Monday, 5 June 2017

Ellory - a World of its Own

The dining room went for the extreme minimalistic look; stripped back with low-hanging trendy light bulbs, concrete floor and simple polished wooden furniture. Almost like a pop-up establishment. The atmosphere warmed up as the dining room began to fill, and the soft murmurs began to echo from the high ceiling.

The a la carte menu is small, so we skipped the tasting menu option and cherry-picked the items of interest.

Lamb sweetbreads, courgette and horseradish 
I love sweetbreads. The kitchen did an excellent job with these soft doughy morsels with slightly charred edges, oozing distinctive offal flavours. The beautifully roasted bites were paired with a strong savoury gravy, infused with a faint trace of horseradish to offset the pungent aroma of sweetbreads. The succulent courgette carried a slight crunch, its clean juices helped to lift the strong flavours. It was quite a unique dish.

Boudin noir, Raf tomato, parsley and shallot
It's a unusual choice, he doesn't normally go for a second offal dish - too adventurous. But it was a small menu, and it turned out to be a very good choice. 

The thick disc of black pudding was surprisingly light, moistened by the thin sauce and nicely contrasted by the shallots. It had a power tone but nothing offensive, and the acidity from the small wedge of tomato relieved the metallic taste in the blood. It was interestingly different, a good kind of different.

Octopus, sorrel and bone marrow
The thick octopus tentacle was not quite perfect; slightly overcooked and the rubbery texture was coming through. The centre had lost its creamy juiciness and the mild bitterness from the charring was the only flavour left. It had gone over. The  unconventional pairing of bone marrow didn't pay off either. Without the beefy melted grease, the globules of marrow lost its magic and we're limp on the plate. Not one of the better dishes, but the worst is yet to come.

Cod, watercress and chestnut mushroom
A very dainty dish for sharing. At £22 I was tempted to ask for the other half of the dish. The fish was excellent, marginally undercooked to retain its silky smoothness. The skin could have been crispier, and there could have been a thicker layer of fish oil essence. The mushroom fragrance was subtle, more for substance than flavour.

Bavette, beetroot, ricotta and anchovy
He decided he was still hungry after the last dish so we added an order of the steak. And how we wished we didn't. The two thick strips of beef were served medium rare, exposing its coarse ruby grains. It was difficult to cut against the grain to avoid the sinewy textured as we had to slice lengthways, but even then the steak was tough and chewy, interweaved with far too much tendon. The meat was lacking flavour, as if it had been pumped with water to drain its natural goodness. The jus was flat, overseasoned and flimsy, but the worst was the awkward pairing of anchovy with ricotta that simply didn't belong. I'm afraid this eccentricity was a tad stretched.

Soft chocolate, yoghurt and Griottines
It was okay; uninspiring yet unoffensive. The kirsch-soaked cherries turned out to be the highlights and I don't even like cherries.

When we were paying, we fedback to our server that the bavette was the weakest of the dishes and asked why it was sliced in such manner. He tried to explain bavette is a very tough cut and it required very precise cooking; slicing it any other way was apparently not possible. Well... I wasn't convinced. Not that it mattered.

Was the Ellory a Michelin star experience? Not sure. Perhaps on the innovative front and the experimental aspirations, but the results are hit-and-miss. Compared to other one-star establishments, I felt this was underwhelming. Of course we could have visited on an off-night, or we missed their signature dishes, but from what we have tried, we felt there is more mileage to cover.

Netil House
1 Westgate Street
E1 3RL
Tel: +44 203 095 9455

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Monday, 29 May 2017

Pintxos Bars in San Sebastián

We had one afternoon to check out the pintxos bars in the city, and he did the research to make sure we hit the best bars. It was tough to narrow down to 3 places and only order a couple of dishes from each.

We were quite disciplined to only order 2 or 3 pintxos from each joint. Though it was so tempting to order more.

La Cuchara de San Telmo
Oreja de Cerdo Prensada Crujiente Melosa. Hummus de Garbanso - Honeyed pressed Pigs Ears 
This was one of my favourite dishes of the trip. The sheets of cartilage were slow-cooked to a melty gelatinous texture that dissolved in mouth that leaves a trail of fragrant nutty essence. The ears were sweet and savoury from the light drizzle of honey, soft with a bit of chew and a bit of bite, playfully delicious.

Cochina de Salamanca Asado con Keeler y Deshuesada - Roasted Boneless Suckling Pig with Local Beer
The sucking pig was soft and juicy, sprinkled with an array of aromatics including citrus peels to keep a refreshing note.

Foie-gras salteado con Compota de Manzara, sal gris y caramelo de sidra - sautéed foie gras with apple compote, grey salt and cider caramel
The generous slab of foie gras was beautifully seared to a crispy top, simply seasoned with flecks of sea salt, sat atop of a bed of apple purée, sweet and tangy to life the grease from indulgent foie gras. 

Borda Biretti
This pintxos bar was just as casual, with a good mix of locals and tourists. Like La Cuchara, we placed our orders at the counter. Instead of yelling out names when the food is ready, we were just signalled by the lady behind the counter.

Arroz "Bomba"
This was quite good. The rice was cooked with bits of squid and a shellfish stock, oozing seafood goodness. 

Risotto de "Puntalete"
The risotto was very cheesy, al-dente and all. Just not very exciting.

"Kebab" de Costilla de Cerdo
This was arguably the least enjoyable pintxos. The thinner part of the rib was dry and sinewy, there was only one bite mingled with softened grease that was good. A bit annoyed we wasted space in our stomachs.

Bar Zeruka
La Honguera de Bacalao - Smoked Cod Bonfire
This was incredibly delicious. The slithery smoked cod was served with a cube of smoking charcoal, and a small tube of herb dressing. The fillet had a texture similar to sashimi, glistening with a layer of fragrant fish oils, paired with the crunchy caramelised onions on a slice of baguette that had soaked up the sweetness. Crazily good.

Vieira a la plancha - Grilled Scallop
There were two jumbo scallops with their roe intact, simply grilled to perfection to retain its creaminess. 

La Viña - Cheesecake
We were recommended to have only cheesecake here. One portion came with two slices - dense, rich and velvety with a slightly burnt top - gorgeous.

The food was amazing, and we were spoilt for choices. I was still thinking how we could cram another pigs ears dish into our schedule when we were walking to Mirador de Ulia for lunch our flight...