Let’s go on a flight of fancy together. We will pretend that we are celebrities with a book, play or film to promote. We are not the ‘A’ listers who would have flown in from Hollywood or New York to be on The Graham Norton Show, neither are we the ‘Z’ listers and has-beens who inhabit the jungle or the Big Brother House. We are doing OK and are in regular work with the vast majority of people recognising us in the street and asking for autographs or selfies. What would be the most pleasant way to push your latest work? I suggest that it would be to appear as a guest on Saturday Kitchen and have a chef cook especially for you whilst sharing the secrets of his profession. As a bonus you get a wine expert selecting the liquid accompaniment to bring out the optimum flavour of the food. Well, my friends, dream no longer as you can now be a guest at your own Saturday Kitchen thanks to the people at Pintura Basque Kitchen and Bar. Fair enough, you will not be the sole guest, but there will be no more than ten diners for their Experiencia Gastronomica events which will run each Saturday at noon from 2nd December. You don’t have to worry about being confronted by your Food Hell either as we were asked if anyone had any dietary requirements.
Leeds Living was invited by Pintura to find out what it is all about and I was mightily impressed. There were nine of us, and after a welcoming Cava in the basement bar we were led up to the first floor restaurant where the bar had been set for the meal. This meant that we were able to see every step in the process of preparing the five course tasting menu. Each course comprised two dishes, so if you do choose to sample this experience I suggest that you skip breakfast. At each cover there was a glass of Vermut Lustau waiting, along with some dishes of Roasted Valencia Almonds. Whilst we were enjoying these nibbles we were given a rundown of the process to come by Mark Townsend, who was also in charge of choosing the wines. You will be relieved to know that his taste in clothes is much better than the male oenologists on the TV programme. The food was prepared by Greg Lewis, Pintura’s Executive Chef, along with a little help from the nine guests.
The first course was Charcuterie & Picotear and was Iberico Cebo and Pan con Tomate. The first item was corn-fed Iberico ham thinly carved. We were given the opportunity to practice our skills in this art which was a great experience and a fine way to break the ice and get the guests talking to one another. By the end of the meal we had all made new friends. The Pan con Tomate was prepared and the method explained by Greg. It was a kind of crostini with a fresh tomato topping, delicious and quite refreshing and light. The same could also be said for the accompanying wine, Txakoli Zudugarai, a white from the Basque Region. It was lower than normal in alcohol, very dry and flinty. There is an art to serving this particular wine, which is to pour it from a great height in order to aerate it. Again, volunteers were asked to assist in the process, who both did the job brilliantly and no mop was needed.
The next course was Tapas Uno, comprising Salmon Cured in Portobello Road Gin with a Fennel Salad and Calamares Fritas with Squid Ink Alioli and Lemon. Once again the dish was prepared from scratch, and although the salmon had needed to be pre-cured the process was demonstrated. The drink was another white, Ramon Bilbao, which is made from Sauvignon Blanc so was still quite dry but fruitier than the last.
There followed Tapas Dos. Tortilla Vasca, Basque-style runny omelette with caramelised onion and Chorizo con Sidra, being artisan chorizo in Basque cider with a shallot emulsion. Again everything was excellently cooked and explained. Here appeared the first red wine of the evening, Gran Ducay, Gran Reserva. This was more fruity and fuller bodied to cope with the spiciness of the sausage.
No surprise as to the name of the next course. Yes, Tapas Tres. Patatas Bravas with tomato, chilli and alioli along with Presa Iberica, being premium Iberico Pork in a romesco sauce. The wine was another red which carried enough muscle to cope with the patatas bravas but was still smooth, having been decanted and allowed to breathe for longer than some of those who were about to drink it.
Finally came Postres, which was Mousse de Chocolat, a mixture of Valrhona chocolate and burnt white chocolate. This was a sumptuous, indulgent way to end a spectacular meal. Oddly to British taste and convention, this was served with a sherry, William & Humbert sweet old Oloroso, 15 years old and perfect.
Coffee came with Creme Catalan Fudge which, although looking like vanilla fudge, had a bitter, fruity edge to it.
Not only were Greg and Mark passionate about the food and wine from the Basque region but they also worked wonderfully well together, exchanging one-liners with each other and with us. As the more observant of you will have noticed, I also write theatre reviews for Leeds Living and I must say that this was one of the best pieces of theatre I have seen all year, and with this, there is the bonus of food. I have not gone into too much detail regarding the preparation as I don’t want you to be deprived of the surprises to which we were treated. Book your place, go along and enjoy