Saturday, 25 October 2014

THE AMETSA EXPERIENCE, THE HALKIN

Just a few months ago, I was fortunate enough to win the Ametsa Experience at Taste of London.
We really enjoyed our experience at Taste of London, but I was not really expecting the news which came as a pleasing little surprise email in my inbox a few weeks after.
We tried our luck in so many competitions that day, and this was a photo competition, so there was no doubt that I was going to take part in it. 
Everyone knows how much I love taking photos...

Anyway, I booked our stay about a month in advance, and as usual, brought along my best friend, WK. 



 



We checked in at The Halkin in the afternoon, and were warmly greeted at the reception desk, before being shown to our room for the night.
I must admit that it did feel a bit weird checking into a hotel in London, considering that we both already live in London. But nonetheless it was a nice little 'retreat' at the end of another work week.

 


 


 


After a bit of a lazy afternoon, it was finally time to get ready for dinner at Michelin-starred Ametsa with Arzak Instruction, the hotel's Basque restaurant.
And yes, taking selfies IS part of getting ready...



WK clearly still has much to learn.



Much better.

Ametsa's approach is described to be rooted in the traditions of 'New Basque Cuisine', pairing the earthy flavours and techniques of Spain's Basque region with modern twists, featuring locally-sourced and organic produce from land and sea.

We were given a brief explanation of the tasting menu, and then given a few moments to decide on our meat and fish dishes. There were about five different options from the meat and fish categories for us to choose from. After we had placed our orders, we were each handed an envelope of our personalized menus to keep, that was signed off by the Executive Head Chef, Sergi Sanz - which I thought, was a nice personal touch.

 


 

We started off with a selection of small snacks (aperitivos), which included a shot of tomato and strawberry gazpacho, kataifi with scorpion fishcake, cod truffle, sunflower seed cracker with black pudding, and a parsley meringue with duck.
We both enjoyed them, and I particularly liked the cod truffle, and the kataifi which was really light and crisp.


 

| Trufa Negra de Bacalao |
- Cod Truffle -


| Galleta de Pipas de Girasol con Morcilla |
- Sunflower Seed Cracker with Black Pudding -

 

| Merengue de Perejil con Pato |
- Parsley Meringue with Duck -


Our meal came with wine pairings, which included five glasses of wine specially selected by Ametsa's sommelier. The first was Manzanilla La Cigarrera which is a Manzanilla ("Sherry") wine made from 100% Palomino fino grapes.



Moving on to our starters (entrantes), the first was "Scallops at Home" - probably one of the biggest and juiciest scallops that I have eaten so far. On the side was a sponge which I think was made from seaweed (?), and the little shells were actually crab meat in disguise - I thought the whole dish was really cute. And delicious as well, of course.
The second was "Lobster on a Bed of Lichens" - the lobster had a nice texture with delicate sweet flavours. A bit of a hide 'n' seek game going on here...
And the third was "Egg with Chistorra and Crumbs" - the egg was poached with a nice, runny centre, served with Chistorra, a Basque-style cooking sausage traditionally served with eggs.
 
| Vieiras con Rocas de Cebolla |
- Scallops at Home -

 

| Bogavante y Liquenes | 
- Lobster on a Bed of Lichens -




| Flor de Huevo con Migas y Chistorra |
- Egg with "Chistorra" and Crumbs -







For our fish dishes, I ordered the turbot, whilst WK had the sea bass. I liked my turbot which was moist with a slightly firm texture. Nothing over-complicated, and I liked the little colourful bean shapes and garnish.

| Rogaballo con Alubias |
- Turbot with Beans -



| Lubina con...Apio? |
- Sea Bass with Celery Illusion -





For meat, I ordered the grouse, as I do love a bit of game every now and then. The meat was still quite pink and rare, and was juicy and tender. WK had the suckling pig - a nice, thick piece of meat with a crisp skin.

| Perdiz Escocesa con Mousse de Orejones y Uchuvas |
- Grouse with Dry Apricot Mousse and Golden Berries -



| Cochinillo Sobre Migas de Algarroba |
- Suckling Pig on Carob Crumbs -







Our first dessert was pretty stunning, where we were each given a bowl of mead which the waiter then dropped some red liquid into it, forming a snowflake-like design. We could then mix everything together and start tucking into our sweet desserts. I didn't really want to ruin the pretty design, but it was very tasty.
The second was the same dessert that was served at Taste of London - the main attraction that drew me to the Ametsa stand and led to me participating in the photo competition! And yes, we did enjoy it as much as the first time we had it.
Oh, such happy memories...

| Fractal de Hidromiel |
- Mead Fractal -









| Leche "Tostada" con Helado de Pina Asada |
- Clove Custard, Toasted Milk and Pineapple Ice Cream -





And some cute petit fours to finish off...



 Service was really smooth and efficient, and all the waiters were really lovely and attentive.
Sad that our lovely dinner experience had come to an end, but I was also looking forward to getting a good night's rest - no need to go rushing for the tube home that evening!

The next morning, we went down to have our complimentary breakfast in the some room, but this time more brightly lit in the daytime.
A simple, pleasant and satisfying breakfast before we checked out of the hotel. 













Overall, the entire experience has been really wonderful and memorable - somewhere that I would recommend if you were looking for a little treat for yourself.

Thank you to Ametsa and The Halkin for the lovely experience and opportunity, and I look forward to returning to dine with you again soon.

The Cheekster, signing out x




Sunday, 19 October 2014

HAPPY BIRTHDAY DADDY!

This short post is especially dedicated to a very special man in my life - my one and only Dad.
Although now officially 71 years old, Dad is thankfully still very active and healthy!

Here's a few photos that I have rummaged from my (very disorganised) collection of photo albums...

Dad is very disciplined and spiritual, and can sometimes seem very serious and fierce...


But don't be too afraid of him, he does have a funny side, especially when it comes to taking photos...



Dad and I would totally be naturals at posing for touristy shots...


Dad loves his food as much as I do - some things just seem to run in the family...



Dad does however know how to keep a balance and stay active. He particularly loves riding his foldable bicycle, which sometimes worries me when he cycles on busy roads. I better keep a closer watch on him...


Dad gets along with most people, and kids especially seem to love him - all he has to do is sing and they become absolutely mesmerized by his voice...


Dogs and animals in general also seem to adore dad...

 

And even though Dad has never had any professional training, he has one of the most beautiful voices... 


 

I love and miss you Dad - may you stay strong and healthy in the many more years to come!

I would have posted you a birthday card but the Malaysian delivery man seems to keep stealing all my cards lately grrr...
I will personally hand it to you in a couple of weeks time!
 
Can't wait to fly home already :)

The Cheekster, signing out x