My heart was broken when we found that one of my favourite bakeries in Barcelona – Forn Mistral – was closed for holidays in August. Alas, it was a good excuse to visit La Fàbrica Moritz – the former old brewery for the Catalan Moritz beer – which is now a multi-storey restaurant/bar/shop.

From what I can tell, the place is extremely popular – it’s huge and we did find the food to be excellent. The menu is just as huge – but on closer inspection, you’ll find some repetition in the ingredients and how things are put together. This is a good thing as giant menus tend to strike fear in my heart. Anyway, there are lots of little bites and big dishes too; we went with a mixture of tapas and Catalan classics for our dinner that night. There are even some Swiss specialties on the menu in honour of the founder of the Moritz brewery and some German dishes as it’s a brewery!

Croquetes crocants de pernil ibèric were priced by the unit and were exceptional, perfectly creamy and chock full of ham bits. All the frying here was done to perfection (and we are suckers for anything deep fried).

Croquetes crocants de pernil ibèric

El fregit d’Arenys was a mixture of fried monkfish nuggets and quartered artichokes, all served with romesco. Fantastic. (On a separate note, the fish and chips platters that went past us also looked excellent.)

El fregit d'Arenys

Braves d’aqui are their version of patatas bravas (the usual version is also available). This turned out to be the usual fried potatoes topped with aioli and, instead of the more common spicy tomato sauce, a spicy red chilli oil. Very simple and very good (though I think I missed the tomato sauce!).

Braves d'aqui

Coca de recapte artesanal lleidatana was a beautifully thin, savoury pastry topped with escalivada and preserved sardines. It was only as I took the photo that I realised that it looked like the Catalan flag!

Coca de Recapte

Desserts were entirely unexpected – some very creative, some very traditional – and all not the kind of things you see in the usual Catalan restaurants. Blai’s gaspatxo de pressec (the creative) was indeed a cold peach soup topped with a refreshing yogurt ice cream and drizzled with olive oil.

Gaspatxo de Pressec

My Orelletes d´Alacant (the traditional) turned out to be one giant crisp fritter! This sugar dusted piece of fried dough was thin and crisp and not unlike a Canadian BeaverTail (though thinner). There were some anise seeds embedded throughout and was served with a small glass of anis too. I loved this.

Orelletes d´Alacant

Well, holidays for Forn Mistral meant that we discovered La Fàbrica Moritz. It’s a good place for groups or picky eaters as you’ll definitely find something you like on the menu; when we were there, we saw a table of two couples happily tucking into just a ham sandwich each. They’re open from breakfast until late at night; their breakfasts look fantastic but I’ll need to drag myself out of bed for that one day! Personally, I do prefer the atmosphere at Moritz’s other restaurant at El Born but this place has great food too.

La Fàbrica Moritz
Ronda de Sant Antoni, 39-41
08011 Barcelona

I only recently heard that the Barcelonan chain Mas Q Menos had opened in London but it wasn’t until they opened their second restaurant on Wardour Street (the first is in Holborn) that I finally made my way there. On first impressions, the place is very promising. There’s an open, welcoming space and the ingredients were all on display in the front and all clearly were of high quality.

It took an absolute age for anything to happen while we were there though. Despite it being quite empty (there were only three tables full that afternoon), orders took forever, drinks arrived at a snail’s pace, even waiters moved in slow motion.

The first dish to (finally) come out was a toasted sandwich with Mallorcan cured sausage (sobrasada de Mallorca), brie cheese, and honey. Ah, one of my favourite combinations! It was a good thing this sandwich was excellent as I was on the verge of losing my patience with the place. This sandwich was generously filled with all my favourite things and perfectly toasted.

Sobrassada, Cheese and Honey Sandwich

One of the well-known offerings in the restaurant is their toasted coca flatbreads, a Catalan flatbread here topped with various ingredients. We had one with small sardines, seasonal tomatoes, rocket salad, piquillo peppers and spring onions. The sardines were clearly from a tin and of very high quality and were delicious. Excellent.

Little Sardines, Piquillo Peppers, Rocket, Tomato, Onion on Coca Bread

A slice of Spanish omelette (tortilla de patatas) wasn’t exactly a dud but it was a bit dull. But fine, it was fine, we ate it.

Tortilla with Tomato Bread

The food, in general, then is very good. Service, however, if you couldn’t guess, was extremely slow and I hope it’s improved since we visited. It’s the perfect place for a light lunch or an after work drink with snacks though and I’m glad it’s so much easier to get good Catalan/Spanish snacks here in London!

