When we’re in Barcelona for the summer, we always visit Blai’s extended family out in a village in the Alt Penedès. It’s wine country and everywhere you turn you’re surrounded by vineyards, vines dripping with white or red grapes. Quite often we’ll eat in Cal Padrí, a restaurant we’ve seen rise from what was originally a large chicken shed, and we’ve seen the restaurant grow in popularity since it opened, both with locals there for the weekday menú del dia or non-locals out for a special day with a special menu or lost tourists who are looking to retrace the cava route they planned. Yeah, I wasn’t there but Blai had to help out some lost tourists while he was having lunch there one day; lots of the wineries in the region now welcome visitors. And Cal Padrí is indeed a lovely place to stop for lunch if you’re in the area.

On our last visit, it was a Sunday and hence the menú del dia wasn’t available. There was a weekend menu or what we all opted for, the menú degustació. This tasting menu consisted of three first courses, two second courses and two desserts…and all for €26,50. And that included bread, water and the house wine. Definitely a bargain as you’ll soon see. And not everyone at the table even has to order it.

We started with a little snack of pa de vidre (rubbed with tomato and oil for pa amb tomàquet naturally) and topped with slices of fuet. A good and classic start.

Pa de vidre amb fuet

Then the tasting menu began proper. Amanida de perles de foie amb maduixa i reduccio de vinaigre – A salad of foie pearls with strawberry and vinegar reduction. I’ve never thought much about strawberries in salads but they were perfect in here, a lovely fresh and slightly sour foil to the rich foie.

Amanida de perles de foie amb maduixa i reduccio de vinaigre

Coca de farigola amb seito i ceps confitada – A thyme coca with anchovy and confited porcini mushrooms. This was wonderful. I love flatbreads and flatbreads topped with delicious things are always welcome.

Coca de farigola amb seito i ceps confitada

Raviolis de mascarpone i alfabrega amb daus de tomaquet fresc – Mascarpone and thyme ravioli with diced fresh tomatoes. Those tomatoes are certainly fresh as they have a kitchen garden on the other side of the parking lot!

Raviolis de mascarpone i alfabrega amb daus de tomaquet fresc

Llom de bacalla amb crema d’Idiazabal i patata xip violeta – Cod with Idiazabal cheese sauce and purple potato chip. This was one of my favourite dishes with lots of creamy cheesy sauce with the mild cod.

Llom de bacalla amb crema d'Idiazabal i patata xip violeta

Anec mut del Penedes criat a Cal Padri rostit amb prunes i pinyons. KM0 – Roasted Muscovy duck from the Penedès with prunes and pine nuts. This is the signature dish of the restaurant as it uses ducks they raise on the premises (the farm has been there for years). The cooking style is very Catalan – the duck is roasted in pieces in its own juices along with the fruit and nuts. It’s simple but very satisfying. The ‘KM0’ denotes the distance the ingredients have traveled!

Anec mut del Penedes criat a Cal Padri rostit amb prunes i pinyons. KM0

And then there were desserts! On the left is Copa de mousse de xocolata blanca amb gelatina de mango – A homemade cup of white chocolate mousse with mango jelly. On the right, “Ou sorpresa de Cal Padri” – their “Surprise Egg” of meringue with vanilla ice cream. Both simple but both good.


Overall, a tasty tasting menu and quite a fun way to dine if you’re here on a weekend.

I’ve been a few times already in the past and each time I’d had their menú del dia, the lunch menu of the day – made up always of two dishes (the first is usually a vegetable/rice/pasta and the second usually a meat/fish) plus dessert, bread, water, and wine. I’ve just highlighted some of the dishes they offer here. This is all very typical everyday Catalan eating and it’s all very well cooked here.

A typical Catalan amanida (salad)


A saltejat (think stir-fry or saute) of green beans with piquillo peppers

Saltejat de Mongeta Verda amb Pebrot Piquillo

A simple but typically Vilafranca/Catalan fideuà


Spaghetti with cherry tomatoes and basil

Spaguetis amb Tomaquet Xerri i Alfabrega

Chicken wings with garlic and potatoes

Alas de Pollastre al Allet amb Patata

Stewed lean beef with mushrooms

Daus de Carn Magra amb Bolets

Homemade yoghurt cake with chocolate sauce

Coca D'Iogurt amb Salsa Xocolata

Crema Catalana

Crema Catalana

Now there’s the matter of actually getting there. Cal Padrí’s address states that it’s in Castellvi de la Marca, which is really a municipality in the Alt Penedès. Technically, it’s in a village that’s really only made up of three houses. The proprietor said that everyone really finds the restaurant using Google Maps. And so I’ll recommend that too. Also, you’ll need a car or a taxi.

Cal Padrí

Cal Padrí
Masia Cal Gori s/n.
08732 Castellví de la Marca

The closest large town is Vilafranca del Penedès.

