Archive for the ‘Gibraltar’ Category

Patagőnĭca

Posted: September 19, 2016 in Gibraltar, Restaurant Review
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Whilst thousands of tourists, off our numerous cruise ships flock to Casemates Square, locals prefer to keep out of the heat and stick to the side-streets and back alleys that branch off Main Street. Recently, Chatham Counterguard and Parliament Lane have gone through a renaissance with new restaurants and eateries taking root, catering for those that work in the centre of town and its surrounding areas.

One such place benefiting from the rejuvenation of this district is Hacienda Patagőnĭca; found at the end of Parliament Lane.

Upon its sign going up, which was visible from Line Wall Road as you drove by; there was a buzz of excitement that a very good Argentinean Grill, of a reputable chain, was coming to Gibraltar. Everyone was looking forward to it, as many had experienced the same product in La Linea at the Patagőnĭa restaurant or either of the Patagőnĭca tapas bars.

Unfortunately, its official opening was somewhat veiled in obscurity and considering it has been open since May or even before, there aren’t many people who seem to have heard of its opening or have eaten there, however, it does seem to have its lunchtime regulars.
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Hacienda Patagőnĭca can be found behind “The Office” at the end of Parliament Lane. Its terrace, that greets you on arrival, is covered in a green astroturf lawn. There are approximately 10 tables, all with vivid red, yellow or green watering cans holding steak knives and forks, as well as, decorating window sills surrounding the terrace. A redundant staircase that leads nowhere sits on the back wall. There are fewer tables inside with the decor leaning more towards Frida Kahlo’s mexican terracotta, however, the result is friendly, comforting and homely.

The menu, a meat lover’s delight.

I would recommend always starting your meal with a spicy meat empanadilla and a provolone grilled cheese (provoleta) to share, maybe even ordering this with your drinks order to expedite matters should you need to get back to your desk.

For the uninitiated into the world of Argentinean grills, I suggest ordering a Patagonia Grill (Parrillada Patagonia); a mouth-watering, tantalising platter of various cuts of meat including beef tenderloin, veal ribs, skirt, entrecote, black pudding and Creole sausage seasoned to perfection. Order it to be cooked medium rare (a su punto) as you can always have it cooked more should you wish. Please note, this is a feast for four people – 6 could eat comfortably from this portion, especially if you’ve had the empanadilla and provolone.

parrillada-patagonica

Photo taken from Samuel Stocker/Facebook

If you are of a squeamish disposition or vegetarian, turn away now…

…I prefer my meat cooked rare and swimming in bloody meat juices, I then take the baked potato and mash it into this glorious puddle #foodporn.

Once you’ve tried the different cuts of meat the Parrillada has to offer, you can then decide how you wish to proceed the next time you go – because there will be a next time – would you order the same mixed platter or select a specific cut of meat to feast on? I always order the ubiquitous Argentinean empanadilla and grilled cheese followed by specific dishes so as to get a larger portion of my favourite cuts drizzled with chimichurri.


If you are a vegetarian, I doubt that this would have been your first choice of restaurant but there are a few veggie options such as: roasted peppers, stuffed aubergines/mushrooms/courgettes, fried provolone triangles, Swiss potatoes, baked potatoes, as well as, provolone grilled cheese (provoleta) and a mixed salad, which are also delicious – or so I have been told.

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Having been there on several occasions, I have found that service always seems to be better at lunchtime. On busier summer evenings, service can sometimes be erratic or slow. I can only put this inconsistency down to the fact that management have been unprepared for events such as Summer Nights. Admittedly, our waiter was very apologetic for not being able to give us a better service and offered us a drink on the house to make up for it.
Frustratingly, even with its redundant staircase, there is no access from Line Wall Road to Hacienda Patagőnĭca. People have to make their way round Chatham Counterguard probably stopping at one of the establishments along the way.

Nevertheless, as smoke billows up from its wood fired grill, peppering the air with delicious meat smells, its chimney acts as a beacon to hungry stomachs throughout the town, making Hacienda Patagőnĭca a great place for a quick or leisurely lunch and evening meal in the centre of town.

Meat sweats imminent…

as published on www.yourgibraltartv.com on 7th September 2016

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Nestled in the heart of Main Street, in-between old bottle green shutters and adjacent to the old butcher’s shop ‘El Ginger’, sits Pancake Factory; sited in the old Al-Andalus restaurant on College Lane.

