Saturday, 13 February 2010

El Pilon – Palma Mallorca

Last weekend, thanks to the joys of Ryan Air seat sales, I embarked on a trip to the Balearic island of Mallorca for a weekend away with nine pals. On Friday night, as recommended by the Lonely Planet guidebook, we had dinner at El Pilon.

The memories of this meal are slightly tarnished due to my kicking off the day with a glass of something sparkling at Stanstead Airport’s JD Wetherspoons at 11am. There I admitted it, yes I was in a Wetherspoons enjoying a boozy beans and bacon on toast for breakfast. I’ll never be trusted as a foodie again.

The day’s antics proceeded to include high altitude drinking – a sure-fire way to get you pi**ed, and on to the glorious pavements of Palma Mallorca for cava and Mallorcan-measured G&Ts.

No thanks to my map reading (Palma’s roads are confusing okay), on our way to find El Pilon we took an accidental detour and had the good fortune of whiling away an hour or two in casino-cum-bar Punta de Joc, lured by the neon door sign of four arrows pointing towards an apple!?

This bar is the sort of place to go if you really want a local experience eg. Dodgy old man’s bar Spanish-style. Still, despite beings shoved to the back of the establishment by the waiter to sit in a room resembling a youth hall, the stiff G&Ts,free bar snacks (when do you ever get that at home?) and mini-casino kept us all happy for some time.

Once we’d finally exited the mystique of possibly the best bar ever, we ventured through town and finally made into El Pilon.

What’s the deal: El Pilon is a small, cosy, touristy joint specialising in tapas and seafood found just off Passeig Born.

The meal got off to a great start with lashings of Rioja, garlic bread, and bread with tomato.

Highlights of our starters included the local speciality bacon-wrapped dates, which were absolutely fabulous, a generous-sized seafood platter, and broad beans with calamari.

The main complaint of the evening surrounded the meat. Several of the guys in the party ordered steak. Not only were they a little on the small side and some served up medium when the request was medium rare, but the biggest offence was a fillet steak being passed off as an entrĂȘcote. Grumbles all round.

I opted for the two-person fish shared with my friend, which was nice but not spectacular, but due to prolonged drinking I can’t for the life of me remember what it was. Jess?

The waiters were jolly throughout and allowed us to make a racket and even brought us a nice homemade shot of something limoncello-like at the end of our meal. We then set off to partake in a bit of the Balearic nightlife.

Toilet Watch:
Nothing to write home about.

The Final Word:
El Pilon was a memorable meal, and ideal for a big group of friends, even if a little on the touristy side. Definitely worth a visit.

El Pilon
Just off Passeig Born, Palma Mallorca
Telephone: 971 717590

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Jamie’s Italian … Finally

I’ve already made a couple of attempts to visit Jamie’s Italian in Canary Wharf, but since its opening late last year and due to its highly irritating ‘no bookings’ policy, the wait has been over an hour and a half each time I’ve tried.

However, it’s now 2010, the hype has died down and I’ve just returned from a late Monday lunch with my family where we walked straight in and took our pick of tables.

What’s The Deal: Jamie’s Italian seems to pitching itself as Carluccio’s younger, brighter, funkier, brother, with restaurants popping up in many new towns and lots more openings forecast around the UK.

The Meal: I ordered Pappa Pomodoro – a rustic “Tuscan peasant soup” (£5.25). It was hearty with a generous amount of fresh basil and gorgeous chunks of soggy tomato-soaked bread and drizzled olive oil. Slightly on the salty side but apart from that a good soup.

Alongside this I ordered Gennaro’s Winter Salad (£3.35). This was a plate of lovely oily chargrilled vegetables – roasted pumpkin, radicchio, red onions, warm plump sultanas and pine nuts (which I forgot just how much I loved). Tasty but perhaps better ordered as a side to a meat dish.

Dining companion 1 ordered Chargrilled Chop Steak Beef Burger, which came stacked high with gherkins and Fontina cheese. The meat looked gorgeous and he confirmed that as far as burgers go, it was pretty faultless.

Dining companion 2 went for a Jamie classic – Roasted Pumpkin Risotto (£10.25). Risottos are in essence easy to do well although I have had a couple of duds at previous London restaurants and occasions where the rice was a little on the hard side. This risotto had the right sticky consistency, lashings of Parmesan and plenty of pumpkin.

Dining companion 3 opted for South Coast Fritto Misto. The menu described this simply as “crispy fried fresh fish using the fish we should be eating”. She complained that the menu should have been a bit more explanatory as the fish included in the dish such as sardines and prawns were not her faves and if the menu had specified, she wouldn’t have ordered it. Good point – Jamie take note!

Toilet Watch: Visiting the toilet during your time at a restaurant is a necessary if not defining moment of any meal. I am very fond of the short break where one is able to stretch their legs, gawp at other diners’ food and check out the standard of the bathroom accessories – eg. Is the loo posh enough to have Molton Brown hand wash and individual hand towels?

Jamie’s designers have gone for an old-fashioned look in the bathroom, opting for traditional Crapper toilets with wooden seats and a row of tall china sinks, topped with an arty array of mirrors in the basin area.

The Final Word: If Jamie’s Italians are trying to steal the Carluccio’s market they will have to work a bit harder to compete with Carluccio’s wonderful Italian deli and foodshop than by simply offering up the odd Jamie tea towel and oven gloves. Jamie’s Italians appeal to a younger market who have far more adventurous tastes than young people 30 years ago and the prices are reasonable. However if he wants to beat Antonio Carluccio's Penne Giardiniera, Jamie’s going to have to stay in the kitchen for a little while longer…

Jamie's Italian, Canary Wharf
Unit 17
2 Churchill Place
Canary Wharf
E14 5RB

Tel: 020 3002 5252

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