Saturday, 2 October 2010

Camino Puerto del Canario

It's a chilly late September evening and I'm at London Bridge City Pier about to board the Thames Clipper to Canary Wharf. Only this is no ordinary ship - it's a Sherry ferry.

To celebrate the launch of Camino Puerto del Canario, sister restaurant to Camino King's Cross, showman owner Richard Bigg has rounded up a troop of willing guinea pigs to be transported to the venue by boat.

We're given the signal to board, and our uproarious group, made up of wine hacks, food bloggers and the odd chancer or two besieges the boat, scrambling excitedly for window seats. As I pace to the front, I'm handed a large glass, which is promptly filled with a generous slug of Tio Pepe Fino.

Having secured a window seat, the Sherry ferry chugs into action and I'm treated to epic views of the Thames by night. As I sip my Sherry and nibble on a slither of Manchego, Tower Bridge comes into view. I would never typically consider taking the boat to work in the morning, but it's a magnificent way to see the city. And drinking Sherry on public transport feels deliciously decadent - one in the eye for Boris.

My glass is topped up and I soon spy the flashing lights of One Canada Square, where I once did work experience at the Daily Telegraph. Barely have we set sail and we're already at our destination. I'm slightly disappointed at the Sherry ferry's efficiency, as I was hoping for a longer voyage, but there's no time to think as we're ushered off and told to leave our glasses on deck. Most are empty. Back on dry land the Tio Pepe has gone to my head. I'm blaming the boat.

Before we even make it inside we're served Cava in old-fashioned flat Champagne glasses. It seems like Mr Bigg is on a mission to get us intoxicated. The venue is seconds from the boat stop, on the water's edge. Looking across the river, bright lights flicker against the black backdrop. The city seems pregnant with promise, and I get the feeling that I'm part of something big, as if stepping back from the city allows you to see it properly for the first time. This could be the Cava talking.

Soon I'm inside and being given a tour of the kitchens. Plates of pata negra ham do the rounds, and I grab a handful to munch on. The Sherry ferry has whetted my appetite and we're not sitting down to eat until the very Spanish hour of 9. The restaurant has an industrial feel– set in a large square space with open brickwork and wooden floors, the bar and restaurant are divided by cage-like barriers. It doesn't feel as cosy as Camino King's Cross, but I don't think it's supposed to.

I have a quick sip of Ferran Adria's home brew: Inedit, which tastes like honey and lemon Lockets, then it's time to sit down to eat. And boy did we eat: a 16-course Spanish banquet including stuffed figs, octopus tentacle, black rice with cuttlefish, Ibérico black pig shoulder blade, and the apogee: Scottish rib-eye steak cooked on a charcoal grill from Bilbao then rubbed with rock salt. Rare, tender and ridiculously juicy, it was a seriously sexy slice of meat.

The wines on the night also delighted, from the Valdeorras based Bodegas Valdesil Godello 2007 - fresh, crisp, textured, complex and elegant; a Godello worth waiting for, to the Viñas del Vero Pinot Noir 2008, with Burgundian notes of cherry, raspberry and violet. Matched with the meat was a wine from Bigg's Big Guns list: Cillar de Silos Torre Sillo 2007 from Ribera del Duero. Opulent, rich, ripe and sweet, it's as close as you can get to drinking velvet. Other highlights of the Cañones Grandes list include Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia 1982, Vega Sicilia Unico 1999 and Alvaro Palacios Finca Dofi 2006.

From the quirky voyage on the Sherry ferry to the cracking open of the big guns, Richard Bigg certainly knows how to put on a show, and I'm sure his sister venue across the river will pull in hoards of hispanophile punters. The Big Guns list should certainly prove a draw for high rolling city boys out to impress big cheese clients. With new outposts of Roka, Canteen and Wahaca also recently opened in Canary Wharf, the financial district is now firmly on the culinary map.


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  2. Yet to try out the Camino at Canary Wharf but if it's anything like Camino Kings Cross it can't be bad at all. In fact it's probably better seeing that it's situated in nicer surrounds. King's Cross isn't the prettiest place for a restaurant.