A small but friendly place with approximately 8-10 tables inside and a further 5 outside. Pancake Factory is a pleasant place where you can hook up with friends for breakfast, have lunch with loved ones or meet clients for a meal.  The location is ideal as it is bang in the centre of town but remarkably quiet as it just misses out on the hustle and bustle of Main Street.

The decor currently feels like a mish-mash of different styles and I for one would perhaps like to see some more consistency in the approach.  There is a turquoise blue wall at the rear of the restaurant very reminiscent of 50’s American diners.  Perhaps developing this idea could be very fitting in the neighbourhood which has a hipster vibe going for it, complete with tattoo parlour.

Pancake Factory staff worked continuously and moved from table to table; taking orders, bringing food out and clearing place settings with a cheery disposition if somewhat nervous at times – they’ve only been open since 4th August 2016 but I am sure they will become much more confident as their experience grows.

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The menu opens as if the shutters to the windows on College Lane itself, however, there is no need to open the shutters should you be searching for pancake perfection.  The left shutter describing 8 crêpes from the traditional lemon and sugar crêpe “London Lemon” to the more decadent Hungarian special  served with walnuts, caramel and chocolate sauce “Budapest Gundel.”  The right shutter describes 8 American style pancakes such as: “Cote D’Azur” with blueberries and maple syrup and, “Tijuana Thrill” with strawberries and chocolate sauce.

FullSizeRender (4)The American Style pancakes arrive as a very decent stack of five fluffy pancakes soused in delicious syrups and sauces and a scoop of ice-cream should you wish.  As recommended by our waitress, I tried the Montreal Madness with apple, cinnamon and maple syrup; this can very easily become my new favourite flavour combo.

The menu itself has a good selection of various breakfast items such as DIY sandwiches, omelettes, granola and English Breakfast staples, however, American pancakes need crispy, streaky bacon on them and I was surprised to see that this was not one of the extras you could add to your pancake stack.  The Cote D’Azur with blueberries and maple syrup was crying out for this.  I do believe they are trying to rectify this issue.  The lunch dishes sound appealing – I hear the Hungarian Goulash is delicious – there is a good choice of starters, mains, salads, pasta dishes and savoury pancakes on the menu.

Pancake Factory opens from 9am to 5pm and is great for breakfast or lunch.  Alternatively, if you’re booked in for lunch somewhere else, Pancake Factory is an ideal place to stop for a quick dessert before you get back to work!

Good luck focusing on your spreadsheets and presentations after dining on pancake glory.

Gastrorob

as published on www.yourgibraltartv.com

 

“Wagamama, Gibraltar was faring the best across Europe!”  Rumoured the naughty child.

And after shifting 1 month’s worth of duck and beer in 3 days I can see why!

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When I first came across Wagamama in London in the late 90’s, I nostalgically remember it as the perfect antidote to a night of student revelling London-style (stylie).  We’d wake up and trundle down to the nearest Wagamamas and cluster around their long tables and immediately get a vitamin boost from their super green, super fresh, body cleansing, high antioxidant smoothies followed by a bowl of something spicy with plenty of carbs – if my mind goes that far back, I think my dish of choice was always a Pad Thai.  It would beat going to Maccy-Ds any day!

Flash-forward over 20 years and in June 2016, after a social media frenzy of freebie tickets, £5 sittings and press evenings, we are treated to our very own Wagamama here in Gibraltar.  With the stunning setting that Ocean Village provides, Wagamama, with its roots in Japanese-inspired cuisine, fits right in amongst the palm trees and ferns that line the promenade.

long tablesUpon arrival everything seems to be at one with nature –chairs are large wooden blocks with simple metal legs, rattan chairs out on the terrace; long wooden-topped tables (ideal for families) presented in a minimalist Japanese canteen style with spotlights aimed along the centre of these.   Fully opening glass doors bringing the sea into the room.  The 3 large mirrors at the back of the room creating  a sense of depth, reflecting images of staff whizzing from station to table.  And last but not least, its vast open kitchen and prep area with its denizen of chefs glancing from screens to chopping boards to woks to plates.

