Monday, 11 November 2013

Copa de Cava, Blackfriars

After visiting Gizzi Erskine’s organised Spanish Fiesta themed Street Feast with my brother and some friends back in August, my brother’s name got pulled out of a hat by Copa de Cava as the winner of a meal for two at their Blackfriars venue.

Happily Dan asked me to join him, and so we went one cold, wet and dreary Friday evening in September and had a lovely night.

We were welcomed by a team of super friendly staff, one of which absolutely made our evening, so attentive and warm was she in detailing items from the menu and matching us with a Cava that she thought we would both enjoy according to our palates. She was fantastic and this experience really brought home the fact to me, that good staff really can make or break a place. A very good start.

We enjoyed an array of tapas style dishes and continued to be impressed throughout the evening. We started with some Spanish olives in a dressing of Cava vinegar, thyme, rosemary and lemon zest. The olives alone would have been succulent, plump and juicy and full of flavour but this simple marinade truly elevated them.

The second dish was another simple but addictive dish– ‘Pimientos de Padron’ or sautéed green Galician peppers. These were small bite sized peppers coated in coarse sea salt and a drizzle of olive oil after being lightly charred. They were a delight and an intriguing one at that – one bite was never the same as another, some had a much deeper chilli heat than others – all were divine.

We had a board of charcuterie that was superb. It comprised of chorizo, lomo Iberico, Teruel D.O. Jamon and something I had never tried before but instantly fell in love with – fuet. Fuet is a Catalan speciality, cured pork sausage meat in a pork gut (this concept reminded me a little of a faggot). The meat was so soft and tender that it literally melted in the mouth and whilst it was quite salty, the flavours were just amazing. The charcuterie came with a selection of little bready bites – it would be a great plate of food to enjoy with a friend or two over a few drinks if you were only looking for a snack.

Patatas Bravas came in an unusual way – little cyclinders of fluffy potato in a crisp, delicious coating – I’m not sure how they were cooked, they didn’t taste as if they had been fried, so I’ve no idea how they had such a glorious outside, but I would love to find out. The sauce was smoky with paprika, smooth and velvety – my only complaint would be that in the interests of keeping the dish looking dainty, not enough sauce was given – I could have devoured much more of it.

The next two dishes were our final ones and they really had saved the best two till last. We had octopus with an olive oil mash and I just don’t know where to start. I’m a big fan of octopus anyway, but often it can be too chewy and have a rubbery texture from being overcooked, not so at Copa de Cava. I would hazard a guess that this had been slowly braised on a gentle heat, so tender and wonderful was the final result with just a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkling of paprika over it to complete it. Served on gorgeously soft mash which had a pepperiness from the olive oil and just the right amount of salt to complement the octopus perfectly. An absolute triumph. The photo is unfortunately not giving this dish justice, due to the lighting and my keenness to start eating the dish.

Our final plate was the favourite for both of us – Presa Iberica, shoulder of rare Iberico pig, with pearly barley, Iberico ham and Manchego. The pork was cooked rare and as with the octopus it was soft, tender and melt in the mouth. It was quite a strong flavour, with an almost game-like quality to it. Personally I loved the accompaniment which was basically a risotto of pearl barley instead of rice – or at least that’s how it both appeared and tasted. Creamy pearl barley that still had a slight crunch or bite to it was flavoured with salty Iberico ham and topped with a generous grating of Manchego cheese – fantastic.

We chose a bottle of the Reserva Aria Segura Viudas after a helpful chat with the waitress. We loved its almost smoky yet light and delicate flavour – it was selected as I said how much I love wines flavoured with peach and apricots, and this fitted the bill perfectly. We also had a glass of the Semi Seco Valarnau Demi Sec ‘Barceona’ to start off with, which was also enjoyable, yet a little drier than the bottle we had.

Copa de Cava is pitted as more of a Cava bar than a restaurant, but there are some seriously good dishes on the menu and I would certainly return. It’s a particularly good spot for catching up with friends. The downstairs section or ‘cave’ where we sat was cosy, warm and busy with a great atmosphere – in short a great venue.

If you’re a fan of Spanish food and Cava then this place is just waiting for you.

Copa de Cava on Urbanspoon

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