Monday, 27 September 2010
Camino has all the edgy good looks of a converted warehouse - with exposed brickwork, high ceilings, floor boards, industrial fittings and opens onto a funky bar next door. One wall is all windows, looking out onto the Thames, outdoor seating in summer and presumably some excellent sunsets. Unfortunately, I spent the prime romantic moments of sunset running around Canary Wharf like a stunned rabbit in the headlights - the place remains a black hole maze of mystery to me. But arrive by ferry and you'll land right on Camino's doorstep, a mere tip toe from your first glass of dry, palate cleansing Manzanilla.
About the ferry. Who knew? It's called the Thames Clipper and zips along the Thames past the magical sights and lights of London, picking up and dropping off at stops along the way - including Canary Wharf, Embankment and Waterloo. It's exxie (I paid £4.80 for a single) but it proved to be a wonderful way to to by-pass the disgusting late night Tube to end a fantastic evening.
Camino means "path" or "roadway", in this case between the wonderful regional specialities and wines of Spain on offer. We start with a dry vino de Jerez (sherry), tasting both the Manzanilla "La Gitana" (salty, yeasty, nutty) and the Amontillado (9 years old with almond and hazelnut flavours) before settling on a luxuriously smooth Oloroso Antique, Fernando De Castilla (£5.50/glass). All I can think about is how I would like to start every night with a sherry for the rest of my life.
Our waiter (who proves to be a delight every step of the way) recommends we nibble on a simple txigorki as we fall further in love with our sherry. It's a Basque style bread with sun dried tomato, oregano, peppers and grilled goats cheese (£5). It's alright - and the mellow goats cheese is a good accompaniment to our wine - but it's a bit non descript and, as we suspect, there are better things to come.
Pulpo A La Parrilla arrives straight from the charcoal grill - a hefty, wonderfully tender octopus tentacle with silky olive oil mash and smoky paprika (£9.75). Also from the grill, the Presa Iberica 6oz - luscious slices of charred Iberico black pig shoulder, cooked medium rare (£9.50). It's exquisitely rich and piggy - pure, heavenly indulgence on a plate. Steak lovers will be converted. Pork lovers will lap this one up and lick the plate. If there's one dish not to miss, this is it.
I am almost always disappointed by croquetas but our waiter recommends the Croquetas de Jamon (£4.75) and I'm enjoying the wine so much I go along for the ride. They're surprisingly good - crisp giving way to creamy and, I write on my menu, "grorgois" which I now translate as "gorgeous". And it's still early in the night.
No Spanish feast would be complete without some Jamon Iberico (cured for 36 months), the acorn diet of the pigs giving the ham its unique, sweet flavour. We share a plate which is creamy and delicious, although cut slightly too thick (£7.25). TPG even prefers the Jamon Serrano, meat from the grain fed pig, which has been cured for 18 months (£5.25) - it's lovely, but for me it's no match for the more decadent Iberico.
Arroz Negro Con Calamares is a garlicky mix of black rice, made from cuttlefish, squid ink and calasparra rice, with baby squid and alioli (£6.50). It sounds like my idea of heaven but unfortunately its saltier than the Dead Sea which throws it out of balance. If they get the seasoning right (and I have a feeling they will), this could be a fabulous dish of contrasting textures which I would have on my table every time.
All fresh meats and eggs are said to be free range and all fish from sustainable sources, mostly caught on the coast of the British Isles. The all Spanish wine list deserves a special mention. There's so much fun to be had here, even aside from the delectable sherries. Wines are available by the glass, carafe and bottle at reasonable prices, and are listed in order of weight. We accompany our meal with bottle of Petalos, Descendientes De Palacios, 2007/08 (£30) - it's quite a big wine, with cherry flavours and goes well with the food.
For dessert, I have a lovely trio of ice-creams (including ginger and leche) which I slurp up with a sweet, raisoney Pedro Ximinez (£5.50). The Peanut Gallery enjoys the gooey, rich Pastel Chocolate (£5.00) with a satisfying glass of port.
For a significant meal, expect to pay between £35 - £55 per head including wine and service. However, portions are generous so be careful not to over-order on the basis that it's "just" tapas. Before I sign off - there is but one unspeakable horror that needs to be aired. I hope you're sitting down. Nearly every dish (excepting desserts) comes decorated with an inexplicable ... sprig of parsley. A singular sprig. Parsley, be gone.
Greenery aside, this is a terrific little place which the workers of Canary Wharf will likely come to see as a welcome, gluttonous refuge. Nothing less would entice me to the Docklands - but put me on the sherry ferry bound for Camino any day, and I'll be back.
Camino, 28 Westferry Circus, Docklands, London E14 (Tel: 020 7230 7709)
Greedy Diva was invited to dine as a guest of Camino.
(Camino at Canary Wharf is the newest branch of the original Camino located at Kings Cross. Across from the King's Cross branch is Bar Pepito - a tiny sherry bar (or Andalusian bodega) of the same ownership which I am now bursting to visit. It recently won Time Out London's Best New Bar Award for 2010).