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Posts from the ‘Food’ Category

Tuscan Towns #3 – Casale Marittimo

Driving along on the slower (and far more beautiful) inner coastal road from Castagneto towards Livorno, you may notice on the hills beyond the acres of vineyards a perfectly formed little town perched up at a height. Small as a toy town but quaint in every respect, there is very little in Casale to place it on the tourist map, but with its cute little central square and an endearing piccolo church I defy it not to please any visitor to the max. But for us Casale was not about the uniquely formed sloping streets or the picture-perfect micro-shops. It was about the views, and one very special lunch spent appreciating them.

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At the Osteria L’impronta, we enjoyed one of those lunches that will linger a long, long time in the memory. With the most incredible private terrace all to ourselves, a soundtrack of jazz, sun rays bouncing off the table’s edge and an endless supply of wine produced on the very land whose spectacular appearance we spent our whole meal admiring, it was like a lunch from a legendary time of utopia. The kind of occasion writers conjure up and artists swoon over. And then there was food – a mix of perfectly al dente pasta, crusty bread with deep golden olive oil, and unctuously rich cinghiale (wild boar) from the surrounding landscape. All combined to make this lunch the culinary high point of our holiday, and a true homage to this legendary region of Tuscany.

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© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. 

Wholemeal lemon and rosemary cake

I was sitting just next to my little blooming lemon tree, breathing in the subtle perfume of its abundant blossom one morning before work when I saw the recipe for a lemon polenta loaf cake go up onto the blog of my phenomenally talented (and heavily pregnant!) blogger friend Lady Aga. It was undoubtedly the heady combination of lemon blossom and her tantalising looking photos which immediately inspired in me the certain knowledge that I was going to make this cake at the first opportunity. And last weekend, lemon, rosemary and olive oil at the ready, I did! Sadly for Lady Aga’s wonderful recipe, and perhaps also for my resulting cake, I was a little too keen on the uptake. Midway through, I realised I lacked polenta and a loaf shaped tin. It quickly became clear that I might have to disembark from the Lady Aga road slightly.

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So recipe a little altered, and a round cake tin employed for the purpose, I opted instead for  wholemeal not-so-loafish cake using the integral flour which we have in stock in an attempt to be healthy. I also blended a load of his trusty breakfast porridge oats as Lady Aga suggests, and with the rosemary growing fresh on our terrace, it worked a treat. I won’t recite the recipe here seeing as Lady Aga has it penned so well, but whether you decide to go with my wholemeal approach or the undoubtedly better polenta recipe, this cake is surely exquisite.

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Fresh out of the oven, its sugary lemon juice drizzle still a little sticky, we eagerly devoured a slice or two of this delicious cake in the creamy afternoon (terrace photos happily intermingled with model-shots of cake above). Accompanied by a steaming earl grey, the lemon and rosemary flavour couldn’t have made for a better British-Mallorquín afternoon tea, and as for the wholemeal flour, while I worry that it may have made the cake slightly drier than the polenta version, the result is a cake which made every appearance of a morally highbrow, persuasively healthy teatime treat. Thank you Lady Aga!

Mallorquín Spring Lamb, enjoyed two ways

It may be premature to announce that Spring has arrived on the island of Mallorca, but having been blessed by almost continuous blue skies pretty much since the summer, it’s sometimes hard to say what season we are in. The only thing I know is that since the new year dawned, and we returned from the chilly climes of Vienna, it has surely felt like Spring is here. And with the arrival of Spring comes a cast of the usual protagonists – blossoming trees, warmer wafts of perfumed air, and the innocent bleating of fluffy little lambs.

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We came face to face with those beautiful little animals on a recent walk through Mallorca’s Tramontana mountains. Heading along one of the island’s worst-surfaced zig-zagging rollercoaster of a roads up one of Mallorca’s highest mountains to the vast valley nestling in the mighty shadow of the ruined Alaró Castle, we had a lunch date at the iconic Es Verger restaurant.

