Disfrutar, Barcelona

I first tasted a dish by Disfrutar at the OAD (Opinionated About Dining) Awards earlier this year in San Sebastian. The seafood recipe was inventive, intense in flavour and a marvel to look at. Then, a few months later, the 50 World’s Best Restaurants list was announced, and Disfrutar was one of the highest risers, being awarded a coveted place in the top 10. Needless to say, I fast-tracked it to the top of my to visit list and booked flights to Barcelona immediately.

Disfrutar

The restaurant is run by three chefs, Oriol Castro, Mateu Casañas and Eduard Xatruch, who all held important roles in the El Bulli kitchen. Prior to opening Disfrutar in 2014, the trio opened Compartir in Cadaqués on the Costa Brava, a more casual eatery.

The Dining Room at Disfrutar is simple and elegant, and foliage plays a leading role in the decor. The tables are left bare, giving no clues about the meal ahead.

Disfrutar

There are two multi-course menus to choose from… the ‘Classic’ menu, featuring favourites of the house and the ‘Festival’ menu, recommended to returning guests, with an array of new seasonal dishes. We opted for the Classic menu, an elaborate meal of 30 unique recipes, featuring the flavours of Spain in an entirely new and unexpected interpretation.

DisfrutarDisfrutar

The pace was quick and the courses were small, it was a perfectly composed symphony of culinary twists and turns, and I loved the excitement of it all. Many of the dishes are served or completed table side by the charming waiters, who seemed to be enjoying the performance just as much as the dining audience.

Disfrutar

I was delighted to sample a few of their most recognisable dishes – the miraculous Gazpacho in sandwich form, beautifully spherical bursting olives, and a favourite of ours, the macaroni carbonara – transparent mock pasta made from pork gelatine, served in a divine sauce of parmesan and cubes of bacon.

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Not every course was a bite to eat, some came in drink form… one section of our menu was dedicated to rabbit inspired treats, including a cold consommé with a hint of orange, it was like a meaty rich old-fashioned cocktail.

Disfrutar

Nothing is as it initially seems at Disfrutar and some of the most magical dishes deceive you on first glance. Towards the end of the menu we moved onto sweet dishes… two tiny padron peppers are made from thick and indulgent chocolate mousse, seasoned with a peppery hint.

DisfrutarDisfrutar

Sweets continued with cheesecake cornets – bite-sized cherry cones filled with sour cherry sorbet, Kirsch jelly and cream, a wonderful palate cleansing mouthful of deliciousness.

Disfrutar

It was great fun to receive our courses but also to watch the excitement unfold around the room, as other tables ooh-ed and ahh-ed at their imaginative dishes. One table nearby to us were receiving completely different dishes, when I asked the waiter about their meal he commented that they’d visited 3 times already so the kitchen were preparing a totally unique set of new experimental dishes for them… an indicator of the care and effort they go to for every diner, whether it’s your first or tenth time at the restaurant.

Disfrutar translates as ‘to enjoy’, and I can whole-heartedly say I enjoyed every aspect of this exemplary restaurant. An unmissable experience from start to finish, and a must for gastronomes visiting Barcelona.

More information and book a table at Disfrutar here.

Etrusco Restaurant, Corfu

Corfu is not known for its fine dining options, most of the time you’ll be eating sharing meze platters and feasting on simple seafood on this charming Greek island. Etrusco breaks the mould, offering an extraordinary gastronomic experience which has garnered awards and accolades including Greece’s top gourmet gong at the 2018 “Toques d’Or” (Golden Caps) awards.

Etrusco Restaurant

The celebrated Mediterranean eatery is run by the Italian-Corfiot Botrini family, with owner and executive chef Ettore Botrini running the show with flair and creativity. The exclusive restaurant is tucked away on the Eastern coastline of the island, a leafy and romantic al fresco dining room, a destination restaurant despite its lack of sea views.

Etrusco Restaurant

Throughout the meal at Estrusco the sommelier paired our food with immaculately chosen glasses of wine. It was particularly lovely to taste some wonderful Greek wines, some of which are made on the island of Corfu. Each course was carefully thought through, with some dishes paired with beer or sweeter wine.

Etrusco Restaurant

Estrusco guests can choose between the a la carte menu or a tasting menu of restaurant favourites. We were treated to a long and exciting tasting menu… the evening was an elaborate performance of bold plate presentations and culinary inventions from start to finish.

Etrusco Restaurant

Chef Ettore Botrini illustrates his flawless technique and wild imagination in his unusual flavour pairings. “Terra Misu” was a beautiful dish with different textures of mushrooms, mimicking the famous Italian dessert.

