The thing that I have learnt from these friends who enter competitions is that it is a numbers game and you do, indeed, have to be in it to win it. My friend with the teabags? Ended up winning two Ceylon sapphires in that competition.
I don't enter that many competitions, but every now and again I do. And this time I also won a sapphire. Sadly, it was but a Bombay Sapphire. Happily, that means free gin! Hurrah!
Bombay Sapphire (which some people at gin club sneer at but I still love. The bottle is blue!) teamed up with Brindisa to produce the "ultimate" G&T and tapas pairing. They ran a competition on their facebook page, and I won it. The prize was the G&T pairing for two people at one of the Brindisa restaurants.
Since I was overdue for a catch-up with a gin-drinking pal, I invited her to join me. And since a single plate of tapas can not be eked out for the full duration of a proper natter, we turned it into dinner and ordered a bunch of other stuff (not part of the prize).
We did, of course, start with the prize. A very large (but not particularly strong) gin and tonic garnished with a caperberry and topped with the "tapa" or lid of sliced jamon and roasted almonds.
|Ultimate Gin and Tonic pairing.|
It was absolutely gorgeous. I never would have thought of putting a caperberry in a gin and tonic (although you garnish a martini with an olive, so why not?) but it added a subtle salinity to the aroma of the drink without actually altering the flavour much. And that breath of salt tied it beautifully to the ham and almonds.
That ham. Oh that ham. I've raved about the Brindisa jamón ibérico de bellota before when I have bought it at their Borough market shop. It doesn't suffer from being eaten in a restaurant, within sight of the gentleman slicing it. Sweet, nutty fat-edged slices of heaven. If it isn't the single most delicious thing in the world I want to know what is.
I could easily have eaten another three plates of that ham, but alas my bank account would not have co-operated. And anyway, there were loads of other tapas greatest hits that we wanted to try.
Unfortunately I didn't get a picture of the grilled chorizo on toast, with rocket and piquillo pepper. I mean, I did, but not a useable one. The fat chorizo, butterflied and striped with grill marks, was pretty easily divided by two. Which is a good thing because there would have been blood on the floor if we hadn't been able to share.
The patatas allioli was a generous portion - too much for us to finish despite my best efforts. Perfectly crisp chunks of potato and a massive dollop of gorgeously rich pale green allioli. It had just the right degree of pungency from the garlic and a little grassiness from the olive oil and was generally wonderful.
Our table was right next to one of the cash register, ordering gizmos, so there was never a shortage of staff when we needed one. And had the comedic bonus of one of the waitresses sitting on my shoulder a couple of times.
I felt that the service was very well paced, with the dishes coming when they were hot and fresh, but with reasonable pauses between them so we weren't fighting to find space for them on the table. The croquetas weren't as fluid in the middle as some I have had, but the creamy filling, studded with little cubes of jamon, was delicious.
|Ox cheek with purple potatoes|
The ox cheek with red wine sauce and purple potatoes was the only dish that I found less than eye-rollingly, toe-curlingly, mouthwateringly wonderful. It was far from tough, but didn't have quite the melting gelatinous quality I like in ox cheek. The potatoes were very smoky - I don't know how they were prepared but they were a little on the bitter side, like getting a gust of bonfire smoke caught in the back of your throat.
Our final savoury was this gorgeous slab of fried monte enebro cheese adorned with beetroot crisps and lovely floral honey. I was so pleased that Sharon isn't one of the goats cheese loathing community, because it would have been a crying shame to miss this. Quite strong, but still creamy and somehow mellow, tempered with the sweetness of the honey. Divine.
|Deep fried monte enebro goats cheese|
We did have desserts, but I didn't get a picture of them. I had an exemplary crema catalana, with the perfect degree of spice in the custard, exactly the right wobble and a finely judged bitterness to the toffee. Sharon had a slice of tarta de Santiago, which looked very good and disappeared without putting up too much of a fight.
The bill, including service charge, came to £26 each. Extremely good value, given how full we were and the quality of the food. It would have been higher, of course, had we bought drinks. The Ultimate G&T is available for £10 until the end of May, apparently.