Recently made famous, to UK audiences at least, by its short starring role in one of chef Rick Stein’s televised adventures through the Mediterranean, Es Verger is an unbelievably quaint traipse back through time to the truly bucolic routes of peasant Mallorca, where everything on the limited menu borrows from the immediate rugged environment, and is cooked by a charming old lady using recipes passed down throughout the centuries. The star dish is Mallorquín lamb, the very same animal which only metres from the secluded restaurant you could see bleeding innocently in the rays of a newly sprung-sunshine (see attached photos above for heart-warming snapshots).

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But any guilt which we could quite easily have felt for seeing these sweet animals and then eating the same was quickly dispelled by the sheer exquisite deliciousness of this incredible dish. Cooked in beer and infused by the juices of a variety of vegetables roasted over long hours in a smokey log fire, the meat both melted over the tongue, and was deliciously caramelised at the edges. Never have I enjoyed meat so much, nor indeed a meal. Pure, simple, and finished off by a cremadillo – a flaming mix of local hierbas liquor, rum, coffee and all sorts of other liquid indulgences.

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Needing to walk off the alcohol and indulge a little more in the staggering scenery which surrounded us, we headed after lunch to the ruined castle of Alaró, an incredible historical site sat atop the mountain which, while looking deceptively close, required a good hour’s uphill climb along one of Mallorca’s craggier paths. But with views from the top spreading across the bay of Palma on one side and across to Puig Mayor, the island’s highest mountain on the other, we were awfully glad for the scenery, that amazing lunch and the Spring in our step it had given us.

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All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2016 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Enjoying the Viennese Coffee House

Along with the waltz, the Danube, Klimt and the Wein Schnitzel, Vienna can count its famous coffee houses amongst those icons which have come to characterise the city. Dating as far back as the 17th century, and reaching their popular height in the 19th century, the cafes have long been the focus of Viennese society, as a place to read the paper, take a strudel, dig into a plate of sausages and of course enjoy a coffee. And of the latter, a fair number of Viennese specialities have developed alongside the historical cafes, including the Brauner (coffee with milk), the Melange (blended coffee and hot milk), the Kurz (extra strong), Obers (with cream), Kapuziner (double mokka with a hood of cream) and the Schwarzer (black) to name but a few.

Of the many cafes which have come and gone over the centuries, a renowned few have retained their standing as icons of the city, including the Central, the Ministerium, the Museum, the Frauenhuber, the Raimund, the Eiles, the Schwarzenberg and the Zartl. All are unique, but share common trends: a cosy interior with comfortable booths and little armchairs; smoky ageing mirrors, brass lamps and dark wooden furniture; and of course the all important display case in which the famous Viennese cakes are given the attention they deserve.

The famous Cafe Central, and the impressive cafe in the Kunsthistoriches museum

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And whichever of the iconic cafes you choose to venture into, the formal etiquette tends to remain the same. Each coffee is served on a small silver tray with an accompanying glass of water. The waiters will most likely be tuxedoed, and it is generally anticipated that you will linger in the cosy surroundings with a paper or a book, long after the last dregs of coffee have been enjoyed.

With ferociously cold temperatures keeping us from the streets, my partner and I were often to be found in a coffee house in Vienna, lured by the cosy interiors and the traditional elegance which each exuded. We never quite made it to the famous Cafe Central, since the queues which seemed to perpetually form outside somewhat defeated the object of venturing to escape the cold. But we did make it into the Cafe Museum and, our favourite of all, the Cafe Eiles.

Enjoying the Eiles

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With its eclectic mix of clientele, from the students of the local university to the lawyers and civil servants of the government buildings nearby, we immediately felt completely at home in the Eiles (having personal experience of both sides of the client mix). Its little curved sofa-booths, old fashioned brass lamps and a cream and brown interior felt perfectly traditional, and after several visits we soon got to know that it was the very best place to sample the famous Wein schnitzel, and a range of cakes to match.Best of all, with the accompanying mood of permitted languor, it felt like the best place in which to rest after the mass of museums on offer in the city, to people watch, to warm up, and of course enjoy the coffee.

