Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Camino - Tapas in King's Cross

During a Spanish wine tasting and a private view of Picasso at the National Gallery last month, I met Richard Biggs, who owns Camino. Cards were exchanged, a generous offer of dinner accepted, and off I went to the Regent's Quarter of King's Cross along with a fellow food blogger and a wine blogger friend. It was a beautifully sunny evening, and the bar area was bustling. The dining room was arranged in a circular shape, with banquette booths around the circumference and a few tables sunken in the middle. We were sat directly underneath the above roof, bathing us in perfect light for photos.

While we browsed the menu, we had some Pan Con Tomate, with Manchego and Jamon, washed down with a light and crisp Jaume Cordoniu Brut cava. A glass of Oloroso sherry was reminiscient of almonds, so much so that we ordered some to accompany it. The menu consists of all the tapas dishes you'd usually see in Spanish restaurants with a couple of twists. I got very excited when I saw that veal belly was on the menu, as Richard quite rightly said pork belly is a bit ubiquitous now. Dishes were duly ordered, and we settled back and awaited the food.

Pimentos de Padron were delicious as always and I am developing a fast-growing addicition to them, though I didn't get a spicy one. Decently dusted with salt as they require, I spotted more little Padron stalks on my plate than was polite when sharing. A mammoth portion of Pulpo was drenched in rich, fruity olive oil with the kick of paprika. It was the perfect texture; soft, slightly gooey and yielding to the bite.

Chorizo was suitably spicy and pungent and complimented a bottle of fruity Baboix Montsant 2004. Croquetas de Jamon had an excellent crunch, were silky smooth within and was served with a fruity chilli sauce that packed a kick. Nuggets of salty ham in the bechemel made them extremely moreish.

Scallops were prettily served in the shell with a saffron and Idiazabal sauce. Caught off the British coast like all their fish, these are hand dived, which perhaps explains the £4.75 price tag per scallop. Very fresh and perfectly cooked, though I wondered what had happened to the coral. The sauce, slightly cheesy with the subtle fragrance of saffron, begged for bread to mop it up with, or just tipped straight into a hungry mouth.

A dish of Arroz Negro, rice cooked in squid ink, was a revelation to me. Tiny pieces of squid lurking within the rice provided a great texture contrast with the rice, while the very garlicky aioli coated the mouth and brought the mouthful together. It's one of those dishes that I can believe I haven't before. Later on, looking it the mirror I was more surprised than I should have been to find it's turned my lips slightly black.

We decided to share a few mains between us. Fillet steak and rib eye steaks are offered by the 100gr - this is cooked on a grill especially imported from Spain. Many believe the Spanish are best at their seafood, but Richard believes they are also excellent at cooking their meat.

The rib eye steak, cooked perfectly cooked to medium rare had decent charring on it. While the meat was well hung and had a deep beefy flavour, I found it a little dry and thought it lacked the fat I so love about the rib eye cut.

Star of the show for the mains was the pan fried veal belly with chickpea mash. This, unlike the steak, was riddled with gorgeous fat, melting on the tongue with tender and succulent meat. I would go back there for this alone. I must find a supplier of veal belly to experiment with.

Desserts were solid in execution and a little unexciting. The creme Catalan had a caramel crust that broke pleasingly beneath the fork, and vanilla ice cream with sweet Pedro Ximinez poured over it was suitably boozy.

A night cap of rum and an espresso finished me off properly and I staggered off into the night with the afterglow of having spent over 3 hours in excellent company, and sampling delicious food. True, I haven't been to many Spanish restaurants in London (Barrafina, Dehesa, Fino) and some might argue that I don't have a good point of comparison, but Camino impressed me greatly. The Arroz Negro was a thing of great beauty and I was raving about the veal belly for some time afterwards.


The Regent Quarter,
King's Cross
London N1 9AF

Tel: 020 7841 7331

Camino on Urbanspoon

Full set of photos of the feast we had are available here


Alex English said...

Veal belly sounds delicious!

youngandfoodish said...

My wife Viv regards pimentos di padron as the Spanish counterpart to edamame. And, by the way, her lips and gums look gothically great when blackened from arroz negra.

Dan said...

Suprised. Another decent restaurant near my new office. I'll have to give this a go soon, food looks and sounds excellent.

Helen said...

I am also very much wanting to find some veal belly now - i think Ginger Pig might be a good place to start. They often have harder to find stuff as you know. When I had arroz negro at Taste it was a revelation to me too. I don't know how I haven't eaten it before and of course, you know how I feel about the PULPO!

Krista from Londonelicious.com said...

I think I have that same photo looking up to the ceiling somewhere on my blog!

Glad you had a good visit. I really wanted to like Camino, but the food was just so terribly average the night I went there with a co-worker. You give me faith that I should return!

Unknown said...

Really glad you liked it - have seen mixed reviews of this place but it has been fantastic every time I've been.

Unknown said...

Veal belly fantastic - love the close up pic as well in all its glory...

Anonymous said...

What a great write up - I love Camino, went to their re-launch a couple of months ago. Had some really amazing scallops and wines. It's a lovely place to sit outside when the weather's like this too. Reading this has made me want to go back!

pigpigscorner said...

Everything looks delicious esp the veal belly!!

Anonymous said...

Not sure padrons should be dusted. They should have a light sprinkle of barely crushed rock salt, as these probably did. Always be wary of using verbs for effect rather than accuracy.

Hollow Legs said...

Were you there, Anonymous? I'm not sure how 'dusted' is more effective than a 'light sprinkle', but a dusting was what I perceived it as, and that's why I wrote it. Not for effect.

Niamh said...

They've clearly changed their menu! It wasn't anywhere near as interesting as this when I went, which I used to regularly when I worked nearby. I still go frequently for drinks to meet ex colleagues.

Veal belly sounds delicious. I am interested the world of the animal belly in exploring and enquired about lamb belly two weeks ago. I figured lambs have bellies too, right? I must order it.

Gastro1 said...

I agree that good Pimientos de Padron always present a sharing dilema.

Personally I have given up trying to be equitable and order my own portion :-)

Hope I have used the right words and grammer as do not wan't to get ticked of by Annonymous.

Anonymous said...

I am not going near any restaurant that dusts pimientos de padron. Either you used the wrong word or the chef would rather be making pastries.