Friday, 18 May 2012

Restaurant Review: Trangallan

A quick trip to Andalucia and a couple of visits to the tiny village of Setenil de las Valles reminded me how good the simple, unpretentious tapas of this region is.  Little fried squid, cured manchego stored in good olive oil, slices of jamon with fried quails eggs and all a Euro each.  So what to do upon my return dine out on some modern Spanish in Newington Green's Trangallan, price per tapita £7-11...hmmm.

This is slightly unfair.  This isn't rural Andalucia where unemployment is some of the worst in Europe after the collapse of the construction industry in the region and where agriculture is dominant (the tourist industry on the coast is mainly dominated by outsiders).  Secondly these weren't really Tapas, they were -shudder- small plates, London's newest not very new fad.  So not new is this craze in fact that the Pitcher and Piano now does what they call grazing plates.  This is progress from the begining of the trend in Bocca de Lupo and Polpo in the same way that going from the Parthenon to the Elephant and Castle shopping centre is progress in architecture.  However, before I give the impression that I didn't like Trangallan I will clarify.  The food was very good, very very good in fact and it was a pleasant little place, although with a slightly self concious air of being a trendy neighbourhood secret.

So the food.  A very good plate of asparagus with crispy jamon and an egg yolk with pea foam was delicious.  The sweetness of the pea working well against the salty ham and rich yolk.  I will even forgive them for frying the jamon, which would normally start me off on a rant about gastronomic homicide, sacrifice of texture, and drawing a funny moustache on the Mona Lisa.  I may well have subconciously forgiven the hame because raw egg yolk on top of almost anything is amazing (and begrudgingly because it worked rather well, though I still contend it's a waste in the same way as putting caviar on a burger).  Another stand out dish was the slow cooked beef with spring vegetables and almond cream.  Slow cooked in London now means pork of a pulled variety that is so soft it is nearly a drink, delicious as this is it is everywhere, so it was a refreshing change to have a slow cooked piece of meat that whilst tender did not fall apart at the touch, but felt like a real piece of muscle.  The meat was very good, excellent flavour and enough fat content, and it was very juicy.  Again the vegetables added a lovely sweetness and the broth had a seemingly subtle but actually incredibly deep flavour.  This was a brilliant, light and perfect spring version of a comforting stew.  The almond cream lifted the dish, and provided a lovely milky flavour that accentuated the sweetness of the vegetables but also added to the dish with its earthy notes. 

All of the dishes had wipably good sauces, however, bread cost £2 a bowl.  So back to my original gripe:  Paying £11 for a plate of food, which I require at least (!) two of in order to be full, when a plate of similar and equally good quality food is available at places like the Charles Lamb or several other gastro-pubs for around £14 in portions that do not leave me hungry is infuriating.  It makes me think of high-street chains that sell slightly overpriced food in slightly undersized portions in order to ensure you order a side and a pudding.  Also phrases like 'our menu is based on what is available in the market that day' are self-concious beyond belief and rather than impressing me merely remind me that we live in a country where most meals still come from the freezer.  Still, really very solid cooking.  The criticism I levelled at Trangallan is in fact criticism that can be levelled against the general direction of a lot of London dining and to be fair quality ingredients and good cooking cost money and this place has both.  The food is modern but unpretentious.  It focusses on flavour and doing the simple things right before spiking their food with creative touches that lift the level.  The place itself is cosy, stylish and informal in a very well thought out way.  As a bonus the sherry list is excellent as well.  All good things.  Maybe not a destination restaurant, but a very very good neighbourhood one.  .

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