The menu is not organised as ‘starters and mains’ but as: Sides – to order with your main dish or to share; Gyoza – either steamed or fried dumplings filled with goodness; Ramen – a bowl of hot soup filled with noodles; toppings and garnishes; Curry – fresh curries served over rice; Teppanyaki – sizzling soft noodles with crunchy veg/meat/prawns; Omakase – 4 different Chef Specials; Donburi – a big bowl of steamed rice and stir fired meats/veg; Salads -2 stir fry salads and Extras – miso soup, Japanese pickles, ‘century’ egg, kimchee, chillies or rice/noodles.

I found the exemplary waiting staff to be very cheerful and friendly at all times.  Their knowledge of the menu evident as they would translate dish numbers into dish names; scribbling your order onto your placemat.  Before leaving our table, the waiter asked us if we’d been to Wagamama before so as to clarify how our food would arrive.

For the uninitiated: as your dish is created it is served – regardless of whether there are 2, 4 or 6 of you dining; there is no procession of courses.

Fried duck gyoza

fried duck gyoza


Steamed pulled pork gyoza

steamed pulled pork gyoza

We ordered some Gyoza to see how they fared against authentic Japanese gyoza, which are dry-fried on the base and then steamed to perfection.  As the menu advertised either fried or steamed gyoza we tried the fried duck gyoza (99) – delicious, deep decadent duck meat in a deep fried gyoza, however, not what we were expecting.  Preferring a steamed gyoza we ended up stopping the waiter to order some steamed pulled pork gyoza (105) which were much more authentic in flavour and texture and upon reading the menu a second time realising that the steamed gyoza are served grilled!

Omakase – entrust the chefteriyaki lamb

Trying to avoid my Pad Thai Wagamama staple, I decided to let the chef recommend me one of its four Omakase (Japanese for ‘to entrust the chef’).  The grilled Teriyaki lamb served on a bed of soba noodles in a pea and wasabi dressing with grilled asparagus, kale, mushrooms and mangetout – simply scrumptious; grilled teriyaki lamb, grilled veggies, soba noodles.

Since then I’ve been again and had the chilli squid (107) crispy fried squid dusted with shichimi, served with a chilli/coriander dipping sauce – tongue tantalisingly tingly and the pork ramen (30) which even though I slurped my way through, could have been hotter – both in temp and spice, and saltier; however, I suppose that’s why there is soy sauce and chilli oil on every table!

banana katsuAs part of the ‘harmony, balance and chilli’ mantra that Wagamama is legendary for, ending your spicy meal with Banana Katsu (142) – banana covered in panko bread crumbs and deep fried with salted caramel ice-cream equals perfection.  I’ve asked for the mochi balls (124) and the sweet onigiri (135) but unfortunately they still haven’t received them from the Uk.

I suppose that if we are dependent on Uk deliveries for the food to be franchise-exact we will, on occasion, have this wait-time on certain dishes when items expire.  Next time I go I know I’m going to try the prawn itame curry (39) and here’s hoping that they’ve got the pork ribs (97) in stock!

But all is good with the world when you end your meal with jasmine flower tea…

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Whilst the refurbishment took place through the long drawn out winter months, the team at Little Bay made sure to keep tantalising people with morsels of information about their warming exotic food menu, enticing cocktails and ultra modern decor.  When they finally opened in April 2016 people were intrigued and couldn’t wait to sample Little Bay’s alluring Eastern delights as presented to us through social media.

“Cumin, cardamon and clove.”

I eventually made it down there one Thursday evening in mid-May and the place was buzzing: groups of friends, individuals, couples – of all ages.  I think we may have even been the second or even third sitting that evening!

“Comfortable decadence.”

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Dominating the centre of the restaurant is the heart of Little Bay – its circular bar.  The bar staff shimmering between the glinting glassware and beaten copper water jugs, mixing enticing cocktails.  Guests are encouraged to sit at the bar on plush stone coloured velvet bar stools studded with metal rings hanging off the backs whilst waiting for their tables to be set.  Masala Mules being everyone’s cocktail of choice.

The menu is varied but not extensive; 14 starters and 16 main dishes – a good balance of chicken, lamb, seafood and vegetarian options, as well as the ubiquitous rice dishes, naans and sides.

