Archive for the ‘Restaurant Review’ Category

Vault 13

Posted: September 14, 2019 in Restaurant Review

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as published on YGTV

Nestled in the corner between Gin & Wines and My Wines, we find the latest offering that Chatham Counterguard has to give us; Vault 13.

“From old foundations to new beginnings” 

Having transformed itself from the Wright Tech Media premises into a small plates and cocktail bar, has been a giant step for William Wright, proprietor.  

The vault, restored to original brick and stone, provides a unique setting with subtle overhead lighting in blue and lilac hues, reflecting the handcrafted wooden tables with cobalt blue centres.     The glass wall at the end of the vault showcases the kitchen area – an approach which always inspires cleanliness and confidence in diners.

From the opening on 5th August, they have been running with a soft launch menu of open faced tostas, small plate dishes, salads and meat dishes; quite a generous list with a simple cheese and charcuterie selection.

Many dishes on the menu will be familiar such as prawns al pil-pil and huevos rotos which, even though delicious, can be found on menus along the strip but there are many other dishes worth a try – the staff are always friendly and on hand to talk you through any dishes you might not be sure about.

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We ordered the chicharrones whilst we looked through the menu.  These were man-sized, home made pork scratchings.  Crispy, aerated, puffed, pork-scented bites.  Personally, I would have preferred them to be saltier to be the perfect accompaniment with an ice cold beer!

On various occasions, I have now ordered the pulled pork tosta with spicy mayo and chicharrones which is one of my favourite bites.  The tender pulled pork, laced with asian flavours of soy, star anise and topped with a mini version of the chicharrones mentioned above; a pork-flavoured Quaver.

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The pork belly bao bun with pickled cucumber and spicy mayo is also another of my regular choices.  The bao bun light and fluffy, every bite yielding through to the asian-flavoured pork belly.  The pickled cucumber providing texture and acidity to the earthy flavours of star anise and soy.

The round red prawn croquettes are a friend’s favourite and she always orders them – presented in a ceramic egg carton; each golden sphere sitting on a dollop of aioli, however, sometimes the aioli has been decoratively sat on top of the croquette.   Size of the croquettes has also been inconsistent, fluctuating from XXL (a two biter) to M (pop in the mouth size) – there needs to be greater consistency in execution and presentation.

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I never got to try the sticky toffee pudding which I have been told, “Is to die for!” So much so, that the person in question actually orders these to take home at the end of the meal.

I’ve also been told that there is a “Cocktail of the Week” – Raspberry Gin Fizz and Sweet Dreams being popular amongst those who’ve tried them but I have never seen this on their menu nor been encouraged/offered these on any of the occasions I have been to Vault 13.  Perhaps something that can be thought about for the future.  Put up some posters at the entrance encouraging people to request the cocktail of the week or ask people if you can get them a taster glass of the Cocktail of the Week (at a reduced price) whilst they look through the menu – just a suggestion.

Also, I was not impressed and will not abide my glass being taken off me during a meal and replaced by a single-use plastic cup because the fear is that I may disappear with it to another bar along the strip.  As someone enjoying an evening dining with grown-ups I felt that this was perhaps out of place and inappropriate for a restaurant.  

Operate this policy for people who pop in to buy a drink rather than diners who are sat at tables.

There is much to enjoy at Vault 13.  I especially liked trying different dishes to what can be found elsewhere on the strip and other restaurants around Gibraltar.  I particularly like their Asian inspired small plates and hope to see this idea evolve into others: Asian popcorn shrimp bao, chicken teriyaki with sesame seed bao, fried chicken with smashed avo, pulled hoisin duck bao with cucumbers and spring onions – the list is endless.

I look forward to seeing what the future has in store for Vault 13;  how William and his team continue to grow and develop their menu and the service they provide and how once the training wheels are taken off, their soft launch becomes a full (hard) launch with a full menu.

I’ll definitely return – after all, who can keep me away from those delicious pulled-pork tostas?!

  

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Patagőnĭca

Posted: September 19, 2016 in Gibraltar, Restaurant Review
Tags: , ,

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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.

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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

 

mayday18I 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

mayday12Sweet, 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!