Mas Q Menos
68-70 Wardour Street
London W1F 0TB

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Westfield London is quite dangerously on my way home from work each day and once in a while, Blai and I meet there for dinner at the Byron there. We’d tried other places there but they were all mostly grim and so burgers were the only thing we ate at Westfield. We had spotted Tapas Revolution right smack dab in the middle of the mall but didn’t have much confidence in a mall tapas bar. It took an invitation to have dinner there one night (a blogger event) for us to finally try it.

Tapas Revolution is owned by Spanish-born and El Bulli trained Omar Allibhoy. He first worked at a number of restaurants upon his arrival to London before launching El Pirata de Tapas (he is still executive chef there). In 2010, he opened his own place – and that place was Tapas Revolution. During our meal, he took the time to inform us about the tapas we were eating as well as answer our questions about his time with the Adria brothers. He is extremely friendly and welcoming and clearly very hard working as he dealt with us while ensuring that all his other customers were also taken care of.

Omar Allibhoy

How thrilled I was to see horchata on the menu! And yes, while everyone was sipping on cava and sangria, I happily stuck to my non-alcoholic horchata. I’m always glad to see interesting non-alcoholic choices on menus.

Horchata

Our tapas dinner was going to feature items off their soon-to-be-launched summer menu and started off with one of my favourite things ever: Jamon Iberico de bellota de Guijuelo.

Jamon Iberico de Bellota de Guijuelo

Pan Con Tomate (the Catalan pa amb tomàquet) was delicious with excellent olive oil drizzled on top. I draped my ham on top and… sigh….I’m drooling as I type this.

Pa amb Tomàquet

Gazpacho de sandia was a unique spin on the traditional cold soup, here with the addition of watermelon.

Gazpacho de Sandia

Boquerones (anchovies) were fat and fleshy and fantastic.

Boquerones

Croquetas de gambas, vieira y tinta de calamar (prawns, scallop and squid ink) were the most unique croquetas we’d come across and I loved their striking black interiors. Delicious too.

Croquetas de Gambas, Vieira y Tinta de Calamar

Inside the Squid Ink Croqueta

Calamares Fritos (fried calamari) were freshly fried and I loved that they included the tentacles (so many places just serve the rings).

Calamares Fritos

Pulpo a la Gallega is a traditional Galician preparation of boiled octopus and potatoes drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with paprika and the version here was excellent.

Pulpo a la Gallega

Croquetas de Jamon were another, more traditional, version of their croqueta and equally as good. It’s always good to see a well made classic.

Croquetas de Jamon

I was surprised that we were served Fideuà, the Valencian noodle classic that’s cooked similarly to paella. It’s just not a common dish in tapas bars here (well, at least I’ve not seen it) and it was quite good here with plenty of seafood scattered through the noodles.

Fideuà

Espárragos con romesco were nicely grilled asparagus but unfortunately the Catalan romesco sauce was too vinegary and not nutty enough – the traditional preparation has a great balance of nuts, roasted chillies and tomatoes. This I think was the only dud of the evening.

Espárragos con Romesco

Pinchos Morunos con mojo picón were grilled beef skewers served with a spicy sauce from the Canary Islands. Well, I say spicy but it’s mild for us and perhaps it is spicy for Spanish standards! These were great and were possibly the most popular tapas that night (not for me…you can’t take my heart away from jamon and croquetas!).

Pinchos Morunos con Mojo Picón

Of course, what else were we going to have for dessert but Churros con chocolate! We dunked these cinnamon dusted fritters into a milky hot chocolate and after those were gone, I drank that chocolate straight up.

Churros con Chocolate

Overall, an excellent and very fun meal. The prices are in line with other tapas places in London – each dish costs between £2 and £7. The location of the tapas bar does make things a bit noisy and a bit draughty but hey, it’s in a mall and allowances must be made.

How wrong it turned out we had been about this place! It turns out that mall tapas can indeed be very good (this almost reminds me of the fantastic eateries in Asian malls). Thank you very much to Omar and Emma from Neil Reading PR for the invitation!

There’s also a second Tapas Revolution at Bluewater.

Tapas Revolution
The Balcony
Westfield London
Shepherd’s Bush
London W12 7SL

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My father’s one food wish in London was to go for another tapas meal – the last time he was here, I took him to Barrafina but this time, wanting to try something a bit different, I turned to the Cambio de Tercio group. Of their four restaurants, I chose Tendido Cero as their menu online had a good balance of both modern and classic tapas dishes and made a booking for dinner. When booking, you choose a block of about 2 hours and they’re pretty strict with it, which can make it difficult to relax. Glad to see my father relaxing though with his sangría!