My menu choices were as follows:

Little Bay2Starter – Chicken 65 (Chilli Chicken)
Marinated pieces of chicken breast, stir fried and tossed in spring onions, chillies and coriander.  This was a very generous starter.  Succulent chicken pieces, fresh zingy ginger coming through the heat of the chillies.  Like popcorn chicken – but grown up; delicious.  With some rice or a naan this could have been a very decent lunch.  I would have liked to have been encouraged by the waiter to have perhaps ordered some raita to go with, not because it needed to be tempered but just as another texture/sensation on the tongue; hot chicken pieces, fridge cold raita.

Main – Keema MattarLittle Bay4
On the menu there is a “Little Bay recommends” next to this dish and I was not disappointed.  Spiced, minced lamb cooked in a tomato and spice infused sauce, freshened up with vibrant green peas. Rich and full of body, this dish was perfectly accompanied by a plain naan and steamed basmati rice.  Any other flavours would have conflicted with the musty-heavy scent of cumin, cardamom and clove.

We decided to forgo dessert as I didn’t really want chocolate cake, carrot cake or pecan pie after a delicious Indian meal.  What happened to the Indian desserts normally served in Indian restaurants?  Mango kulfi? Mango Lassi? Kheer (milky rice pudding)?

Gibraltar desperately needed a proper Indian Restaurant in the leisure areas.  Since Masai Grill, Viceroy and then Laziz shut down, we’ve had to succumb to the Indian takeaway.  Little Bay, which I can’t help but feel, should be called, The Bay Leaf, is a high end Indian Restaurant with high quality food.  A restaurant that wouldn’t be out of place next to London’s The Cinnamon Club or The Red Fort.  Its Directors have worked hard to create an image of comfortable decadence.   Their dynamic team of managers, exciting bar staff and committed waiters making the place buzz with youthful exuberance.

There is an Indian tapas menu which has many dishes from the a la carte menu so that guests may discover the menu, however, I would like to see more “Little Bay recommends” next to different dishes to encourage diners to choose something delicious but unfamiliar.  All tables should be offered a copper pot of poppadums and accompanying chutney whilst diners peruse the menu – we weren’t.

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Masala Mule

I, for one, can’t wait to return.  Promises of exotic spice and Eastern delights did not disappoint.  Next time though, I’d make sure it was in a large group so that I could try lots of different dishes!  And I’d make sure that I tried one of those Masala bad boys!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_0010(1)Lunch at The Hendrix was a Purple Haze for me. Psychedelic sweet chilli prawns sat proudly on cubes of cider-marinated pork belly served with a pineapple and lettuce salad followed by a deconstructed banoffee pie with banana parfait, dulce de leche and flambéd banana AND a gorgeous lemongrass and basil infused creamy posset, served with vanilla mascarpone and summer fruits…deliciously dreamy.

At The Hendix, classic combos are given the Ariel Guivi treatment. Under Ariel’s mantra of ‘soul food’ there is plenty to fill your belly and indeed feed the soul. There is a good balance of dishes on the menu to cater for all such as: mushroom linguine served with wild mushrooms collected from the Campo area, homemade burgers; served medium, fire-roasted aubergines drizzled in tahini, beef skirt with chimichurri, warm goats cheese salad, classic fish and chips with homemade tartare sauce served with mushy peas, as well as Ariel’s classic hummus with toasted pine nuts served with warm pitta bread – a dish Ariel created in his days working at a previous local establishment. And for those nights watching the game or those mornings after, there is a plethora of deep fried breaded bar snacks to choose from too.

The food is delicious but there is no mistaking, this is not a restaurant but a pub; a gastropub, with very good food. Ariel is passionate about his menu and the quality of his product which he insists should be fresh such as the wild mushrooms in his linguine (cutting this dish from the menu should he not be able to source these). He is very aware of what he wants to achieve for The Hendrix and is keen to raise the bar of pub grub in Gibraltar. His previous experience under the tutorship of Matt Birtwistle and now as his own boss with his own team are the ingredients to make a successful gastropub of The Hendrix.

The waitresses were very pleasant and provided a very good service with attention to detail. The drinks menu with its cocktails and fancy lemonades sounded as if this might be the sort of place you’d want to sit at on a summer evening, or even after work! Instead of walking past it, pop in. Having read some previous diner reviews, the majority of people would be very happy to return and eat there again. Those that wouldn’t, I’d say give it another go and try something else.

