El Gato Negro

Last night saw us celebrate my wife’s new business adventure, and for us a return to El Gato Negro Tapas in the heart of the beautiful village of Ripponden, was a perfect way to celebrate. This was our 3rd visit to the winner of Gordon Ramsey’s The F Word, Best Local Spanish restaurant, and each time Head Chef and owner Simon, produces beautiful and excellent food.

The interior, is rustic, with a real warmth and splashes of Spanish charm. I love the little touches, like Simon finding the time to come out of the kitchen and explain the different selection of dried meats, their origins and flavours, as it arrives to your table.

For the two of us, we ordered six different dishes, each dish comes out in no particular order, which allows you to fully enjoy each dish rather than having them come all at once. We started off with simple hot pickled chillies, followed by anchovy fillets on crostini, which were so delicate and beautiful in taste. The dish I looked forward to most, was the Morcilla scotch eggs – soft Quail eggs, wrapped in black pudding and incrusted in breadcrumbs, these little gems were simply delicious.

The next three dishes, was a stunning and tender grilled lamb fillets, with Catalan potatoes. A selection of Spanish meats and finally grilled Galician style octopus, pink potatoes and capers, all which were superb.

Very reasonable in price, El Gato Negro is well worth a visit.

Steve

River Cottage

 

Last weekend saw us return to River Cottage in Dorset with D and G – technically it’s in East Devon but most of our weekend was spent in Dorset. We’d bought G a special Sunday Lunch at the River Cottage HQ Voucher (on the proviso that we could come along too) and built a rather splendid weekend around that.

Saturday night we ate at Mark Hix‘s wonderfully chilled out Oyster and Fish restaurant in Lyme Regis which enjoys panoramic views if the jurassic coast, although the murky sea fret meant the view from our table was somewhat less spectacular which was a shame. Although the food and service amply made up for that – it was top notch and definitely in Rick Stein territory in terms of experience, with prices to match I might add.

Sunday was a beautifully sunny day (eventually) and our Sunday afternoon was sublime: mooching about the River Cottage HQ, inspecting the gardens and the cottage where they film the TV series and featuring one of the best Sunday lunches I’ve ever had. Beef three ways including ox heart canapés – well it wouldn’t be RC if there weren’t anything odd or unusual to try. All delicious of course.

Breakfast the following day was taken at River Cottage canteen in Axminster which again was superb with great quality ingredients which raised the humble full English to memorable status.

Hugh’s empire in Dorset is becoming comparable to Rick Stein’s in Cornwall and actually it’s all done very well – his personal brand shines through in all aspects. It’s also very evident that the local economy is boosted significantly by his presence and in a county where tourism is king, I suspect he gets every encouragement from the powers that be. One negative we found was the laughably expensive taxis – they seem to be making hay whilst the sun shines charging ludicrously high fares for what are very short distances. It was the only thing that left a sour taste, unlike the food which was of the highest standards.

 

Singapore

On a recent business trip to Singapore, I had the chance to sample some of the amazing cuisine on offer. AS you’d expect with Singapore’s position smack bang in the middle of South East Asia there is lots of different influences and unfortunately due to the fleeting nature of the business trip, I didn’t get the chance to try all of the things I would have liked.

The most famous dish in Singapore is Chilli Crab – an intoxicating stew served in an enormous pot containing either a full crab or two, floating in a flavoursome liquor choc full of flavour with Chilli the predominant flavour.

It’s not a dish to eat in a genteel way and I have to say it was a challenge to eat it without ending up with chilli sauce all over the place, regardless of the bibs provided in the restaurant. Singaporeans are justifiably proud of this dish and it’s pretty much expected to use your fingers, sucking and slurping crab meat from every last piece of shell. I have to say I was in my element and I absolutely loved it even though there was plenty of chilli on the go, the internal heat adding to the external hot temperature!

My hosts were then determined to follow this up with a variation of this dish the following day – white pepper crab. This is a drier version of the chilli crab with less sauce but no less flavour. We ate this at lunchtime and tried to keep the lunch business-like but when crab legs are popping everywhere and pieces of shell flying, it’s hard to keep up the pretence of being serious. It certainly helps to break the ice and we could do with more lunches like this in the UK…