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Photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2016 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Soller lemon posset with gold-covered raspberries and a ginger crunch

It’s been a long time since I shared a recipe on The Daily Norm, but the recent occasion of a dinner party with special friends Alejandro and Maria in our new Mallorquin home meant that it was time to take out my pots, pans and finest dinnerware and to show my Spanish friends what the English do best. And with that in mind, and after a locally-inspired starter of Mallorcan tumbet on puff pastry, and a main of pistachio-stuffed chicken with caramelised oranges, I decided to give the final course an English twist, with a theme characterised by the delicacy of afternoon tea, all brought together in a bone china tea cup.

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The dessert was a lemon posset, certainly an English favourite, although given the Mallorquin twist thanks to the abundance of citrus fruit grown on the island (I used lemons from the lush mountain valleys of Soller).  It’s awfully simple to make – in a small saucepan you simply bring 300ml double cream and 75g of caster sugar slowly to the boil, stirring constantly to dissolve the sugar, and allowing the cream to bubble for 3 minutes, while stirring, once it has come to the boil. This mix should then be removed from the heat, and the juice of 1-2 lemons added (adapted to your taste – sweet and tangy is best) while continuing to stir. At this point the mix should thicken slightly and can be poured into containers of your choice and refrigerated over night.

I gave this indulgent creamy dessert a much needed crunch with some crushed spiced ginger biscuits, and topped this with a few golden covered raspberries. Refined English elegance for a sultry Spanish summer’s evening.

Miro’s Chocolateria: the C’an Joan de S’Aigo

If it was good enough for Joan Miro, then it is certainly good enough for me… For the C’an Joan de S’Aigo is a café with a venerable history and a list of clientele past and present so long that it can probably count all of Mallorca’s most famous residents among its number, including the great artist Miro himself. Nestled within the maze of nostalgic alleyways which make up the oldest core of Palma’s centre, the C’an Joan de S’Aigo was founded in 1700 and as such is Palma’s oldest eatery. Founded when the cafe’s namesake had the idea of bringing down ice from the Tramuntana mountains and serving it richly flavoured in the earliest form of ice cream, the C’an Joan de S’Aigo is today equally famous for its rich pickings of local pastries and steaming hot chocolate.

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Despite the age of this quaint faded café, the locals of Palma have never allowed it to go out of fashion: When we sampled the café after our dip in the sea last weekend, it came after several failed attempts to visit previously – for each time we have been along, the place has heaved with locals who head to the café at the traditional merienda hour to sample ice cream piled high from small glasses and creamy indulgent hot chocolate. But it was worth the wait. Sat amongst the traditional interiors packed with blue and white ceramics, colourful glass chandeliers, copper kettles, filigree vases and wooden thrones, we feasted greedily on a sampling of the cafe’s local pastries, all of which tasted all the better when coated with a velvety layer of that legendary hot chocolate.

For Dominik, a sweet bun made, surprisingly, of potatoes (coca de patata) was a light and fluffy counter to the liquid silk of chocolate steaming in a cup before him. For me, a richer, creamier ensaïmada – the local specialist pastry which you can find all over town and which tourists buy in their plenty in what resemble giant hat boxes. Made in Mallorca even before the C’an Joan de S’Aigo was founded, the ensaïmada is made from dough which has been repeatedly folded with pork fat – much like puff pastry – and then either served sprinkled with sugar, or filled with other such goodies. And my filling of cold custard oozed and melted as it dipped into the hot chocolate with as much unctuous delight as melted butter on a warm crumpet. 

