Camino Puerto del Canario – Canary Wharf
It’s not often I travel across town to a restaurant. I’ve travelled the country and even to another country for a meal, but venturing into The City is uncommon. It’s not foreign territory, still under a London postcode, and I know what it looks like because I’ve seen the map in the Eastenders opening credits. The City is a little frightening though. All the buildings are tall and seem to pierce the clouds, their large windows reflecting lunar to create a world of a thousand mirrors.
By the docks – a transformed area once home to labourers and thieves – there is now a formed wealthy borough of Chief Executives and Gynecologists. There are shiny new projects where once stood timber yards and rackety boathouses that have become relics and museums to a bygone era. We’ve reached a fashionable stage where the term “dockyard” is now being replaced with “quayside.”
The enterprise zone continues along The Thames and has been recreated into a winding high-street that houses the usual dining suspects: Zizzi, Gaucho, Browns, Slug & Lettuce, Carluccios and La Tasca, that sit-in among bore, blanket global tastes.
Camino is located (I’m told) along Westferry Circus in Canary Wharf, but for all my searching and navigational skills I couldn’t find it. Neither could my iPhone Map App or the half-a-dozen strangers I stopped to ask. The place is truly concealed, its location is cryptic coordinates attainable only to those traveling with a previous habitué or if you’re one of The Goonies.
I arrived late and was seated by the prettiest Brazilian waitress this side of the Andes. Camino’s menu is expansive, winding through the Spanish regions from Galicia in the North down to Alicante and Jerez in the South. Rape a la Llama certainly has the strangest name on the menu and not least because it contains Cornish monkfish. The menu states that all fish are from sustainable sources and that “most are caught of the British Isles.”
The Rape a la Llama is a kind of winter stew – like Fabada Asturiana – and is made using white beans (fabes) and butiffara sausage. It’s a clever pairing between meat and fish and works well.
Grilled octopus was a sight. A long, tangling tentacle sat looped on golden mash potato, finished with paprika. It wasn’t tough or chewy but soft and seasoned and lifted by the spicing of paprika.
Parrillala Mixta is truly where the action takes place (the Mixed Grill of the Spanish world): 6oz rib-eye steak, 6oz black pig shoulder blade, chicken romesco, 4oz butifarra (Catalan pork sausage) and 4oz morcilla (black pudding) was served with mixed leaves and Navarran red piquillo peppers. For only £19.75 per person it was a delightful feast, an example of traditional Spanish platter and a demonstration of Spanish fine cuts and how to present.
There was a party at the bar. Those banky-wanky-types in borrowed suits, knockin’ em back and spurting karaoke lyrics. This presented some commotion on the night but luckily I wasn’t finished on the food front and I could address my focus towards some tangy, smoked chorizo with Asturian cider and a tortilla de patatas omellete that was puffy and soft, a Spanish staple.
I followed this with arroz negro con calamares made from cuttlefish squid ink and aioli. The black Calaparra rice was as dark as the city night; sticky and creamy, tummy filling, but aided down with gulps of Inedit beer, a cold, cloudy beer developed by Ferran Adrià (see what Ferran once wrote about me here).
A final dish of Jamón ibérico was exceptional. This is the finest ham in the world, from acorn-fed black pigs that are free to roam in the oak forests of Andalusia. The exercise and diet has a significant impact on the flavor of the meat. The ham is cured for 36 months to produce a dark red colour and marbling effect. As I ate I tried something that I’d read Ferran Adrià would do when picking at Jamón or Guijuelo ham, instead of wiping the fat from my fingers, I rubbed it on my lips, waited a moment, then licked it off. “Nothing tastes like ibérico fat at body temperature,” Ferran reportedly said.
For the life of me I can’t remember the menu name for the dessert and am unable to locate it online, but it was a sweet platter of miniature pickings from the dessert list repertoire, an un poca de todo I’m told by the waitress, meaning ‘a bit of everything.’ There was ice-cream, and chocolate cake, some crunchy stuff and a cracking crème brulee (rema catalana), so creamy it would make you sigh.
Camino is a sure thing where the waitresses are as lip-licking as the food. If you can find it, then you should visit. I can draw you a map.