Trudging through the rain, trying to keep my umbrella right side up, I did wonder how on earth Brindisa were planning to bring the flavour of a Spanish outdoor feast to a pretty grim Tuesday evening. Heaters, was the answer. Lots of heaters. And beautiful displays of vegetables. So even though we were outside (on a covered terrace) it was warm and bright. As long as you stayed away from the ends where some rain was blowing under the canopy.
I was a skosh early, due to an unsuccessful bra-buying expedition to Oxford Street, and more than ready for a drink. The cava started to flow, which always makes me more cheerful. Not long after the cava started flowing, the food came in a steady torrent. Delicious meaty olives stuffed with orange. Tempura-battered calçots with romesco sauce. Wonderfully light, creamy croquetas at just the right temperature for eating.
I was wearing a new top so I declined - even the people who really had a good technique ended up with streams of wine dribbled down their fronts.
The calçots are charred over a fire and then wrapped in newspaper to steam through to complete the cooking. Then everyone gets their own personal bundle. Eating them requires a bit of skill, to strip the charred outer layers off in one swift movement while leaving the inner layers clean and succulent. Then you dabble it in romesco sauce and eat it in a single bite. It's a messy business, but has a fabulous sensuality to it. We did wonder if anyone had thought of doing calçotades as a singles event - it'd beat the heck out of ten pin bowling as a first date.
|Stripping the outer layers|
|Dabbling in romesco|
|Approved technique for eating|
And then, of course, pudding. Crema catalana, naturally, given a hint of smokiness with an iron salamander instead of a blowtorch.
Brindisa will be running calçotades through February and March on weekends, pre-booked only (because they have to know how many calçots to import). It's £35 a head, which includes the calçots with romesco, the meat platter, the sides of bread, potato, artichoke and red pepper, the crema catalana and a glass of prosecco. I don't think you'll be able to stop at one glass though.