A few days ago I was invited to an evening of Tapas, fun and tipples with Chef Omar Allibhoy, thanks to Heidi my friend and food bloggers, Here is my account of an unforgettable evening .
Chef Omar is the winner of Acorn’s ‘Young Star of the future‘ award for 2012. He was trained by the legendary Ferran Adria of El Bulli Fame. He arrived in London 8 years ago to take over the reins of at El Pirata DeTapas in West London, quickly establishing as London’s best Tapas restaurant.
Not one to rest on his laurels, he decided that Spanish food needed a voice if it was to become as popular as other notable cuisines that Britain loves. This lone crusader undertook a brave mission to cover the length and breadth of England, he drew a huge T across a map of England and set on his motorbike, travelling across the T, cooking Tapas for a lot of lucky people along the way. After this hugely popular tour he came back to London to start what is now Tapas Revolution, with the aim to create an atmosphere similar to any barrio in Omar’s hometown, Madrid, Spain.
He also published a 120 recipe book last August and It was exactly a year ago that since I was first invited for a Tapas evening at Omar Allibhoy’s Tapas Bar in Westfield Mall, London. Surrounded by high street biggies this cute Tapas Bar has not created a niche for itself but is thriving .It comes as no surprise really, with the very passionate and certainly very charming young Chef Omar Allibhoy at the helm and a menu which is carefully curated by him - taking into account seasonal foods – it changes 4 times a year.....Tapas Revolution is definitely a must visit place for all those that seek the authentic and fabulous flavours of good, honest Spanish cuisine.
We started the evening with these very moresish brine- cured olives called Accitunas hojiblanca partidas. Fresh and delicious these went down a treat! They are superior in quality as they are individually picked and carefully preserved to guarantee the texture, firm skin and soft fleshy heart inside, my first sip of the freshly prepared Sangria and I wanted more of it ! It’s nothing like any Sangria I’ve tasted before and I honestly am not exaggerating. It was sweet and fruity and as the evening progressed I lost count of how many times my glass was refilled. Noteworthy that it didn’t leave me feeling tipsy which also means that that Tapas served were so very filling!
Next up were slices of a peppery Catalonian cured pork sausage called Fuet served in mini paper cones and midget breadsticks.
Then came Pan de la casa - Wafer thin Jamon Serrano on toasty bread smothered with romesco sauce, the nutty, peppery flavour balanced by the flavourful ham.
Multi coloured and summer fresh the Ensalada de tomate or salad with red and yellow tomatoes, olives and red onion was light and airy bursting with the juicy goodness of Kumato tomatoes from Spain. Succulent, sweet and tart all at once, this dark brown to golden green coloured tomato originates from a wild tomato.
I have always wanted to try squid Ink pasta or rice but never mustered up the courage to work with the squid ink at home. Luckily one of the Tapas served was Arroz negro or black rice with prawns and squid.
The squid ink sits quietly in the background allowing the squid and prawn to dominate the flavours in this comforting dish elevated many degrees by an aioli with an intense garlic flavour. So smooth, the aioli left like a silk ribbon on my tongue...
Much required hydration came in the form on a cold soup or Gazpacho de sandía, traditional chilled vegetable soup with a hint of watermelon. The golden orb floating on top is a extra virgin olive oil originating from you guessed it right – Spain!
In quick succession followed the Pulpo a la Gallega or steamed octopus served with potatoes set off by spicy pimentón paprika. Fear not vegetarians for what followed next were two delicious vegetarian Tapas that beat the octopus dish hollow!
Pimientos rellenos de setas - Succulent triangular red pepper - Piuillos - stuffed with mushrooms. Served with a wild mushroom béchamel sauce a red sauce which is made using the same red peppers smoked and blended in. This Tapas disappeared from the cute terracotta pots it was served in, in a matter of seconds!
Chef Omar is very proud of all the dips and sauces that we so relished with our meal, all made from scratch in the kitchen at Tapas Revolution, each ingredient sourced from various producers from Spain. Amongst the many tales he regaled us with he also proudly mentioned that mayonnaise – which is an integral part of various dishes worldwide originated from one of the islands of Spain known as Port Mahon on Minorca. It is widely believed that mayonnaise was invented in 1756 to commemorate a victory at the start of the Seven Years War, the successful siege of English-held St. Philip's Castle.
This star dish was followed by another - baby artichokes smothered in with olive oil and garlic and served with a dipping sauce – Romesco. Also called Alcachofas con salsa romesco , these young,fleshy,juicy and tender artichokes are Chef Omars favourite too and he managed to gobble a few before letting us in on some very interesting updates. Chef Omar is very excited about the opening of his new restaurant in Shoreditch where he promises that there will be a lot of space for people to enjoy the huge carefully selected wines or like me guzzle several glasses of the fab Sangria. But most importantly it may be the only restaurant in London to serve dishes using meat from mangalica pigs. Of the 3 types of pigs that are available in Spain , white are a majority, while only 2% are the Iberico or black pigs and even smaller percentage are the rare breed of mangalica pigs. They have wooly, furry coat like sheep and mainly used for lard.
To ensure that we sleep well at night, we were bombared with Croquetas de jamón or deep-fired Iberico ham croquettes. Sink your teeth into one and you will know what I am talking about. This is one carb laden, artery clogging, bomb of gooey goodness that I will gladly pop into my mouth without abandon!
I was sure I would hang upside down from the ceiling, given the amount of Sangria I had consumed. To make matters worse we were given Crema Catalana in cute mini jars. How I wish we could have taken those jars home too, come on, they would make for perfect props for a fab food photography session. This traditional dessert of Spain, made with vanilla pod, cinnamon and lemon served as a happy ending to a fabulous Tapas meal.
I don’t quite recollect how one of the other bloggers who attended the event too and me managed to walk past Shepherd’s Bush and reach the next station (!?!!). In spite of the mercury taking a sharp dip we seemed to not mind it too much....
With Thanks to the team at Tapas Revolution for a fab evening and to Chef Omar Allibhoy for inviting us.