It’s Chinese New Year on Thursday 19 February and we’ll be entering the Year of the Sheep then (sometimes also referred to as the Year of the Goat). To celebrate this occasion, I was invited to try the Chinese New Year menu at HKK, part of the Hakkasan Group here in London. HKK only serves tasting menus in the evening but from 26 January to 28 February, the menu is one specially designed by Tong Chee Hwee, executive head chef of the Hakkasan Group, with all eight of China’s great regional cuisines represented – a veritable culinary journey through the country. We were clearly going to be in for a treat.

The restaurant isn’t very far from Liverpool Street station and to my surprise (I hadn’t paid much attention to the address until I got there), the restaurant is located at 88 Worship Street. 88! (If you don’t know, 8 is a very lucky number in Chinese.) Inside, the restaurant was smaller than I expected but it’s cosy, not crowded. We were led to our table where we were first presented with a drinks menu and then a beautiful specially illustrated menu for the Chinese New Year meal. To drink, knowing we had 10 courses ahead of us, we chose a medium bodied tea (a Dong Ding oolong) to accompany our meal.

The Chinese New Year menu at HKK London is beautiful! #hkk #hkklondon #hkkculinaryjourney #chinesenewyear

First up was Marinated Duke of Berkshire pork with Osmanthus wine jelly, representative of Su Cuisine from Suzhou and Jiangsu. The light jellied bites were perfectly paired with the sweet and sour balsamic vinegar.

Marinated Duke of Berkshire pork with Osmanthus wine jelly

For Lu Cuisine from Beijing and Shandong, it had to be the Cherry wood roasted Peking duck. Here’s one of the chefs carving up our duck and Pedro plating it up.

Slicing and Serving the Duck

This was some of the best duck we’d ever had in London. We were instructed to start with the crisp skin with sugar, then eat the delectably dressed little salad, move on to the succulent slice of duck meat and skin and finally finish with the duck in the pancake. I could have had another three plates of this (but perhaps just having one is for the best!).

Cherry wood roasted Peking duck

From the south in Guangdong comes Yue (or Cantonese) Cuisine. Here we were presented a steamer basket with a Dim sum trilogy. This was a little sampling of the dim sum they offer at lunch (from an a la carte menu). Pink was a goji berry and prawn dumpling and green was a chicken and black truffle dumpling but the fried king crab puff was my favourite! The paintbrush turned out to be a perfect applicator for soy sauce!

Dim sum trilogy

Fujian’s Min Cuisine was represented by Monk Jumps Over The Wall, a classic broth filled with luxurious seafood – abalone, sea cucumber, dried scallops and imitation sharks fin. The story goes that the smell of this soup was so enticing that it prompted a monk to jump over the wall to get some (and, of course, break his vegetarian diet!).

Monk Jumps Over The Wall

As our waiter cleared our bowls, he announced that that was the end of our starters and the start of our main courses. The first main came from Hunan (Xiang Cuisine) and was Pan-grilled Chilean seabass in Sha Cha sauce. These rolls of fish filled with crunchy vegetables and mushrooms were utterly gorgeous, especially with the slightly spicy sauce and that crunchy sweet potato ribbon.

Pan-grilled Chilean seabass in Sha Cha sauce

Hui Cuisine from Anhui came next. This was Jasmine tea smoked poussin, which while pleasant enough probably didn’t require the black truffled mushrooms underneath. The strong truffle flavour certainly overpowered whatever hint of jasmine and smoke there may have been in the bird. This was the only weak point in the meal.

Jasmine tea smoked poussin

Luckily, the Braised King soy Wagyu beef with Merlot (Zhe Cuisine from Zhejiang) made up for the previous course. That beef melted in the mouth and we wiped up every bit of that luscious sauce. That green flag on top was the stem of pak choi; now I normally consider this to be one of the more boring Chinese vegetables but its juicy blandness here was a perfect foil to the rich beef.

Braised King soy Wagyu beef with Merlot

Finally we travelled to Sichuan for Chuan Cuisine. The Sichuan chargrilled New Zealand scampi was cooked beautifully and there is certainly some good heat in the mala sauce!

Sichuan chargrilled New Zealand scampi

It’s here I’ll pause and point out that the dishes came out quite quickly, without lengthy waits in between the courses. It wasn’t quick enough to feel rushed but I thought it was all very well paced. We were asked if we would like a break between the savouries and dessert but we were ready to soldier on. Bring it.

Desserts were Chinese inspired and were the perfect playful ending to the meal. A Trio of dark chocolate dumplings with yuzu and ginger infusion burst in the mouth and the rich chocolate was cut with the zing of the infusion poured on top.

