I normally arrive at these evenings a good half hour before kick-off and almost form part of the welcoming committee at the door. However, this time around, I was probably one of the last to arrive. As I turned the corner into Market Lane it was exciting to see the natural evolution that El Capote’s Food and Wine Evenings have taken. A team of waitresses and Ian himself were circulating round the crowds serving glasses of beer to everyone with the occasional top up for those of thirsty disposition. Enjoying the Spring evening we greeted eachother but it was interesting to note that out of a regular clientele of 30 people on these special evenings, only approximately 6 of us were part of the original crowd. Speaking to Ian about this later he mentioned that all his allocated covers had been snapped up within the hour on sending out the invitation email; hence many regulars had been left out!
Good food, good wine, good company
Once we were all present, Ian invited us into El Capote where we took our places around bar tables; there was to be no seating tonight. And we were quickly thrust into the tantalising delights the evening would have us experience.
Paper cones of beetroot crisps, potato crisps and spiced cashew nuts were handed out to everyone whilst the first course was prepared.
Tantalising delights the evening would have us experience
Glasses of a silky, kimchi broth were handed out to everyone with slices of red grape as well as sea urchin roe – huevas de erizo – hidden at the bottom. If the sea urchin wasn’t surprise enough there were also bits of popping candy, crackling away. This glass was a delicate breath of the sea. I was however unsure as to the temperature of the dish. The idea of a broth would indicate that it would be a warm dish but it was served lukewarm. Was this to prevent the sea urchin from cooking in the residual heat? Was it due to the time it took to plate up the dish? Either way – around our bar table we came to the consensus that perhaps chilled it would have also been delicious. We happily sipped away diving for the sumptuous sea urchin flesh so as not to waste a single morsel.
Next came a palate-cleansing cocktail made with elderflower cordial, Prosecco and a mint leaf. Bright, fresh, bubbly and dangerously quaffable! Whilst we sipped upon these we were asked to play a game to determine a winner from each table. Some of us are still trying to get to grips as to how to play the game!
The winners from each table won a golden nugget of pure decadence – milhojas de foie y queso de cabra covered in gold leaf. The rest of us were presented with the wooden spoon version of these milhojas (mille feuille). Ours was not covered in gold leaf but delicious nonetheless. The golden winners were treated to sheer indulgence. With both versions there was accompanying jam/membrillo and hazelnut rubble adding sweetness and a texture to the finished dish. Absolutely divine.
Golden nuggets of pure decadence
Our next dish was a carabinero prawn with its rich, red flesh and crunchy legs; served on a bed of braised chard (acelgas) and un ajo negro. Simple, delicious but complex in flavour. Carabinero prawns have a more distinct and robust flavour compared to a shrimp or prawn which can generally be very bland. Accompanying the carabinero with the almost creamy chard was a beautiful concept. It did however need another dimension in flavour brought by the ajo negro. Black garlic, originally used in Asian Cuisine is a type of caramelised garlic that has been cooked for several hours at a low heat and this cooking brings out sweet, syrupy tones with bitter hints of balsamic vinegar and even tamarind. Another texture made this dish sing; crispy carabinero prawn legs. This dish was clean in flavours as well as delicious – I kept trying to cut the carabinero into tiny pieces so that I could make it last longer!
Papas con Choco a La Chef Lede was perhaps the most homely of the dishes. When I was asked by Chef Lede which my favourite dish was I mentioned another dish but this one was sumptuous and comforting and thinking about it retrospectively was perhaps my actual favourite.
Papas con Choco is a typical dish of the region of Andalucía – in its simplest terms, a cuttlefish and potato stew with peas. However, Chef Lede took this traditional dish and created it in his inimitable manner using gastronomic deconstructive ideology.
Imagine a baked potato that had been partially scooped out and filled with the cooked cuttlefish, turned upside down and sitting in a rich, flavoursome, fish stock (probably made using the heads of the carabineros in the previous dish!) and served with a salty, fishy foam on the side. Beautiful.
The following dish – Thai meatball with green apple and prawn – was probably the most true to El Capote. What do I mean by this? Well, El Capote is a tapas bar and this skewer of meatball, prawn and green apple, could easily form part of their regular menu. I believe so much in the success of this combination that I would highly encourage Ian to add it to their menu – even if just a tapa of thai meatballs without the prawn and apple – as it was the thai flavourings (lemongrass/lime/chilli) that really came through.
There were elements of the following dishes that I liked, disliked or did not understand.
Chocobon con crema de maiz y maiz frito – a small chocolate, rice and apple ball – almost as if intended to be a sweet Italian arancini (rice ball) served with a custard and toasted corn. This dish did not appeal to me as much as others did due to the fact that I found the texture of the actual chocolate ball somewhat grainy and the overall flavour was that of toasted corn. I enjoy churruca (toasted corn) as much as anyone else but it was too dominant a flavour.
I can only but apologise to Lede
Sweet, Sour, Salty, Bitter and UMAMI (the fifth taste literally translated from Japanese as ‘pleasant savoury taste’ I think Brits would refer to it as being moreish) was heralded as a 5 taste sensation. Sadly for me I was lost in translation with this dish – which I got the impression from Ian and Chef Lede – was meant to be El Capote’s flagship dish of the evening. I can only but apologise to Chef Lede; I ate the whole lot and it was not pleasant. Vinegar was the main taste I picked up from the dish. It wasn’t until we spoke to Lede later on that he explained to us that we should have picked flavour combinations within the dish to eat and NOT the whole thing – DOH!
If food comes with instructions, follow them, they are there for a reason!
Two sumptuous deserts followed – one seasonal and fruity, the other a sharp clean taste.
A summery, strawberry gazpacho made with a strawberry confit (slow cooked strawberries) and fresh strawberries. Followed by a deconstructed mojito. A little almond cookie sitting in lemon juice and topped with soda water; finished with a refreshing mint granita. Clean, sharp but beautiful.
No vulgarity, no excess
When I think back over the years to these El Capote evenings, the bar of fine dining has really been raised. It started off with Ian plying everyone with loads of wine and mountains of food; gradually this changed to the event of today. The mountains of food have been replaced by delicacies designed to tease your taste buds. Chef Lede’s skills in the kitchen have transported us from humble El Capote, Gibraltar, to gastronomic heights parallel to restaurants such as Calima (Danny García) DiverXO (David Muñoz) and The Fat Duck (Heston Blumenthal).
Ian, through Lede, is educating us about good food. Good food that has been prepared with the best ingredients, skill and finesse. There is no vulgarity. There is no excess. There are no chips on the side. If there would be chips they would be gold plated Maris Pipers sat in potato air!
Good food, good wine, good company!