I have to admit, I was originally tempted by Miss Piggy but settled on a Hendrix Purple Haze (same same but different!)

…I guess I’ll just have to visit again!

 

Calentita! Street Food or Gourmet Nosh?

The Spring Festival came to its climactic ending with Calentita! Gibraltar’s annual food festival.  40 stalls served food to over 6000 people throughout the evening spread between Grand Casemates Square and Market Place.  The live kitchen with professional chefs was televised on big screens so that the crowd could see the food being prepared.  The Big Table which proved popular last year was expanded to allow a larger volume of eating traffic.

There were several innovations to the line up this year – the most impressive I suppose was the Argentinian Grill.  White coals were spread directly onto the ground between two bus shelters, atop of which rested a purpose made grill able to accommodate 100 spatchcocked chickens!  It was beautiful to see, a delight to smell and mouth-wateringly tantalising.  For a mere £5 I was treated to a protein boxful of Argentinian cuts of meat; churrasco, short ribs, bife de chorizo.  Apparently the stall sold out by 9:30pm!  Meat sweats imminent…
Argentinian GrillTwo of the food stalls that have been around since the inception of Calentita! 9 years ago continue to be the most popular with the crowds; the Moroccan and Indian food stalls.

The crowds were gathered around the Moroccan stall by 6:30pm awaiting the 7pm bell; salivating like Pavlovian dogs.  This stall always does well with hundreds of beef and chicken pinchitos cooking at any one time.  (Actually, I’ve never been able to tell whether they sell anything else?) I remember that last year people came directly off the beach in their swimwear and queued up for these delicious pinchitos!
IMG_8663When the bell rang at 7pm the stall I was nearest to was the Indian food stall.  I managed to beat the queues and went straight to the front whereupon I was served immediately.  There were several options to choose from.  For £5 I ordered a Cobra Beer and a chicken biryani.  The biryani was delicious and heavily scented with cardamom, cinnamon and clove; the chicken fall-off-the-bone tender.  I’m sure it was unintentional; the pots the biryani was served in fit snugly in the pint glass which meant I could walk around eating and drinking without the need to ask someone to hold my glass.  This meant I could continue walking around, soaking up the atmosphere whilst enjoying the food.  Vital at a food festival.

My last foodie experience of the evening came by the Gastronomic Tapas Tasting at El Capote.  £20 got you 5 tapas cooked in El Capote’s deconstructed/molecular gastronomy manner.  The dishes were: Snack, Sangria, Atún and BBQ.

For those of you who have either experienced these evenings at El Capote for yourself or have read my blogs/reviews previously you’ll know about this approach.  For those uninitiated, it is basically taking a dish, separating each of its constituent parts and presenting it in a way using new techniques.

IMG_8676SNACK – a dish of two parts, the first a pesto calentita served with toasted pinenuts and olive oil beads which was very nice however, not a true calentita in the purest sense of the word, the second  jamón de toro.  This ‘jamón’ was thinly sliced fatty tuna (ventresca) brushed with fat (good fat).  The fat tasted like Spanish jamón de pata negra so therefore acorn rendered fat.  And just like high end Spanish hams, the fat coated the inside of the mouth and made you question whether this was really cured ham or tuna.  Delicious.IMG_8673

SANGRIA – as Chef Lede called it, “Sangria Solida”.  A few cubes of sangria were served on ice and topped with zest of lime.  How was the sangria solidified and kept from melting I hear you ask?  Chef Lede infused watermelon cubes with homemade sangria.  The cubes were easy to bite into – they had the texture of watermelon and the sangria taste was clearly present – with a dash of spirits here and there and brought to life with the lime zest – dangerously refreshing!

IMG_8681ATÚN – diced tuna marinated in kimchi (a spicy Korean dressing with citrus notes) and served with red cherries and salmon roe.  This was my favourite of the five tapas – tuna from Barbate, Spain is of such a high quality that raw is how to best enjoy the product.  The kimchi dressing both spicy and sour a perfect counterpoint to the sweet, fruity cherry and salty roe.  Beautiful!  My greedy side wanted a bucket load of this dish, however, with rich tuna – less can sometimes be more.

