7-9 Exhibition Road
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On Monday night I made a rare trip to West London for a Dine with Dos Hermanos hosted dinner at Casa Brindisa. I very nearly decided against going as it was £40 and I have exactly £45 to live off until the end of this month, and after all this was a school night. I then found myself more than a little intrigued as I am a fan of their blog but have never met them (or indeed any food bloggers) before. A quick glance at the menu and I was sold:
Salted Marcona almonds
Diferentes tipos de jamon – Serrano, Joselito paleta, and DOP dehesa de Extramdura
Toast with tomate
Differents anchovies – Ahumadas and salted
Tortilla de patatas
Iberico ham croquetas
Pulpo a la Gallega
Iberico Pork fillet with Apple sauce
Esalada de frutas with olive oil
Leche frita with vanilla ice cream
But how to live on a fiver until July? I was reminded of a particularly harsh time at primary school when Nicola Hawkes had a swimming pool and Wimpy party and everyone in my class got to go except me. Not wanting to add to the emotional scarring I indulged in a spot of light stroppage in front of the fiancé and secured the dosh (“But it’s not FAIR. You’d only spend it on that man rubbish anyway”).
Surely it must be pretty much every restaurateur’s worst nightmare, a load of food-bloggers descending on them with a broadsheet restaurant critic to boot. Would it be like that scene in the Witches except with the staff as the mice? They must have been bricking it.
Thankfully of course, I was completely wrong. Contrary to my expectations the staff seemed to be absolutely loving it. They had that rare and expiring quality in restaurants, the one that’s sadly all too often replaced with desperation in these nail-biting monetary times – confidence. Confidence about serving us dish after glorious dish of Executive Chef, Jose Pizarro’s exceptional food.
I met the lovely Sig of Scandilicious, and we made our way in. Simon immediately put me at ease with a glass of Manzanilla sherry; he was a convivial and excellent host. I met some geezer called Jay Rayner and told him off for bad Facebook form. He told me off for not voting (yes, yes, I know my crime was far worse). After claiming not to know anyone else there either we had a pre-prandial chat about Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension and the psychos at large. Apparently, once you’ve been on the telly you attract an even weirder strain of nut-job. He told me he was considering publishing his first ever article from his student days at Leeds, but it was just too unbearably bad. We then sat down to eat with Sig, Silverbrow, Choc Star, Theboydonefood, his lovely girlfriend, some really nice Turkish guy who’s name escapes me, Simon and that Jay bloke.
Anthony Silverbrow and I discovered we had a mutual angst when it came to pork (he’s a good Jew and I’m a bad Muslim). He turned out to be far stronger willed than I and this resolve was rewarded with a truffle scented fried egg with asparagus. I on the other hand gave in almost immediately at the merest whisper of peer group pressure. Muttering feebly about how it was fine as long as they were happy free-range/organic I got stuck in to the buttery plate of pink leaves. Sweet and melting, it bore (sorry) the taste of pigs so loved up they must surely have been slipped ecstasy tablets prior to slaughter. I also adored the smoked anchovies (so delicate they must never be allowed near any heat) and the marjoram and orange scented Gordal olives, each one as meaty as a baby’s fist. Deep fried Monte Enebro goat’s cheese with orange blossom honey was a show-stopper and the rich, subtle almond-laced monk fish croquettes left me uncharacteristically speechless. A glass of Pedro Ximenez sherry was like molten caramel, with a gorgeous slick and tarry texture.
Simon gave me lots of advice about food blogging, and his lovely sister ate meat for the first time in seventeen years (it was really that good). It’s always great to meet fellow Bengalis especially food loving ones, and he gave me a great recipe for rabri that I’m going to try over the weekend. I also briefly met Food Urchin (apparently aka “Daisy”?!) Niamh (Eat Like a Girl) and Helen (Food Stories) – I would have liked to have stayed and mingled on, but by this point the sherry had got to me. So sadly I left and made the long journey back to deepest, darkest East London.
On the train home I went through the goodie bag like a kid at Christmas, garnering envious looks from the other commuters as I examined my chocolate turron and bag of jam sugar. All in all it was a stellar evening worth every penny and I’m already looking forward to the next one at the Bull and Last in Hampstead.