Wednesday, 4 November 2009
Yuh. So, naturally, I booked us into Dehesa. No pressure.
And, of course, then I discovered that I wasn't even pronouncing it properly - it's De-esa, not De-Heesa. Not a flying start.
My companions on Tuesday were my lovable Peanut Gallery, the fun-loving Chris NC (again), Chris' fabulous wife Maggie, the lovely Yinglei from Beijing and our die hard Spaniard (and litmus test for all things authentically Spanish), Oscar.
Fortunately, De-esa is always pretty good. Its fare is a flashy combination of Spanish and Italian influences, with a modern London spin, so eating there is never going to mentally transport you straight to Madrid.
Some of its offerings are more authentically Spanish than others. I have it on good authority from my faithful Spaniard that the pork belly was true to the test. Delicious and crispy in all the right places, and set in a clay dish with flavoursome, rosemary scented cannellini beans, this was one of the favourite dishes of the night (£6.25).
The Jamon Iberica de Bellota "5J" Cinco Jotas (£12.80) also passed the litmus test. And more. Eating it in polite company was quite problematic - rich, creamy and mouth watering, it almost necessitated a minute's silence to worship each mouthful lovingly in all its glory. I could quite happily have limited the meal to a plate of each of the jamon, some bread, cheese and wine. Glorious.
The Spanish selection charcuterie was fine, but not in the same league - a nice selection of mild chorizo, salami, iberico pork with oregano and paprika edged loin ($8.60).
De-esa also offers up some of the Salt Yard essentials, such as our much loved courgette flowers with goats cheese and honey. But at only 2 per plate, they are hard to share without a surgeon's knife and a steady hand, and at £7.25 per plate it's pricey to order more.
We also sampled the classic tortilla - our Spaniard noted (head shaking, despairing tone) that the potatoes were not correctly sliced (£4). Our other dishes included some lovely chorizo (£4), the beetroot carpaccio with goats cheese, pinenuts and merlot dressing (£4.50), spiced butternut squash with chilli, ricotta and marcona almonds (great almonds, weirdly spiced squash - £4.75), patatas (always good - £3.50), braised shoulder of lamb with gnocchi, wild mushroom and speck (lovely! better than it looks above - £6.50), seared scallops with sweetcorn puree, truffle and peashoots (£9) and prawns with borlotti bean stew (I somehow missed this one, but it was Maggie's favourite dish which is good enough for me - £6.50).
Our puddings were chocolate cake with frangelico ice-cream matched with a glass of Pedro Ximenez, and calasparra rice pudding with stewed figs and cinnamon ice-cream knocked back with a sweet, golden Gerwurztraminer Passito.
The wines were among the winners of the evening. We shared a lovely full Rioja to start, followed by a bottle or two of red from Ribera del Duero (always delectable).
Runner up in the Time Out Best New Restaurant Awards 2008, my only real criticism of Dehesa is the prices. Ok, we drank a bit and ate a lot. However, at £45 a head, I would expect all dishes to be the quality of the Iberico, or at least somewhat more ample in size.
So, it's a really fun place to eat, drink and be merry, and the food is generally delicious. But watch your purse strings, and don't promise Madrid to your Spanish amigos. Salud!
Dehesa, 25 Ganton Street, Soho, London, W1F 9BP