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Thoroughly disgusted by our self-indulgence, but rather rewarded by our dip into local culture, we swiftly decided that a visit to C’an Joan de S’Aigo must become a weekly tradition. How else can one become integrated into Mallorquin society?

The C’an Joan de S’Aigo café can be found hidden away just off from the church of Santa Eulalia on the Carrer Can Sanc 10. It’s open daily 8am-9pm except Tuesdays.

Tahini Marbella: Dedication to the Sea

As the name of the town suggests, the sea is the heart and soul around which the whole of Marbella is Southern Spain revolves. Its calm cerulean waters sensuously stroke and steadily sculpt the length of long sandy beaches which attract thousands of visitors to the town every year; its sparkling steady waves reflect lovingly on the gleaming white sides of the super-chic yachts which habitually pack Marbella’s various marinas; and it provides the wealth of super-fresh, mouth wateringly delicious seafood which is at the apex of Marbella’s breadth of superb gastronomic offerings.

And of course few would disagree that the best way to sample that seafood is barely cooked and fresh out of the waters, served simply and elegantly so that its full flavours and textures can shine through. Consequently, it would be hard to find a cuisine better able to capitalise upon this fresh Mediterranean cuisine than sushi, but until now, few restaurants in Marbella have managed to create sushi which offers a fitting tribute to the wealth and quality of Marbella’s seafood offerings. Until now.

Marbella Tahini

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Following hot on the heals of the unrivalled success of Grupo Cappuccino’s first Marbella Cappuccino Grand Cafe in 2011, set within the lush surroundings of pine tree covered gardens at the foot of the Gran Melia Don Pepe hotel, the group have now opened their first Tahini restaurant, a mere stone’s throw from Cappuccino, in the same Eden of pine trees, palms and unbeatable Mediterranean views. Situated just above Cappuccino, Tahini is the younger sister of the sensational Mallorca restaurant of the same name. Nestled just off the harbour side of the fashionable Puerto Portals, the Mallorca Tahini is like a secret garden paradise. My first visit there in May 2013 opened my eyes so wide as I took in the magical wonder of its low lit restaurant and picture-perfect candlelit garden, and tantalised my mouth so thoroughly with the exquisite freshness of its cuisine, that it has remained utterly unrivalled by all subsequent sushi experiences both in Spain and around the world.

The interior

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But happily, Tahini’s success is now being replicated a second time, with the same stunning quality of sushi being offered to diners in Marbella in so spectacular a setting that each of their senses will be tickled and enticed with equal measure. Outside on the terrace, polished minimalist tables reflect the abundance of palm trees which hang proudly over the marble-lined paseo maritimo just outside the restaurant, while every seat provides that perfect sea view overlooking the Straights of Gibraltar to Africa. Inside the restaurant, a cosy elegance suffuses the atmosphere, as diners eat alongside walls loaded with Mediterranean pottery of every shape and size, while a glass cube at the heart of the restaurant offers an unrivalled view of the Tahini chefs, plying their trade and ensuring that every detail of this note-perfect menu is taken care of. And don’t miss the corridor out to the toilets at the back of the restaurant: lined with crates and boxes filled with what looks like ice and every variety of fresh fish, it is in fact a clever recreation of a market scene, with glass ice and ceramic fish, emphasising that only the best and freshest of ingredients will be used by the chefs at Tahini. And was it my imagination or could I hear the bustle of a market subtly sounding in the background as I walked through this make-believe fish market?

The Tahini “market”

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But beyond this incredible setting, Tahini’s success comes down to that food – cuisine which is not only apt dedication to the sea from where it came, but a brilliantly sophisticated take on the sushi concept, with fish so fresh that it melts on the tongue, and food so beautifully presented that, like me, you will probably spend more time taking photographs than enjoying the flavours as they dissolve so lovingly into every corner of your mouth.