Not knowing how large the dishes were, we started with a few and then just kept going with the ordering. Boquerones en Vinagre (baby anchovies in sherry vinegar) (£6.50) were brought to us first and the fresh marinated anchovies were delicious. A bread basket also arrived at our table and was filled with diminutive warm bread rolls that we happily ate up.

Boquerones en Vinagre

Bread Basket Cute Bread

The Morcilla de Burgos con Tomate (Crispy Burgos black sausage, tomato sauce) (£5.50) that came next didn’t look like much but was absolutely fantastic. The rich morcilla was crisp on the outside, meaty on the inside, and the fresh tomato sauce partnered it well.

Morcilla de Burgos con Tomate

Their “Las Nuevas” Patatas Bravas (“The new” spicy patatas bravas) (£7.25) was one of my favourite that night. The potatoes had been carved into little cups that had been fried and then filled with the bravas sauce and mayonnaise. I would have preferred aioli but it was still brilliant without it.

"Las Nuevas" Patatas Bravas

Calamares a la Andaluz (Deep fried squid “a la Andaluz”) (£8.50) were served in strips rather than the usual rings. It was a slight change but even that seemed to make it particularly novel. Of the frying, it was textbook perfect.

Calamares a la Andaluz

Cordero Guisado con Almendra (Lamb casserole, roasted almonds and white wine) (£6.75) required another basket of bread to mop up all the delicious gravy.

Cordero Guisado con Almendra

My father loved the Chorizo a la Sidra (Spicy chorizo cooked in Spanish cider) (£5.75), which was indeed very good. Heck, I love chorizo in just about anything.

Chorizo a la Sidra

Carrilleras Ibericas, PX, Crema de Patata (Iberian pork cheeks cooked in px wine, potato cream) (£10.75) was also excellent but the small portion size and relatively high price tag still makes me question the value of this dish. Could I tell that these were Iberian pork cheeks as opposed to regular supermarket pork cheeks? Nope.

Carrilleras Ibericas, PX, Crema de Patata

While their new style tapas were very good, they could not get some of the basics right. The Croquetas de Jamon (Serrano ham croquettes) (£6.75) were fried beautifully but were oversalted.

Croquetas de Jamon

The Catalan classic of Pan con Tomate y Jamon (toasted bread, fresh tomato and olive oil, with Iberian ham) (£5.75) was terrible with its pureed tasteless tomato and no hint of olive oil flavour – I found myself just picking off the excellent ham and just eating that.

Pan con Tomate y Jamon

The Tortilla de Patata (Spanish omelette) (£6.00) was the worst offender, being flavourless, undersalted and bizarrely fluffy. This could very well be the worst tortilla in the history of tortillas. We didn’t even finish it.

Tortilla de Patata

We were all pretty full at this point but as usual, Blai and I had to split some Chocolate con Churros (£5.50). Luckily, these classic fried treats were spot on, as was the chocolate.

Chocolate con Churros

Overall, the meal was a success as my father was happy. For me, I’m more likely to try one of the other restaurants in the chain – perhaps one that only focuses on their more modern tapas. For the price, I would expect all the tapas at Tendido Cero to be made well and a few dishes did clearly disappoint. If you pick well though, you could have a great meal.

Tendido Cero
174 Old Brompton Road
London SW5 0BA

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It was my brother’s birthday and I offered to take him out for a meal in Barcelona; he wanted to sample some of the city’s tapas. I can’t say that either I nor Blai were that familiar with the tapas places in Barcelona; he’s always quick to point out that tapas were unheard of in Catalunya until very recently. I suggested one place that always seemed to have good reviews both on blogs and in newspapers – Taller de Tapas. It’s now quite the chain; we were running into branches here and there as we wandered the city but the menu did look tempting and so it was decided. We were going to head to Taller de Tapas, to the first branch in the shadow of Santa Maria del Pi.

After having coffee and xocolata at La Granja, we made our way to that branch and found it quite busy. Luckily, they were able to find a table for us and we settled in and wondered how all the tapas we wanted were going to fit on our small table! Space is at a premium here; tables are very close to each other and it’s very easy to overhear the conversation going on at neighbouring tables (those conversations were in all different languages, of course. It looks like this place is recommended to everyone around the world). Still, it felt like a fun place to eat and the tapas themselves looked good on the menu. Don’t come here looking for creative tapas dishes; everything is quite classic and old-school.

Xipirones were the first to arrive at our table and became our favourite dish of the night. So much so that we even ordered another plate towards the end of our meal. One can never have too many crispy fried baby squids.

Xipirons

We also ordered the very Catalan dish of Escalivada (grilled vegetables) with Anchovies were alright. The anchovies were delicious as were most of the vegetables but the onions should have been cooked longer.