BBQ – the most inventive of all the tapas and visually mindblowing! IMG_8682 Imagine 3 items on a plate sitting on tomato sauce.  Two are slow cooked cuts of meat, the other a piece of charcoal.  Yes, charcoal.  Then you are told that the charcoal is edible.  You poke and prod it with your fork and it really does have the look of charcoal – however when you cut into it, it has the texture of a scorched-roasted chestnut.  Its taste was much like a yam, or white sweet potato.  This was in fact yuca – not to be confused with the plant yucca!  I have since been informed that the milk white flesh was dyed black with food colouring to give it its distinctive charcoal look.

Check out my Calentita! 2015 movie:

So from street food to gourmet tapas, I left Calentita! a very happy man.  But it did make me wonder what Gibraltarians want to get out of this food festival.  Do we want new food experiences; new flavours that we haven’t been able to try in Gibraltar previously or are we just looking to fill our belly?  Judging by the queue surrounding the popular stalls, it is clear that people are going for food that is familiar to them.

Does this a food festival actually make?

Next year marks the 10th Anniversary of Calentita!  From its humble beginnings to an event that unites the community through food.  What foods would you like to see making an appearance next year?  What would you like to see to mark the occasion?  Please don’t say, “fireworks!”

AbdesalemWe all have our memories of The Moroccan Restaurant and its owner, chef, maitre-d, waiter and great Gibraltarian character that was Abdesalam.

Sadly, the surly-comic character that was Abdesalam passed away this week and since hearing of his passing, many turned to social media to pay their respects and proclaim his pinchitos to be “the best in town!”

For those that knew where his establishment was hidden, it was a little jewel tucked away behind the hustle and bustle of Main Street, in humble Turnbull’s Lane.  With only a few tables inside; 6 could sit comfortably, 8 would be a squeeze as no-one wanted to sit infront of the sliding door that unveiled the toilet!

In summer, Abdesalam would set up a couple of tables outside and even though this extended his restaurant he wouldn’t necessarily want the demand.  As Abdesalam’s approach was not that of a multi-tasking chef catering for several tables at a time.  His was a methodical table-by-table approach.  Pre-ordering was an advantage known only to some, otherwise, when you arrived he would take your order and start prepping and cooking especially for you; whoever arrived after you would have to wait until your table’s order was complete!

Not the sort of place to go to in a rush.

When at The Moroccan Restaurant it was like being stuck in a time machine where everything ran on Abdesalam-time – and everyone was the happier for it.

I remember once pre-ordering several pinchitos for a group of 6 of us (approx 30 pinchitos) and a family arrived off a cruiseHeiniken
ship and ordered chicken tagines and cous-cous.  They were on a tight schedule; we were having a leisurely lunch with the endless supply of green Heineken bottles from the self-service fridge!  The more anxious they became, the more thorough he seemed to stoke the BBQ to get the perfect white-hot charcoals to cook on. Thankfully they had been to Gibraltar before and had done all the tourist sites previously!

Several people have recalled Abdesalam’s mantra, “Para gente de familia, no borrachos!” (A family restaurant not for drunkards) and, “Esto es un restaurante, no un bar.” (This is a restaurant not a bar.)  As one of his pet peeves was people sitting at his tables drinking the cold drinks he was chilling for his clients.

pinchitosAbdesalam took great pride in providing you with his taste of Morocco whether it was a tagine (chicken or lamb), pinchitos (beef or chicken), cous-cous or even a simple tomato and onion salad.  He would tell me that the reason why his beef pinchitos were the best was because he would buy good quality beef (carne de calidad amigo!) and then meticulously trim off the excess fat before marinating in his ‘secret’ spice rub.

Not to everyone’s tastes; the decor with its chintzy relics of Morocco, dusty souvenirs of the red fez, babouche slippers and mint teapot variety adorning the cobwebbed shelves above the bar, the sliding door for the toilet that hung on a hinge and the service that ran on Abdeslam-time but I liked it, as did many.

I am sad to say that I will miss being sat outside on Turnbull’s Lane with a green bottle in my hand, watching Abdeslam stood in the archway to The Moroccan Restaurant,  fanning the flames of his pinchito bbq with his raffia fan, wafting the smoke over in my direction as if sat around a tuareg campfire in the Sahara, salivating at the smell of meat caramelising on hot coals…

Gastrorob

My article as it appeared in Calentita! press.