London – December 2020
Nieves Barragán’s venture after the success of Barrafina is called Sabor. It opened in October 2017 offering two experiences. El Asador, with a focus in Galician and Castilian roasting, and the Counter, a more diverse take on Spanish cuisine but with a particularly good selection of seafood.
With the restrictions imposed to slow down the pandemic, this December we decided to order our first meal kit with Sabor. We found the experience surprisingly rewarding. The instructions are clearly explained and very easy to follow. Most of the hard work has been done and the only cooking needed involves searing, heating and frying paying the minimum effort possible. Perhaps, a customer demanding a more effortless meal would prefer to limit himself/herself to reheating the food, but that would affect the quality and the diversity of the offering. Overall the experience is very positive. One can learn more about the art of cooking while getting to work with excellently sourced ingredients and supporting great restaurants like Nieve’s in these difficult times.
We selected their Counter kit, with a few extra additions as tapas (crab empanadillas, a Russian salad and extra croquetas).
We started our meal with a series of tapas. First, the tortilla, a classic take on it with potatoes and some onion to give it some sweetness. It is probably the most difficult dish to prepare without any prior experience. Flipping the tortilla requires confidence. Moreover, even though the instructions are well written, someone with a large pan might overcook the dish if not careful.
The croquetas were one of the most comforting dishes we had had at home in a while. Crispy breadcrumbs hiding a creamy bechamel infused with ham. Shallow frying them was simple and Sabor provides you with the rapeseed oil required for it.
We continued with gambas al ajillo (shrimp, quickly sautéed in olive oil infused with garlic and chilli). The shrimp are peeled and ready to cook in a minute. A dish that highlights the simplicity and flavours of Spanish cuisine.
The octopus was incredibly easy to reheat and very tender, served with smoked paprika, salt and olive oil in the traditional Galicial style (pulpo a la gallega). It had been cooked for a few hours until its meat had become very tender. When reheated for service, the tentacles are perfectly soft but still remain fleshy. Coated in fruity olive oil, they melt in your mouth. We applaud the excellent quality of the ingredient, alongside the preparation. It is really when a meal kit like this one shines.
We finished our seafood tapas (all of them accompanied by a delicious Gran Caus Rosat, a Merlot based rosé from Catalonia – see our tasting notes in the blog) with some crab empanadillas. A traditional Galician dish, these pastries are easily found in Spain filled with tuna and a sofrito of onions and red peppers. The use of crab is not that common, but we found that it gives the empanadilla a delicious sweetness. Be patient when eating them! Don’t burn your tongues.
The last tapa was a positive surprise for us. A Russian salad. We both know two different styles of Olivier salad. In Easterrn Europe, this salad is usually a boring combination of diced root vegetables with meat and mayonnaise served for your aunt’s birthday. Spanish make a much better version of this salad by replacing meat with fish (Nieves uses tuna) and adding spicy, pickled peppers instead of apple and vinegar. That was a nice refreshing (for me EXHILARATING) experience alleviating my childhood trauma. We will explore a recipe of this Spanish take of ensaladilla rusa in the near future.
This meal kit experience ended in a high note with the presa ibérica. After searing and resting the pork, we placed it on top of a delicious mojo verde (a Canarian green sauce made with green peppers, parsley, coriander and cumin) and bathed it in a very savory veal stock. Iberian pork fed with acorn possesses a high content of oleic acid that renders it tender, umami and juicy. The mojo provides a green freshness and the stock accentuates the meat’s flavours. Bravo.
All truly authentic flavours of Spain respecting a traditional cuisine that delivers great food and well sourced produce without a fuss. And all of it at a great value. No wonder how Barragán goes from success to success. Hats off to her.