A true dedication to the sea

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Tahini’s new family member more than lives up to the standards set down by its Mallorca sister, and is a glittering new jewel standing proudly in Marbella’s ample gastronomic crown. For more information, see the Tahini website.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2014 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Es Baluard: A fine way to enjoy lunch

While Northern Europe starts to edge ever so slowly towards the onset of Autumn, with leaves starting to litter the streets, and the mornings and evenings already getting darker, down in the fine sheltered waters of the Mediterranean, it’s still very much the height of summer, and in fact for some places, the temperatures in September are even exceeding what was enjoyed in July and August. Mallorca, prime island of the Balearics, is chief amongst those places enjoying an extended summer, and when I ventured out there only a week ago, the temperatures were roasting. They were so hot in fact that our many plans to stroll around the thriving Metropolis of the island’s capital, Palma, and its wide expansive port were quickly ditched in favour of the cooler options. And as cool goes, it doesn’t get much better than Es Baluard.

Es Baluard is in fact a superb contemporary art museum set within the Sant Pere bastion, part of the Renaissance wall that surrounded the city of Palma until the beginning of the 20th Century. Perhaps because of its outer stone casing, or perhaps because of the chic concrete and glass renovation masterfully fitted within these old ramparts ten years ago, Es Baluard is certainly a chillier hangout, with comfortable inside temperatures which leave you decisively less flustered, leaving you with energy to browse the excellent permanent collection which includes only the Spanish greats, such as Miro and Picasso. 

Es Baluard and its surroundings

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But when the sun is hot, but you still want to benefit from the ultimate in views of Palma’s extensive waterfront, from Bellver Castle across to the city’s magnificent cathedral, you need to head to the super chic café-restaurant attached to the Southern-most wall of the Es Baluard complex. With a broad terrace criss-crossed with shade from a line of well-appointed shade sales, you can choose to lounge out adjacent to those winning views in comfy basket chairs, a cocktail or a cup of tea in hand. Meanwhile, next in line, a cluster of simple wooden dining tables mark the more formal dining spot, with perfectly polished wine glasses glinting in the sun, and contemporary white seating reflecting the style and period of art residing in the building next door. Finally behind these tables, there’s a separate dining area, all encased in a glass cube containing further tables and a little sofa runner packed with cushions showcasing the best in handmade Mallorcan fabrics.

Es Baluard’s well-appointed terrace restaurant

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It’s not my intention in this photo essay to talk to you about the food, but rather the extol the virtues of the location and design of this great Mallorcan eatery. However, rest assured that the food is every bit as good as the restaurant’s design, and their trendy lounge soundtrack a perfect accompaniment as you chill besides the seaside. Thinking that I have now extolled those virtues enough, I think it’s time to sign off and let you enjoy the photos. Until next time.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2014 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Prague (Part 3): Buddha-Bar Chic and delectable places to eat

When a city trip is turning into something of a damp squib and you’ve realised you should have brought a winter coat despite its being late summer, sometimes all you need is a little luxury to make things right again. When the squares and museums are packed to the rafters with no-budge tourists and the cafes are full of larger-lout British stag parties, it’s the escape to the finer side of things that will put a smile back on your face. And so it was, when my partner and I ventured recently to Prague in the Czech Republic, that ever optimistic of having a happy holiday experience, we were able to turn round the somewhat disappointing experience of an ever so cold, damp weekend in tourist-packed Prague into two nights of luxurious hedonism, thanks to the hotel where we were staying, and some of the great restaurants we were lucky enough to find during the trip.

Our hotel of choice was the 5 star Buddha Bar hotel situated a few minutes from the centre of Prague’s Old Town. Being what it suggests on the tin – a concept hotel with a strongly oriental-influenced twist – it was an unusual choice for us. We love chic little boutique hotels, but I would usually go for something that at least resembled the local culture. But Buddha Bar are a long established brand that stands for the quintessence of cool: of dark chic surroundings, of sumptuous self-indulgent luxuries, all pulled together by the classic asian-inspired lounge-bar melodies of the famous Buddha bar soundtrack. Consequently when I discovered that there was a hotel of the brand so well situated in Prague, and probably half the price what a 5 star would cost in capital cities elsewhere, I was seduced and decided to take the plunge into the orient. And I’m so glad we did.

