A Touch of Spain at Sevilla

Sevilla at The Claridges, New Delhi, is a beauty. It reminds me of mountainside homes in farwaway places like Chakrata (an army base ahead of Kalimpong), where pretty, white wooden homes that dot the rocky sides of the Himalayas. I prefer it at night in fact, with the fairy lights, the cobblestone walkway and the coves of 2-3 tables set at levels, with a clear view of the stone oven, the bar and the general camaraderie of those eating alfresco. The typical menu here is Mediterranean with strong Spanish influences, so it was no wonder that Chef Andreu Genestra chose Sevilla to come spend his vacations at! Yes indeed, Chef was visiting India to holiday and decided he may as well do what he loves while he’s chilling half way across the world! Born in Inca (Majorca) in 1983, Chef Andreu started his path in the restaurant and catering industry doing the washing up at an Iberostar Hotel. At the age of 16 he already knew he wanted to be a chef. His passion for the job was confirmed when he studied at the Hotel School of the University of the Balearic Islands so that he later got the chance of working at the island’s best hotels. His wish to be part of the best restaurant in the world came true in 2008 when he landed a stint at Ferran Adrià’s Bulli for one whole season, and he repeated this during a part of 2009. Today he and his team have their own restaurant – Andreu Genestra in the Hotel Predi Son Jaumell in Capdepera, Majorca. Meeting him was a fun experience, he speaks food in a Spanish tinted accent and gets quite passionate about his ideas and dishes!

He rightly pointed out that Indians aren’t too keen on tasting menus and watch price points closely, while in Europe its quite common to enjoy a tasting menu in a restaurant one tries for the first time. I was more than happy with a tasting menu, which consisted of handpicked courses from his extensive menu (for Sevilla). As my company for the evening was someone who tends to have a bit of an attitude towards gourmet food, saying it’s either too pretty to be tasty or too little to be satisfying, I was hoping to prove him wrong! We started with the Sopas Mallorquinas de invierno 2013, gnoquis de queso de cabra, panceta confitada y trufa negra (895), Mallorquin 2013 winter soup, goat cheese gnocchi, bacon confit and black truffle. This was a delightful portion of a spicy vegetable broth with a demiglace style reduction, two gnocchi filled with goat cheese and two with Spanish Chorizo confit, further fortified with slices of truffle. I enjoyed the earthiness of the broth, the sudden spice of the Chorizo with the break in flavour from the cooling goat cheese. Having eaten Catalonian and Andalusian cuisine, I was happy with this touch of Italian change to the meal.

Then came the Andreu version of Risotto, the Arroz de coco, buey de mar, anchoa y limón negro Kuwaity (1995), Coconut Rice, crab, anchovy and Kuwaity black lemon. I love Kuwaity limes, we had Kuwaity company with me so we had a little chat about Chef’s plans for Kuwait and cooking for the royal family. This particular dish was a wonderful, fluffy, coconut rice cooked in crab broth, flavoured with anchovy paste and served with black lemon jam on the side. I loved how well the enormous pieces of crab meat were cooked, almost woody roasted and propped prettily over the white, creamy, rice. Since the portions are so well dictated, we had plenty of space for the main course of Cochinillo confitado, patató a la sal  con espuma de tomate seco (1895), suckling pig, roasted potato in salt and dried tomato foam. This traditional version of suckling pig with a modern presentation of accompanying wrinkled potatoes with a dried tomato foam and onion juice concentrate was a revelation and I found it be a dish worthy of inclusion in my Top 10 of 2013!

We finished the food courses with Lubina salvaje a la mallorquina con parmentier de piñones y setas (2295), Sea Bass with Mallorcan with parmentier of pine nuts and mushrooms. This grilled sea bass with pistachio and cardamom sauce, served with creamy mashed potatoes, sautéed spinach with onions, raisins & pine nuts and sautéed mushrooms was pretty close to home with nutty, spiced flavours over a slab of perfectly grilled fish. It was like eating by the sea and the inclusion of raisins got us talking about rare it is to see raisins with seafood once you step out of the Gulf region. This may not be a dish I order again and again but kudos to method. Everything on the menu was cooked to perfection and balanced beautifully. Our dessert for the evening was off the regular menu but still Chef Andreu’s recipe of a lightly seasoned Carrot cake, served with vanilla gelato and what seemed like berries but turned out to be ganache coated chocolate truffles!

Sevilla has an excellent selection of wines and some perfectly matched with a meal like this, though we weren’t drinking that night. I suggest you enjoy a wine paired lunch or dinner of this menu. Come closer to the legendary kitchens you only read or hear about – here is a pretty good opportunity!

*If you visit with kids, try the Pepperoni Pizza and don’t miss the house special Gelato; make it mango!

Parul Pratap Shirazi

Parul is a trained Chef, professional food stylist, cook, food blogger and social media strategist. She loves grapes in her salad.