Trio of dark chocolate dumplings with yuzu and ginger infusion

Our second dessert and final course of the tasting menu was all sheep! See the spun sugar ‘wool’ on the middle of the plate? This was the Sheep’s milk mousse, pandan curd and caramelised puff rice, a combination that originally didn’t call out to me but trust me when I say it’s incredible.

Sheep’s milk mousse, pandan curd and caramelised puff rice

Of course, a 10-course tasting menu at HKK doesn’t come cheap (it’s £98) but then again, this isn’t an everyday restaurant. With only tasting menus available in the evenings, it’s clearly for special occasions and we felt the price was about correct for the outstanding food and for a special event. There’s an 8-course menu also available for £68; it’s the 10-course menu but without the pricier shellfish dishes. Vegetarian menus are also available as are alcoholic and non-alcoholic pairings for each course. I’m looking forward to returning for lunch one day – perhaps for their 5-course duck menu!

Thank you very much again to HKK for the invitation!

HKK London
88 Worship Street
Broadgate Quarter
London EC2A 2BE

HKK on Urbanspoon

I wanted to treat myself on my last night in Boston and, from what I could see online, Craigie on Main in Cambridge was exactly what I was looking for – serving modern cuisine made from local ingredients. With a James Beard Award winning chef (Tony Maws) at the helm and with other numerous awards, it was certainly going to be good; I booked myself in for a solo dinner on a Friday night. When I arrived that evening, the place was packed, again a consequence of that ridiculously busy weekend, but the hostess, seeing that I was by myself, did her best to seat me as soon as possible (and at a lovely window seat overlooking the entire restaurant too). Service overall was excellent – my waitress had already picked up on the fact that I was from out of town (the mobile phone number for my booking gave that away).

A number of options were available in the evenings, three courses of your choice, a 6-course tasting menu and an 8-course tasting menu. It was the 6-course tasting menu ($98) for me. Bread and butter were promptly set before me and I tried my best not to fill up on it!

Bread and Butter

The meal started with an amuse of green tomato gazpacho with golden raisins and peekytoe crab. I loved the slight tang of this cold soup and the raisins and crab added a good balancing sweetness to it. I never would have thought of eating green tomatoes in this way.

Green Tomato Gazpacho

The first of the tasting menu’s six courses was sashimi of madai with heirloom tomatoes, a confit tomato and crispy quinoa. I enjoyed this light start and could see that this was going to be a good meal. Actually, all the tasting menu dishes surprised me that night as I had originally expected perhaps smaller versions of the dishes on the a la carte. But this wasn’t the case – everything was original.

Sashimi of Madai

Another fish dish came next – slow cooked swordfish and shrimp in lobster sauce with seabeans and chorizo. The textures of the seafood were incredible, both turning out completely differently after slow cooking – the meaty swordfish and the silky shrimp.

Slow Cooked Swordfish and Shrimp

I loved the handmade trofiette pasta with sweetbreads and mushrooms that came next. The mushroom sauce coating the pasta was incredibly rich and the fried sweetbreads made it all even richer. Heaven.

Handmade Trofiette Pasta with Sweetbreads and Mushrooms

For the meat course, I was surprised to be presented with lamb – it’s not a meat I come across very often in North America. Here was lamb two ways – confit belly and leg (I think?) served with couscous, green tomato puree and shishito peppers. And it really was some of the best lamb I’d had all year.

Lamb Two Ways - Confit Belly and Leg

I was then presented with the first of my sweets: a Riesling sabayon with local wild blueberries and raspberries. While this was tasty, I did think the portion size was a bit mean. And with the second dessert being light and fruity, I did wish that this was something richer.

Riesling Sabayon

The light and fruity second dessert was a melon sherbet terrine with compressed spiced melon and mint meringue. This was a lovely end to the meal – very refreshing.

Melon Sherbet Terrine

Overall, it was a great meal and a great end to the trip. By the way, I hear they also serve an excellent brunch (I had originally planned a brunch there but the schedule didn’t allow for it).

Craigie on Main
853 Main Street
Cambridge, MA 02139

Craigie On Main on Urbanspoon

Happy New Year, everybody! What a London I returned to – when I did manage to return from Barcelona, that is. The winter wonderland at the airport was quite breathtaking but my journey to get there took a while when my first flight home was cancelled and the second was delayed, delayed, delayed until we were sent off for the night and told to return the next day. It was strange to have to say our goodbyes to Blai’s family twice! But we made it back safely though it’s sad to leave such a fabulous city and lovely family too.

But the food! Oh, the food in Barcelona is always fantastic. Mangolisa sent me a link to a New York Times article on Barcelona where they describe its citizens as food-mad. Mad seems like quite a strong word to use but it’s not far off the mark! I love the culture of their long lunch breaks, their food markets and the city’s numerous little independent food shops, all not common in the UK.

