphere of gin which just dissolves in your mouth leaving you knowing you have eaten an olive but not quite sure where it went! The combination of ingredients, tastes and sensations of this amuse bouche sets the tone for the rest of the meal and the surprises along the way.

This was followed by a light cherry gazpacho, accompanied by treats in a number of forms including fake cherries filled with a cummin spiced soft cheese, and avocado tempura! My descriptions cannot truly describe the taste sensations or ingredients used. Needless to say it was a delicious combination, as was the divine sardine fillet with tomato flavoured “snow”, smoked eggplant topped with rosemary ash. In our books we were up to course 3, then the bread arrived with 3 types of butter – including rosemary, tomato and normal.

Our palettes and appetites were certainly ready for our menu choices, which included famed “Garden of the goose that laid the golden egg” and European lobster with caviar, marrow, spinach and a white bean purée.

The golden egg actually uses edible gold leaf to encase a slow-cooked egg and is surrounded with crunchy breadcrumbs and mushrooms.

For mains we enjoyed the Suckling Pig with Sarapetel (meat and offal in a vinegary sauce), soufflés potatoes, a fave bean stew with orange peel purée and a peppercorn sauce and Hay-roasted squab (cooked medium rare) with a zuchinni flower filled with foie bras with roasted eggplant and a hazelnut and cinnamon sauce. Each mouthful of our mains delivered flavour, taste and texture of new dimensions. Air filled potato soufflé puffs, squab dissolving with tenderness, crispy pork encasing tender pork, and perfectly spiced sauces accompanying it all.

We had already decided that this was the best meal we had, had in our lives and that every accolade and very Michelin star earned by Belcanto was very well deserved before we even encountered the absolute stand-out of the night – dessert!

Of course, our jovial Head waiter Joao and his band of friends who were looking after us with great service, wine recommendations, jokes and stories (like trying to convince us the squab had been shot by them in the adjoining square) revelled in presenting another surprise in the form of a tantalising palate cleanser of sorbet before presenting the piece de resistance, the renowned Mandarin dessert.

Here’s a description of the making of the Mandarin dessert which explains it much better thanI can: “The dessert with mandarin is exceptional in terms of flavours and experience. It derives from a childhood memory from the chef where children went searching for mandarins that felt from the trees. At Belcanto, the mandarin is a reconstruction filled with mandarin foam, on a custard of mandarin, and accompanied with a sorbet of mandarin. A crumble of mushrooms finishes the dish and refers to the earth where the mandarins were found. In his kitchen José Avillez is assisted by his right hand Head Chef David Jesus and a driven, international team. The staff works dedicated and in utmost concentration in the kitchen. The fine wines at Belcanto are superb and the perfect accompaniment of the dishes coming out of the kitchen.” And a link to their story on Belcanto http://www.wbpstars.com/belcanto.html

It was a divine end to an absolutely stunning dinner…. a series of dining moments that seem to transcend each other as the dinner progresses. What made it truly special was the fun, playful but utterly professional service which ensures a truly enjoyable evening without the expected stuffiness or snobiness of a restaurant of this world class calibre. Also, all the generous surprises along the way gave us an insight into the gastronomical techniques that one would normally expect only from a degustation menu.

It will be a night we will remember for the rest of our lives and for this the cost was well worth it for a special occasion as it was.

Here’s a link to an article on Jose Avillez and Belcanto https://www.foodandwinegazette.com/8728 which you might enjoy as well.

If you are heading to Lisbon, then go to http://www.Belcanto.pt now and book in for a truly memorable evening.

Benares on a budget #michelin #indianfood #london

I had read about Benares’ reputation for the best Indian food in London, laying claim to having been the first Indian restaurant in London to receive a Michelin star and it has retained this star in 2019.

Having looked at the a la carte and tasting menu prices which are whopping by Australian dollar prices, we decided the lunchtime thali menu at £33 would be a great way to taste a range of their dishes and fit into our schedule nicely.

So after visiting the special Leonardo Da Vinci Life In Drawings exhibition, commemorating 500 years since his death, at the Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace we sauntered through Green Park, across Picadilly to Berkeley Square were Benares occupies a prominent position between the Rolls Royce and Bentley showrooms.

Our meal started with a traditional serving of papadums and chutneys and yoghurt. The papads had obviously been made at the restaurant were a tasty, crispy nibble to begin with.

The thali came with naan and turmeric spiced rice, a crunchy quinoa salad, a fabulous piece of lightly spiced sea bass, a delicious lamb Rohan Josh, a smokey Chicken tikka Masala, very interesting spinach and baby corn curry, dhal and yoghurt. It was all more than enough for one very hungry person and certainly too much for me.

The Thali was followed by a serving of Indian steamed yoghurt pudding with rhubarb and jelly and a sprinkling of nuts, followed by a special birthday platter of petit fours.

A great way to sample the renowned Indian food from Benares on a budget.

Tredwells – British food at its best #coventgarden #pretheatre

We chose Tredwells for a two course pre-theatre dinner before heading to the Garrick Theatre to see John Malkovich live in stage in the new play Bitter Wheat.

Perfectly situated in the heart of Covent Garden it is a Marcus Wareing restaurant and winner of AA’s London Restaurant of the Year the £25 pre-theatre dinner is great value for the standard of the food on offer.

According to their website: “Tredwells showcases the very best in British seasonal produce developed by Chef Patron, Chantelle Nicholson.”

And certainly we enjoyed the interesting take and presentation on classics such as brandade with fresh broadbeans and smoked peas with foam, pork croquette with cauliflower Picadilly, and grilled lamb chops with beetroot and tahini. The broccoli on the side with almonds and capers was also delicious!

Here’s a link to their website:

https://www.tredwells.com/#theatre-menu

Check out Cichetti #sancarlocichetti #picadilly

We checked into Cichetti one of our favourite restaurants in London as our first stop for a quick light lunch.

Winner of many food and wine awards, Cichetti is the perfect Pre- or post theatre venues but also ideal to fuel up between shopping in nearby Picadilly and Regent Sts. Filled with a fashionable crowd at anytime of the day, the atmosphere makes you feel you are at the centre of the action and the menu is a wide and varied list of Italian delights ranging from Cichetti (appetisers), antipasto, pizza, pasta, small and large plates.

With a fab wine list and great speedy service, Cichetti is an excellent and reliable pit stop for breakfast, lunch, a snack, dinner or supper!

We had buratta with Parma ham and truffles, a delicious duck salad with a balsamic glaze, apple and rocket and Italian meatballs in sauce wiped up with fresh bread.