Ok, so it was a jazzed-up name for the Thames Clipper – the water-bus service for city commuters. But with Sherry expert Richard Bigg onboard, it was a sail down the Thames with a difference.
London’s river bus is worth fitting into your night if like us, you’re heading east down the river to dine out in Canary Wharf.
Setting off at Embankment Pier with the twinkling London eye in view, our 30-minute journey gave us front row seats to some of the most spectacular London sights.
Richard, Founder of Camino – our destination restaurant – set up the UK’s first Sherry bar, Bar Pepito, in Kings Cross, in 2010.
Kicking off the Camino restaurant group shortly after, he now has eateries in Kings Cross, Monument, and one set to launch in St Paul’s this Spring. The trendy Camino member we were reviewing in Canary Wharf, named ‘Puerto del Canario’, was the second addition to the slowly expanding group.
And while sipping on Manzanilla La Gitana and Amontillado Viña AB, two unique dry sherries from Andalusia, Richard explained how this Spanish beverage is largely misunderstood.
By the time we’d reached the water-front spot, my eyes had been opened a little on a drink I mostly associate with my Gran’s festive tipple. The Amontillado Viña AB in particular was a subtle mix of honey-like, hazelnut and almond flavours – a very fitting aperitif for Spanish Tapas.
Camino, Canary Wharf, is worth the visit for the location alone and even on a chilly March evening, you can admire the waterside view from underneath heated umbrellas. For a Wednesday night, the restaurant had a surprisingly buzzy vibe too. While city bankers reveled in the happy ‘fiesta’ atmosphere that resonated from the bar, it seemed the restaurant’s ethos rested heavily on ensuring the service and experience was as good as, or almost better than, the food.
A mix of brick walls, wooden beams and overhead steel lamps, the restaurant gives off a trendy yet traditional feel.
Flashes of colour and character come from red leather booths and themed walls and Spanish beer logos adorning the walls. On your way to the ‘Servicios’ you’ll notice brightly packaged Spanish produce displayed above the semi-open kitchen. The restaurant’s also filled with dozens of terracotta pots and antiques which Richard and his team bring back from regular Spanish trips.
Our tapas feast began with all sorts of dishes. While the juicy manzanilla olives, pan con tomate (bread with garlic tomato and olive oil), patatas bravas, Morcilla con Alegrias (pan-fried black pudding with spicy alegria peppers) were all wonderful, the dish that did it for me was the Gambas Al Ajillo (sautéed tiger prawns).
While Spanish food in the UK will rarely taste as good as it does Al Fresco (or al Aire libre as the Spanish might say) in the Mediterranean sun, these garlicky, spicy sizzling prawns still managed to trigger memories of a mouthwatering beachside restaurant.
The Chipiriones a la Andaluza (crisp-fried baby squid with alioli and lemon) was delicious too. And with other surprises such as the Arroz Negro – a black calasparra rice made with cuttlefish, squid ink and alioli – the menu was as authentic as it could possibly be.
While I was certainly won over by a beautiful cheese board which included a beautifully creamy Manchego, the dish of the night was without a doubt, the Chuleton con Hueso. This 28oz rib-eye steak which is dry-aged for 35 days was cooked perfectly – juicy on the inside and chargrilled on the outside. Served in small slices it was a great sharing plate.
What topped off this night for me was a stunning White Rioja and an equally flavoursome 2006 Scala Dei Cartoixa which I sipped while Richard told an entertaining story of his first trip to Spain – a road trip through the beautiful country as a teenager.
While he told us he ‘fell out of love with his then girlfriend and fell in love with the country’, it sounded cliché, but as Camino proves to be a very authentic tribute to his love of Spain, his story rang true.
While most of Camino’s staff originate from Spain, Richard explained that he still takes them on regular trips back there to develop their understanding of the country’s food and wine.
Had I been able to fit in dessert, I’d have dived straight for the wonderfully-sounding Crema Catalana (Catalan custard cream with crunchy caramel) or Tarta Santiago (Traditional Almond tart from Galicia served with clotted vanilla cream).
Alas, I ended the night with neither, but I certainly got my authentic taste of Spain.
For the best night you can get filled with flavour, fun and a great Spanish vibe, (without travelling the 1,000 miles), I think this could be it.
La Camino, 28 Westferry Circus, London, 0207 239 9077, www.camino.uk.com
by Lucy McGuire