The day after I arrived in Barcelona, Blai had booked dinner for us at Gresca, the first on a list of restaurants I’d provided him previously. Gresca went right to the top of this list when I first saw a review at Aidan’s blog. This was going to be my first visit to one of the bistronomics (offering modern cuisine at affordable prices) popping up around the city and this little bistronomic (9 tables) was run by Rafael Peña along with his wife in front of house. We were going to have their tasting menu – a relative bargain at €50 for 9 courses and as it turns out, two extra appetisers. I don’t even want to think about how much this would have cost in London.

In Gresca

We were told that the first two appetisers were not officially part of the tasting menu. The parmesan and pimentón crackers were lovely and buttery but the real standout of the two was the sardine fillet (very lightly salt cured, I think, but mostly raw) and topped with a thin slice of butter with spices. This was a good start.

Parmesan and Pimentón Crackers

Parmesan and Pimentón Crackers

Sardine with Spiced Butter

Sardine with Spiced Butter

Then it was on to the tasting menu proper. First came a few slices of cured duck topped with herbs. Oh, but no, the roll was stuffed with raw prawns. Ah! We saw that the chef had recreated the look of a prawn with the slices of duck – clever! This was my first go at uncooked prawns which, surprise surprise, tasted like the cooked version only squishier. This was followed by foie gras marinated in anchovies (that’s what we were told – there was no paper menu). The foie was stunning – rich and creamy and melt in your mouth tasty and whatever it did with the anchovies, I don’t want to know but it was all the better for it. The portion was small but I think it was just right – any more and I would have started feeling too full and possibly a bit ill. We munched on some wonderfully crisp and warm bread with this as well as the rest of the meal.

Cured Duck, Raw Prawns, Herbs

Cured Duck, Raw Prawns, Herbs

Foie Gras Marinated in Anchovies

Foie Gras Marinated in Anchovies

The vegetable fondue was a very meh dish. Cauliflower, courgette, carrot, cornichons, and spinach were cooked and topped with melted cheese and a foam that added nothing to the dish. Unfortunately, the result was not more than the sum of its parts.

Vegetable Fondue

Vegetable Fondue

One of the chef’s signature dishes seems to be the souffled egg below – this time served on creamed potatoes. Blai’s egg came out perfectly intact – the cloud of puffy egg white perfectly surrounding the liquid yolk. My poor one was already starting to droop and reveal itself shamelessly. I suppose mine started coming apart somewhere between the kitchen and our table and it was a bit of a shame as the surprise was thus ruined. The potatoes were very lightly cooked and so still crunched in the mouth and were coated with a creamy sauce. Not fantastic on their own but very nice with a burst egg yolk all over them.

Souffled Egg with Creamed Potatoes

Souffled Egg with Creamed Potatoes

Souffled Egg with Creamed Potatoes

Then followed three richer courses. Firstly St Peter’s fish with a pinenut puree and roasted onions. We had to google the fish afterwards…turns out it’s tilapia. On it’s own, the pinenut puree was reminiscent of peanut butter, only with a pinenut flavour of course. But with the fish and the sweet-sour roasted onions, it made for an amazing and unexpectedly successful combination; this more than made up for the vegetable fondue dish. Afterwards, sweetbreads with lemon and potato puree – not mind-blowing but very well cooked and delicious. I think I got the better piece as mine had lots of crispy crust! The last savoury dish was a pigeon with ginger. A breast cooked medium and a well cooked leg was covered in a dark, thick and unctuous sauce with a hint of bitterness from the ginger that went well with the richness of the game bird. A couple of chanterelle mushrooms underneath the pigeon breast made for a lovely surprise.

St Peter's Fish, Pinenut Puree, Onions

St Peter’s Fish, Pinenut Puree, Onions

Sweetbreads with Lemon and Potato Puree

Sweetbreads with Lemon and Potato Puree

Pigeon with Ginger

Pigeon with Ginger

The two desserts were light and refreshing with the lemon sorbet roll being much zingier than expected (this was not a children’s dessert) and the pina colada one of the most fun things I’d eaten last year. The latter was a frozen coconut foam with pineapple juice within; the shell was made of a thin layer of chocolate and crispy pastry vermicelli. I wanted to demand the other half of my ‘coconut’!

Lemon Sorbet and Cream with Pistachios

Lemon Sorbet and Cream with Pistachios

Pina Colada

Pina Colada

Overall, the meal was fabulous with some really fantastic and often surprising dishes coming out of the kitchen; I highly recommend a visit if you’re in the city. However, there is one little problem that I had: the restaurant allows smoking and we had to continually smell the smoke from other tables as the diners lit up their cigarettes and pipes between courses. Not cool and I wish the Spanish government would just ban smoking in all restaurants once and for all.

Provença, 230
Barcelona, Spain


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