The atmosphere in Reid’s balcony is colonial England throughout, even though we were in the Portuguese island of Madeira, thousands of miles from England and hundreds of years from colonialism. Reid’s is a 5 star hotel in Funchal, the main city of Madeira. Probably one of the poshest in the island and I was expecting to be properly transported to some upper echelon during their (fairly pricey, but definitely worth it) afternoon tea experience by the sea.
I am crazy about pulled pork. There is something about soft, succulent, smoky, sweet shredded pork flesh that I cannot resist. When I had an Aga with a simmering oven (ideal for slow cooking), I thought that was the perfect reason to make it. I have since made this a few times in a conventional oven and that’s the recipe I post here.
It’s been way too long since I posted on this blog as the usually hectic family life and busy work have taken over. But at least I come back with something D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S. Honest. So I hope you can forgive me.
There is absolutely nothing conventional about the experience of dining at The Man Behind the Curtain. It is avant-garde in every sense: in name, décor, location, people, ambient music and of course, the food. You just have to visit their site’s homepage to get a feel for what I mean – there is a cat with an astronaut helmet floating in space next to a giant open mouth with a man’s face inside and some other strange elements scattered around. Got the idea yet? Me neither.
I had read and heard really good things about Barrafina. And it has two major pluses for me: it serves Spanish tapas and it’s in Soho. I LOVE Soho. And I love Spanish tapas too! But my experience with tapas in England has been mixed. To be quite frank, good tapas are in Spain. I think the disappointment with tapas in England stems from two main things: an adulteration of the original to fit the local taste (which is a well-known phenomenon across many foreign cuisines in this country) and a lack of ingredients as they come in those countries – ripened under much more sunshine and considerably higher temperatures throughout the year. The tomatoes here are not the same, the garlic is not the same, the onions, the potatoes, you get the idea. And so the food can’t really taste the same. Especially if we are talking about food that is simple. A lot of the dishes you eat in Spain (and Italy, for example) are prepared with only a handful of ingredients. You can, however, get very close here and there are a few examples in London. Barrafina is undoubtedly one of them. And Barrafina is more than that. It has elevated the humble tapa to something a bit more glitzy and upmarket, and still managed to keep it delicious.
Homemade pizza is great. Super-easy homemade pizza is even better! I know making pizza dough can be fun and it feels great to make pizzas from scratch (and if you have a bread-making machine you can have it kneading the dough for you). However, if you want the simplest of pizza bases and want it quick, try using bagels.
This is an essential recipe to have. Tomato sauce can be used in an infinity of dishes from pasta sauces (on its own or with other ingredients, like cream), meatballs, pizza, roasted or braised meats, stews and even fish dishes. This one is really easy and can be frozen. That means that you can make a batch and divide into individual portions for freezing and use as you need it.
Green eggs (called ‘green’ because of the parsley) was something I used to eat all the time as a child. They are strangely addictive and if you think 3 eggs per person (what you find within a man-sized omelette) is a lot, think again. That’s 6 halves per person and I unashamedly admit that is a normal portion of green eggs for me.
Michelin-starred restaurants are always a treat. You sort of know what to expect but then you don’t because you get surprised and delighted every time. They are all unique experiences with individual highlights and their own twists and turns. This was no exception.
Il Gallo D’Oro is a 1-starred restaurant inside the Cliff Bay hotel in Funchal on the island of Madeira, and is led by chef Benoît Sinthon. His whole philosophy rests on local produce and the discovery of the Island of Madeira, adding ingredients from the Iberian peninsula, and coupling the food with top Portuguese wines.
As expected of restaurants at this level, especially ones that are hosted in hotels, the atmosphere was formal, restrained. People spoke softly and sat up straight. The décor was plain and unassuming. You come here to eat nice food, let’s make that clear from the outset.
An exuberant and slightly surreal exterior, a peculiar but cozy interior and an eccentric chef all contribute to making this a unique experience. Tokos is a delightful small restaurant on the island of Madeira that simply should not be missed.
Tokos’s exuberant outside
Outside there is an impressive display of exotic flowers and plants, which sets the scene for a truly distinctive journey. Somehow, the exterior doesn’t quite add up and you are left with a feeling of anticipation. Inside is a small room flanked by a tiny kitchen, the décor strange and eclectic, lots of plants, clarinets and plates hanging on the wall together with naïf paintings depicting the chef (and owner), lacy curtains and a tapestry that seems out of place.