Having limited my food intake recently because summer is coming and no one needs to see my bikini body as it stands, my dining out has taken a bit of a hit. However, I was lured out recently to the wonderful launch of the newly refurbished Portuguese restaurant, Canela.
Right on Seven Dials this superbly located restaurant is another Earlham Street classic. I had been, prior to the refurbishment, wonderful then, it’s even better now. The samples of food looked interesting and I adore trying new foods, you never know what you might discover and it’s always so lovely when you are pleasantly surprised.
The mix of delectable samples included my favourite, Bacalhau à Bras – traditional mix of salt cod, potatoes and eggs. This is the food equivalent of being scooped up by the one you love and given the biggest bear hug imaginable. It is comfort food of the highest form. Beautifully seasoned, soft potatoes with the saltiness of the ludicrously delicious cod shining through and the binding of the egg and flavour of onions making an undeniably perfect recipe. A far more distinguished dish, but similar in ways to home fries served in your favourite local diner in the US. This was an absolutely magical dish, so simple but so mouth-watering.
The Creamy Black Rice With Prawns dressed in olive oil and fresh herbs was a breath of fresh air. The rice wasn’t as sickly as risotto and not as boring as normal rice, it was definitely flavoured with a stock of sorts and the texture was creamy without being gloopy. The prawns were as fresh as can be and the pink of the prawn popped on top of the jet black of the rice making it a very beautiful dish. We sampled hams and cheeses, the Iberico ham being as heavenly as one can imagine after we had patiently waited, salivating as we watched it being carved in front of us.
We also sampled a traditional sausage that was very interesting. It is made with game and not pork and is not only a stronger taste from the meat as one would normally expect, but it is an acquired taste because of the herbs used. It is really flavoursome, but definitely one to eat in small morsels as it is very rich.
We tried all three of the wines on offer, a red, white and a rosé. They were a welcome accompaniment to the food samples. They were very sweet wines, beautifully packaged and we had a lengthy conversation with the wonderful buyer of the wines and he explained his thoughts behind each of his choices. It was fascinating to learn the attention to detail when it came to not only the design on the bottle but the knowledge he had on each of the wines and why it was suited to Canela’s menu. The three on offer were (although they have many more on their menu):
Animus, Douro 2012 (red)
Arca Nova, Vinho Verde, 2013 (white)
Lagoalva Rosé, Alentejo, 2013 (rosé)
Being full to the brim having sampled so many delights, out came the one that blew me away. Simple Pastel de Nata (custard tarts) encased in a beautifully fine butter pastry that were warm and clearly fresh from the oven. Hundreds of bite size beauties just waiting to be eaten and as this was a cheat day, I ate a lot of them. And I mean a lot. I would have happily eaten the whole tray. I sometimes forget how it is the simple things that can be the most pleasurable. We often try to find something different or obscure, bordering on trendiness and forget that it is the basic, traditional recipes that have survived generations of families and thousands of restaurants that surpass everything. And this simple treasure really is just that.
The restaurant looks beautiful and is a wonderful place for a catch up with friends or a perfect date spot, try new foods that you most certainly won’t be disappointed by and feel the age-old recipes that have been handed down, all so that YOU could be lucky enough to try it.