Our room at the Buddha Bar Hotel

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In our luxuriously pampered room, every detail had been taken care of. On the wall, a Bang & Olufsen TV pumped out a selection of Buddha Bar groves through expertly mastered surround sound speakers extending to all parts of our room. In our extensive bathroom, a free standing bath benefitted from its own dedicated TV, floor to ceiling windows overlooking Prague, and remote controlled electric blinds should you prefer a little privacy from amongst your bubbles; while the his and hers sinks were accompanied by a panoply of l’Occitane branded bath products. In the bedroom, an indulgently soft bed was plied high with luxurious throws and cushions, while beside it, a seating area already came fully stocked with gifts of chocolate and a complementary cocktail each – the perfect antidote to the tourist scrum outside. Meanwhile, across the room, on the surfaces and alongside notes and information booklets, little fresh orchids had been delicately placed – the height in attention to detail, which followed through to the whole hotel experience.

For beyond our room, the hotel of course enjoyed its own Buddha Bar restaurant, a large cavernous place camped up with a huge oversized golden Buddha around which densely candlelit tables glittered in an otherwise dark and seductive atmosphere. We enjoyed an abundance of creative sushi whose innovative flavour combinations buzzed and zinged in a way that the bog standard California role could never hope to replicate. Meanwhile upstairs, a daily breakfast combining buffet treats and a choice of hot dishes always came accompanied with a glass of chilled prosecco. Now that’s my kind of breakfast.

The Buddha Bar restaurant – images courtesy of www.buddhabarhotelprague.com

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But of course we had to leave the hotel sometimes, and when sightseeing got too much, we managed to find two equally exquisite restaurants in which to enjoy the classier side of life. The first, a discovery quite by accident, was Zdenek’s Oyster Bar, an exceptionally chic little place, filled with brass fittings and lamps made from champagne bottles, that more closely resembled an upmarket Parisian bistro than a traditional Czech eatery. Being as Prague is very much inland, we were at first sceptical of a seafood restaurant in the heart of the city, but our doubts were put to rest by a main of succulent grilled prawns in a creamy sweet peppery rich sauce, with buttery toasted brioche served to be dipped into the tasty liquor. Never have I lavished so enthusiastically over a dish of prawns. I was completely won over on the one dish alone, let alone the other details which made the meal so special – an oyster shell filled with creamy salted butter; delicious crisp local white wine, and steaming muscles each ripe and juicy and a joy to eat.

Zdenek’s Oyster Bar

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The second of our restaurant successes was likewise a departure from the Czech theme – this time George Prime Steak, which was less traditional steak house than a high class boudoir decked out with highly polished chrome and black lacquer interiors all made to sparkle with modern chandeliers and low lighting. The only real nod to America was the extensive Californian wine list, one of which we enjoyed to the full, despite the waiters leaving the bottle on a far away table and then neglecting to refill our often empty glasses. But they can be forgiven – for the real star of the show was the steak. We opted for fillet which, they told us, was fried in temperatures so hot that it immediately caramelised the outside into a rich sweet crust – a delectable exterior encasing soft tender flesh. It was almost certainly one of the best steaks I have ever eaten.

My only drunken picture of George Prime Steak’s opulent interior…

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But we were in the Czech republic after all, and my final nod of this post has to go to what must be my favourite aspect of Prague gastronomy – the multi layered Czech honey cake “Medovnik”. Without looking at a recipe, I can only guess that this cake comprised thin layers of honeyed sponge interlaid with a honey and gently spiced gingery, cinnamon cream. Oh it was truly to die for, hence why I must have eaten around 5 slices before the trip was out. Now that really was worth fighting the tourist scrum for.

and that honey cake to die for

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All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2014 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Perfect in every way: Caperuza Bistro, Marbella

It’s very rare that you will ever get to enjoy a restaurant meal when every single dish is completely perfect. Even when I’ve had the most delicious high end tasting menus, there’s always been at least one dish which hasn’t quite hit the mark. But in the completely unassuming new little restaurant, Caperuza Bistro, which by complete coincidence is located a mere 100 metres from my home in Marbella, I recently had a dinner which was just that: perfect in every way.

