In a nutshell
New buzzy Portuguese, no-reservations restaurant in Spitalfields Market.
Portuguese chef Nuno Mendes of celebrity-magnet Chiltern Firehouse (where he still cooks) heads up the kitchen, with stoves manned day to day by head chef Antonio Galapito.
The menu is divided into snacks, cheese, cured meat, house tinned fish, small plates, sandwiches and desserts, (from £3 to £13). Unless you’re up on your Portuguese ingredients, many of the dishes will need a little explanation. We shared 8 savoury dishes plus one dessert – perfect for two hungry people. While dishes are authentically Portuguese, they show Nuno’s imagination and modern approach and presentation is key.
Everything we tried was exquisite, kicking off with runner bean fritters and bulhao pato (a wine and clam broth). Pork tartare, cozido broth and cabbage is a delicate version of the traditional pork and cabbage stew. There’s more pork in the cuttlefish and pigs trotters coentrada scattered with wild garlic flowers. Sandwiches (choose from rare beef prego with prawn paste and wild garlic, or pork bifana, yeast mayo and fennel) are toasted, served after the other dishes and with a bottle of Savora mustard (plonked on many Portuguese tables as Heinz ketchup is here). For pudding, go for the Dish-Most Likely-To-Be-Instagrammed abade de priscos and port caramel – a mix of egg yolks and pork fat with an amazingly toffee like texture, salty edge and in a pleasing boozy syrup bath.
What we’re going back for
Scallops in brown butter and walnuts, served in a cute tin with bread to mop up the sauce, plus olive oil pao de lo – a whole cake for two to share.
What’s the room like?
Exposed brickwork and big windows, softened by elegant marble topped tables with delicate glass oil burners. Menus come on copper hangers you can dangle off the table. Horn-handled steak knives were designed by Nuno especially for the restaurant. On our visit, doors onto the market were closed due a noisy dance class in the square but in the summer the doors will be flung open and there’s terrace seating.
Need to know
No you haven’t stumbled in to the kitchen by mistake. The loo (there’s only one) is accessed via the lower-ground floor kitchen so you can chat to the chefs as you queue.
What we loved
The atmosphere is one of total warmth and hospitality. Chefs, including Nuno, deliver dishes to the tables and take pride in explaining the idea behind each one. Our waitress was charming and knowledgeable and recommended a truly lovely white wine Quinta do Feital Dorado, an alvarhino made from 70-year old vines.
Delivered by our waitress – many Portuguese puddings use egg yolks (think pastel de nata, the famous custard tart, and the pudding above) because many of the recipes originated in Portugal’s convents. The nuns used egg whites to starch clothes, so the leftover yolks ended up in desserts.
meet the chef: Antonio Galapito (right, with Nuno Mendes)
The best thing on my menu is cuttlefish and pig trotters – coentrada. It is too good!
In my fridge there’s always Rachel’s ginger yoghurt, Meng Zijan XO sauce (a great friend), foie gras in freezer (for shaving), and a jar of pork fat.
My favourite 15-minute supper to make at home is scrambled eggs on toast with shaved foie gras and any raw veggies.
A food/restaurant trend I see sticking around or being the next big thing is Portuguese food I hope!
I know I shouldn’t admit it but my guilty pleasure food is a Snickers ice cream.
Never trust a chef who doesn’t have a sharp knife.
A place I love that not many people know about is Ramiro in Lisbon, best shellfish and vibes around.
If you gave me a tenner I‘d spend it on 100g of goose barnacles.
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