The seafood creations were brilliantly unique, “Swordfish Carpaccio with Corfiot neratzosalata (orange salad) and turmeric” was a well executed and beautifully balanced dish, showcasing the finest fresh fish. “King Prawns with strawberry vinegar” was also an intriguing but satisfyingly fresh dish, perfect in the sweltering Corfu heat.

Etrusco Restaurant

For me, it was some of the more classic dishes that really wow-ed. Homemade tagliatelle with a deep earthy mushroom sauce topped with decadent shavings of black truffle was exemplary. A creamy rich delight that I would have happily made the journey for alone.

Etrusco Restaurant

For dessert we sampled a trio of delights. Most dramatic perhaps was the “Impermanence – wild strawberries with vanilla, port and meringue”, a seriously sweet pudding with hints of welcome acidity, topped with a scattering of bright pink meringue matchsticks. We also tried the beautiful “Mont Blanc fava beans Santorini” an ode to the iconic dessert made with Corfiot kumquats and fig.

For a special meal on Corfu island, Estrusco is truly the only place to go. A brilliant experience that any food obsessive will love.

More information and book a table at Estrusco here.

A trip to Le Puy-en-Velay to learn about Merchant Gourmet Puy Lentils

Lentils were a staple meal when I went to spend time with family in the South of France as a child, but at home in London I don’t cook them often. I think this must be because of a lack of recipe knowledge, and the length of time they usually take to cook. Although now, discovering the versatile pre-cooked Merchant Gourmet pouches will change all that!

On a recent trip to Le Puy-en-Velay with Merchant Gourmet, a group of fellow foodies and I were introduced to the special region where Puy lentils are from. We visited the farm and factory, learnt about the harvest and tasted some seriously tasty meals utilising these tiny green lentils.

Le Puy en Velay

Le Puy-en-Velay is a beautiful area of central France, a few hours drive from Lyon. The historic city is also known as a start point for the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage. We arrived in the sleepy town mid-morning after an early start, and our first stop was Sabarot – manufacturers of Merchant Gourmet Puy Lentil and one of the most prestigious family-run lentil and pulse companies in the region. Here we were shown the variety of products that the Sabarot family produce, an amazing array of French pulses, mushrooms and snails, and given an insight into the company’s story over the last 100 years.

Puy lentilsPuy lentils

Lunch was served at the factory , a nutritious and delicious selection of lentil salads, my favourite was an inspired combination of fresh sliced peaches, rocket, mozzarella and lentils.

Puy lentils

Next it was time to visit the factory and fields. Puy lentils are a DOP (Denominazione di Origine Protetta literally “Protected Designation of Origin”) so can only be grown and harvested in this part of the world, under strict growing conditions of no pesticides or irrigation and allow the natural environment to run its course The flavour profile of these special green lentils is more peppery and flinty than other lentils and they have a softer, thinner skin making them cook quicker than your average lentils.

Puy lentilsPuy lentils

The lentil harvest was an eye-opening experience. Prior to the trip I had no idea how these small pulses were grown…

The sunny fields were filled with dry short crop, benefitting from the rich volcanic soil which gives the Puy lentils a unique flavour. A tractor systematically drove through collecting the crop and beginning the sorting process, and the lentils then go to the factory for a more exact sorting and cleaning. It was incredible to witness quite how delicate this crop is, with just one or two tiny lentils housed in each shell.

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Dinner that night was spectacular… a tented dining room in a Puy lentil field, with dinner cooked on barbecues. It was amazing to sit in such a remote natural landscape while enjoying a refined dinner of lentil inspired dishes, prepared by some of the best chefs from the area.

Puy lentils

Menu highlights included a slow cooked lamb and lentil stew and a dessert which included orange lentil jam! The whole meal was accompanied by carefully selected matching wines from the region.

Puy lentilsLe Puy

Before boarding a flight back to London there was just enough time to have a walking tour of the beautiful town, Le Puy-en-Velay. We wandered around the old cobbled streets, noticing the old fashioned lace shops and fragrant bakeries, before heading up the hill to the astounding Le Puy Cathedral.

After a quick local lunch it was time to return home, with Sabarot lentil flour biscuits in hand! Since visiting Le Puy-en-Velay and the lentil fields I feel inspired by this ingredient again. Many think of Puy lentils as a store cupboard filler, but when you delve into the Puy lentil story, it’s easy to see why this pulse can be the star of a dish, rather than just a supporting act.

Collaboration trip as a guest of Merchant Gourmet.