Escalivada with Anchovies

The Sepia a la Planxa were tender and tasty.

Sepia a la Planxa

We were all quite taken with the Fried Eggs and Potatoes with Ham. The eggs were fried at a high heat, allowing the whites to go all brown and crispy at the edges – just the way we like them! And with the salty ham – delicious! The only quibble is with the draining of the fried potatoes and eggs; there was quite an oil slick on the plate.

Fried Egg and Pototoes with Ham

My Patatas Bravas order was pooh-poohed by Blai as being for tourists but you know what – I LIKE the fried potatoes with their sauces. I like fried potatoes full stop. These were alright but I have to say that aioli was a little too pungent even for me! We had to scrape off some of the white sauce before we could eat it.

Patatas Bravas

The Padrón peppers could have been a little more tender as they’d obviously spent not enough time in their hot oil bath. No hot ones in this plate. (Actually, no hot ones this entire trip!)

Padrón Peppers

The Fried Artichokes were thinly sliced like those at Cerveseria Catalana but they weren’t as expertly fried. Again, they could have done with better draining and they were on the greasy side. The best are still my mother-in-law’s!

Fried Artichoke Slices

The Pan Fried Wild Seasonal Mushrooms were excellent, being well cooked and tossed with garlic and parsley.

Pan Fried Wild Seasonal Mushrooms

Dessert caused us a bit of grief; it was almost impossible to flag down a server to order. The restaurant was clearly understaffed and overfilled. When our waiter finally got to us, we ordered homemade flans all around and while mine (pictured) was fine (not amazing though), Blai’s caramel was burnt and my brother’s flan was hard and unappetising. It took us quite a while to flag down a waiter to mention it and when we finally managed to, to their credit, he took it off the bill without any argument. Needs improvement, as my old elementary school report card would say.

Homemade Flan

Overall, I’d say the tapas here were alright (though some dishes certainly need work and the kitchen needs to take its time a little more) but not a place I’d seek out again. The total bill was about €70 (I can’t seem to find the receipt and not all the tapas are listed on their website), not unreasonable for a tapas meal for three. Most importantly, the birthday boy was happy. Happy birthday, little brother!

Taller de Tapas
Plaça Sant Josep Oriol 9 (Plaça del Pi)
Barcelona, Spain

There are a few other locations; please refer to their website.

Fino is in no way a budget restaurant but it sure is fantastic! We had a little occasion to celebrate and Blai requested a meal of cochinillo, a roasted milk-fed piglet that is the specialty of Segovia in Castilla–Leon in Spain; I quickly agreed with that idea! I found that Fino served it as well as other fine tapas (it is the sister restaurant to Barrafina) and so I booked immediately. We were supposed to eat there in early February but our reservation got cancelled at the last minute due to flooding in this basement restaurant. Last week was the first time since then that we were able to find a free evening – their website does say that they only managed to reopen in mid-March though. An excellent review appeared in the Metro the week before we visited, confirming that I’d chosen a good ‘un.

Boy, was I excited – suckling pig! My research was so thorough in the subject (yes, I know I’m insane) that I even spent some time on YouTube looking at cochinillo videos, confirming that the skin of the pig should be extra crisp. The roasted piglet itself should also be so tender that a plate is used to portion the whole piglet to show off this fact. They take their piggies seriously in Segovia!

But man cannot dine on piglet alone (or can he?); we ordered some other tapas too, making our decisions while munching on some complimentary olives. To start, a couple of crab croquetas (£3.50). These spherical croquetas contained a creamy, delicately flavoured crab and bechamel filling – very nice.

Crab Croquetas

Next came a small potful of arroz negro (£8.90). This black rice was topped with a single grilled baby squid, so tender and garlicky. The rice was tender but with a slight bite to it  but it was a little soupier than I expected and it didn’t come with any allioli (a garlic and oil mayo), the traditional accompaniment to arroz negro. Still, it was delicious and we ate every last bit.

Arroz Negro

Then along came our roast suckling pig – exactly 1/4 of a pig (complete with itty bitty hoof), the recommended serving size for 2-3 people (£35). This little milk-fed pig was sourced directly from Segovia and must be ordered a minimum of 48 hours in advance. Oh, the skin was so crisp and the fat just under the skin was tremendously tasty and the meat was so soft. Yes, it’s a bit pricey but really, it’s fantastic and they roast it very well here. A tiny copper pot was served alongside, containing a mouthwatering concoction of roast piglet juices, lots of garlic, thyme and I think a bit of lemon (there was a little acidity in there). I was almost drinking that when we’d finished the pork. OK, I actually did drink it. As Blai aptly put it, “There are three piggies at this table.”