The restaurant is small (just one small room with an open plan kitchen facing onto the narrow old town Calle Aduar) and perfectly formed. With a small team of staff, you get a friendly smile and attentive home-spun service right from the first moment of entering, while cosy candlelight makes the otherwise contemporary interior feel authentic and comfortable. The menu is said to work like tapas, although in reality, it’s more like a tasting menu than tapas, because the restaurant, considerate of the need to savour the complex flavours and stunning presentation of each dish, serve dishes one by one, so that every element can be enjoyed and you never feel overwhelmed (as is so often the problem with the traditional tapas format).

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On the recommendation of the amiable waitress, we went for 6 dishes each shared between the three of us. The dishes were served consecutively, with perfect timing and small but adequate pauses between each. We started with a salad of super fresh raw prawns in a smokey foam with sensationally seasoned leaves dressed in orange and what I think was soy. The balance was so delicately and expertly executed that every taste bud in my mouth was tantilised. I can still remember every satisfying flavour now. It was a sensation that was to continue.

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Our second dish was a chicken liver pate, beautifully presented in little glass jars with wafer thin bread. While the pate was rich and creamy, it was not overdone. The portion was a perfect size and the elegant crunch of the bread a perfect accompaniment.

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Onto a dish of salmon tartar, spilling out of little crunchy cornets draped over an unforgettable ginger and carrot purée. Balance, balance, balance – this place had it all, with this dish another prime example which lasted but seconds before we finished it up – all washed down with the delicious bottle of Rueda chosen for us by the dedicated staff.

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Could it get any better? Why yes, for up next was a dish of scallops hiding within another ample helping of seductively seasoned rocket salad whose peppery bitterness contrasted perfectly with an exquisite lemon and potato puree which brought the lemon groves of Sorrento alive in my mouth. Such freshness of flavour was countered only by the sweet and delicious caramelisation of the scallops. My only complaint – that this dish did not go on forever.

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Thankfully, what I now consider to be the best dish of all was still to come. A dish of sweet sticky vermicelli noodles, with juicy big prawns, toasted almonds and garlic. I can’t tell you how delicious this dish was, nor properly communicate just how well the crunch of the almonds contrasted with the silky noodles, and how the delicate shellfish stock had caramelised into a golden sweet pasta sauce. Oh sensational.

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Finally we dug into an equally successful dish of asian inspired duck served with a little creamy peanut puree. Need I say more about the excellence of this cuisine? (I forgot to take a photo of that one!)

Well yes actually, because dessert was to follow. And just when we thought the mains could never be beaten, along came a cheesecake mousse – I mean for god’s sake, can life get any better than this? Puffy little clouds of the most satisfyingly delicious mousse served with a little buttery biscuit on the side. And then there was the super fresh pineapple sorbet with a creamy smooth mango soup. I was in heaven.

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My only hope now is that this little restaurant, which is relatively understated and slightly off the tourist track, remains open to serve this sensational cuisine for a long time to come. The quality of the food was out of this world, and simply could not have been anticipated from the outside of the restaurant, nor from the menu whose prices were so reasonable that one wonders how the restaurant can make any profit at all. But take advantage of those while you can, because if the chef continues cooking this well, they’re bound to rise fairly swiftly in turn.

Caperuza Bistro is at 22 Calle Aduar in the Old Town (Casco Antiguo) of Marbella, Spain. Tel: (+34 951 395 593)