20 September 2013
My last post chronicled the first part of my hellish birthday trip to London. Needless to say where it left off, Friday evening, needed a catalyst to change my luck — and salvage the rest of this trip. Sitting in that hapless Hilton Metropole, despite it being Friday night, I called — and got — a counter space at Fino on the later side of the night. Finally something’s going right again.
I always liked Fino, the excellent Spanish restaurant by the Hart Brothers. My friends like their cut-down Barrafina, but for some reason Barrafina never really did it for me. I always prefer the “mother ship” at Fino, and I was hoping for some excellent food to lift my mood.
My ankle and leg was better, so I decided to walk. Wasn’t easy dodging the drunks on a Friday night, but I needed the walk to help clear my mind and do some thinking along the way. I was early, so hopped into Newman Street Tavern for a mediocre martini to start the night. Finished it quickly as the ambience was pretty lame inside, and headed to Fino around the oddly-shaped block.
The place doesn’t look too difference, as I’ve not been back since the devastating flood that shuttered the restaurant for a period a few years back. I was shown to the counter along the kitchen and began to relax with a fine sherry and I began the feasting.
The night began with a pair of queen scallops. To be honest these queenies were pretty bland, and the herby topping really did nothing for them. Oh geez…
Next was the morcilla topped with quail eggs. These blood sausage morsels were excellent, tempered by the yolks. But they were on the salty side and tasted a bit too “unbloody” if it makes any sense… But a beautiful dish. I just wish the morcilla was a bit more rustic.
But the first real star of the evening were these big and juicy razor clams. Flavoured nicely, these plump treats were naturally succulent. Oh my goodness, I almost ordered another set right away, but need to balance…and be tempered… But damn they were good!
Nice start! With some nice wine the first round was over, and I moved into the second round. So far this meal was moving in the right direction and I felt more relaxed than I had in days.
Round two started with a little of a whimper with this stuffed courgette flower. Tasted as a poor man’s tempura, as the consistency was a little messed up. Could have been executed better to be honest.
But the kitchen staff more than redeemed itself with the amazing arroz negro. Full, rich and flavourful, the inky rice hit and exceeded any expectations with its depth. The generous amount of shellfish with this large dish further enhanced its overall deliciousness. Wow, this is one of those nearly perfect dishes…
And as if I couldn’t have enough of these things, another spectacular dish arrived — the grilled cuttlefish. These generous pieces, covered by flakes of pancetta over a small pool of ink, were utterly heavenly. Grilled to perfection, not too stringy or plasticky. Nice, especially with more of the arroz negro to finish. Wow.
I was more than full now, though I really wanted another order or razors or some pata negra. But I decided not to, as it’s been a good, satisfying night. Enjoyed some brandy chatting with the staff, especially over some comedic “complaints” from a guy sitting next to me about poor cooking and ingredient use — clearly showing the guy has *no* idea what he was talking about. His bemused date had the “you’re not getting any after this performance” look. We all had a good laugh after they left.
I eventually headed out feeling finally some relief that things are improving on this trip. However, as I got up the stairs, it all came back to reality. My ankle really stiffened up during dinner. So instead of enjoying a nice walk back, I hopped onto a cab and back to my morose… At least I have the memory of an excellent dinner as we approached that horrible Temple of Fail called the Hilton Metropole…
33 Charlotte Street