A Quarter of a Suckling Pig

Milk Fed Suckling Pig

Throughout the month of March, they were offering calçots (£5.50), the large Catalan spring onions served grilled with Romesco. This arrived alongside our piglet and was just beautiful: tender, smoky, soft spring onions and the Romesco so full of flavour that we almost licked the plate clean. We’d heard from Blai’s mother that a slightly different Romesco, a salvitxada, is served with calçots but I have no idea how this compares to it. I need to go to a calçotada!

Calçots

Finally, our classic tortilla (£5.50) also came to fill up our table. I love the little round tortillas that they make – the inside is beautifully moist and the whole thing sure beats any tortilla that I’ve ever made. What you see here is just a quarter of it.

Classic Tortilla

We just had enough room at the end for dessert. Blai chose the sorbets (£6.50), which unsurprisingly turned out to be a selection of three homemade (I think) sorbets: mango, pear, and passionfruit. The sorbets reminded me of those from Berthillon in Paris, where the flavour of each fruit is captured so perfectly. The grainy texture of a pear was also apparent in that sorbet.

Sorbets

I chose the more enigmatic donuts and vanilla ice cream (£6.50), thinking that perhaps some kind of sweet bunyol/fritter would arrive.  It really did turn out to be three very large donuts dusted with sugar and cinnamon served with a small quenelle of a very rich and creamy vanilla ice cream. These were yeasty rather than cakey donuts and as it’d been a while since I had one, I enjoyed mine very much!

Donuts, Vanilla Ice Cream

Do I recommend it? Of course I do! – perhaps not for everyday eating (I wish!) but definitely if you have a special occasion. Howerver, If you’re planning on visiting, don’t forget to make a reservation! Even on a Tuesday night, the place was absolutely rammed.

Fino
33 Charlotte Street
London W1T 1RR

Fino on Urbanspoon

A good friend of mine happened to be in town last week and so we arranged to meet at Barrafina, one of his favourite restaurants in London and one that I’d been meaning to try. We met there at noon on a Saturday and were the second and third people to grab seats at the bar. The place filled up within half an hour so it seems the best thing to do is to get there when it just opens (they don’t take bookings).

When I saw ham croquetas on the menu, I knew I had to have them! We ordered those while still perusing the menu. They were extremely creamy inside and crisp on the outside and exactly how I like my croquetas!

Ham Croquetas

Inside a Croqueta

From the daily specials, we ordered the grilled razor clams with olive oil, garlic and parsley. These were probably cooked a la plancha and were not at all rubbery but tender and so flavourful.

Grilled Razor Clams

My friend recommended the grilled lamb cutlets from the regular menu and so they went into our order. Very soft and we got stuck in with our fingers here.

Grilled Lamb Cutlets

Also from the specials was the cavolo nero, braised with olive oil and garlic. Beautiful! The cavolo nero still had a bite but was tender and had toasted patches that were wonderful. I just bought some cavolo nero at my farmers’ market to try replicating it this week.

Braised Cavolo Nero

Another special – this time it was grilled squid, stuffed with tomato and chorizo. Again, this dish was faultless.

Grilled Squid Stuffed with Chorizo and Tomato

We were starting to get full at this point and so focused our attention on desserts! I chose the chocolate tart while my friend ordered the fig salad with creme chantilly and toasted sliced almonds.

Chocolate Tart

Fig Salad with Toasted Almonds

Both were truly delicious. There was a bit of cream alongside my chocolate tart, which was rich and dense and a little of eating like eating dark chocolate ganache in a thin pastry shell. As for my friend’s fig salad, it was fresh ripe figs with a huge mound of creme chantilly (I originally mistook it for ice cream). I could have eaten a huge bowlful of this – the almonds and caramel sauce over top made it perfect.

It seems strange that we didn’t order any of their sliced jamon but though they had a leg prominently displayed on the counter, no one was having any. It was hot food all the way for everyone. Their tortillas looked fantastic too – little individual ones with soft innards – I’ll definitely try one next time.

However, it wasn’t a cheap lunch. For all the food, one glass of wine and all the tap water we could drink, it was £50 for the two of us. However, even with the limited seating, we never once felt rushed and our waitress was happy for us to order one or two tapas at a time. There’s a small counter along the wall where you can wait with a drink and a small bite for a seat – but as I noticed above, it’s probably easiest if you show up when they just open. I can’t wait to return (after I’ve saved up a bit)!

Barrafina
54 Frith Street
London
W1D 4SL

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