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Best Spanish in London? Cambio de Tercio [Restaurant Review]

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Reviewed by The Wild Boar

Despite having lived not more than a mile away for several years, I confess to not knowing about Cambio de Tercio till a couple weeks back while browsing through some London based food blogs. It has very been low key and off the radar – Urbanspoon has only two blog reviews on it (I’m guessing this will be the third). At any rate, feeling in the mood for Spanish food, and denied the opportunity to go to Barrafina’s again (the PigPig wants to try something new = curse of the food blogger), we decided to give this place a try.

Cambio de tercio, London 01

Located in posh South Kensington area (depressingly close to Chelsea FC), Cambio de Tercio is easy to spot thanks to several tables laid out on the sidewalk even though Autumn is very much in the air by now. We were the first party to arrive for an early Sunday lunch at noon so we could take our pick of seats. Unsurprisingly, the PigPig chose to seat further in, away from the draft coming in from the open air front of the shop. To our nice surprise, the aft had a cheerful little skylight which was useful for the photography.

Cambio de tercio, London 02

Some olives were provided along with the menus to make our choices. The waitress seemed a bit pushy for us to order wines (they have an extensive collection, apparently one of the best Spanish winelists in the country) but eventually gave it up. The olives meanwhile were really good stuff – juicy, fresh but the meat was a little bit soft so Iberica’s olives are still the nicest for me.

The bread meanwhile (costing £1 per basket I might add) was also pretty good, seemed fairly fresh and consisted of plain white, tomato and sesame and nuts. (Pigpig: The crust was super crispy)

Cambio de tercio, London 03

The first tapas to arrive was ‘Foie gras royal, Pedro Ximénez and cured Manchego cheese AIR’ in a martini glass along with instructions to dig all the way to the bottom so as to get all the layers into a spoon. It was a very interesting concoction (and very much in fashion with all the foam business) and the aroma and taste of all the individual ingredients were still present in the mixture. I could only tolerate a spoon as the cheese was too strong for me, but the PigPig was eager to finish the rest.

Cambio de tercio, London 05
Foie gras royal, Pedro Ximénez and cured Manchego cheese AIR

Meanwhile I was busying myself with the ‘Crispy ham and béchamel sauce croquettes, tomato-thyme sauce’. About the same size as ping-pong balls, the crispy exterior belied the incredibly soft and creamy filling. I found the croquettes here less cheesy and potato-ey than other restaurants, making it a lighter more enjoyable snack. The tomato sauce was very aromatic and made a very good dipping sauce.

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Crispy ham and béchamel sauce croquettes, tomato-thyme sauce
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The ‘New spicy patatas bravas’ was a far cry from the usual fare I’m accustomed to, but in a good way. The potato skin was folded to make a little cup where the spicy tomato sauce was poured into and topped with aioli and chives.

Cambio de tercio, London 07
New spicy patatas bravas
Cambio de tercio, London 08

An old favourite from Spain is pulpo a la gallegas, otherwise to be found here as ‘Char grill Galician octopus, potato parmentier, paprika oil’. Firstly the octopus here was beautifully grilled to give it a smoky aroma yet was amazingly tender, unlike many other octopi dishes elsewhere that resemble recycled chewing gum more than food. The potato base underneath the octopus was a bit odd though – very sticky gelatinous glop that was admittedly tasty yet felt a bit weird eating on its own; the PigPig wonders if this was done to give a different texture to the octopus. Kang over at London Eater loves it though.

Cambio de tercio, London 09
Char grill Galician octopus, potato parmentier, paprika oil

Now moving onto the meatier dishes, the ‘Skate wing with pig’s ear “a la plancha”, alegrias chilly, citrus vinaigrette’ was very nicely plated. To start with, I felt the vinaigrette was too sour and overwhelmed the taste buds and the PigPig felt the skate’s meat was on the rough side (?overcooked).(Pigpig: I liked the sourness and the spiciness of the pickled chili added a nice touch). However, the grilled pig’s ears added a nice crunchy little bite to the soft fish meat.

Cambio de tercio, London 10
Skate wing with pig’s ear “a la plancha”, alegrias chilly, citrus vinaigrette

‘Char grilled lamb chops, with aubergine puree, manzanilla green olives’ was a bit variable. Of the three pieces, the first one I took was slightly overcooked and tough. However, the other two pieces were done just right and was very tender (the PigPig was eating her piece happily while wondering why I kept complaining about mine). The aubergine puree on its own is nice, but didn’t really go well with the lamb.

Cambio de tercio, London 11
Char grilled lamb chops, with aubergine puree, manzanilla green olives

On the other hand, the ‘Veal cheeks caramelised in red wine with apple textures’ was perfect in every way possible. Firstly, the meat itself was slow cooked to melt-in-your-mouth tenderness and broke apart with the slightest of pressures with my fork. Yet, it still retained a strong flavour which was highlighted by the reduced wine glaze. As the waitress explained it, the green apples were prepared in three ways for our enjoyment – raw slices, puree, foam. I felt the foam was a waste of time as it had only the minutest of taste present, although it did leave the mouth with a slight sour zing. However, the green apple puree, slightly sweetened yet still quite sour, went hand in hand with the meat. I felt a little tear slide down my cheek when I finished this dish…

Cambio de tercio, London 12
Veal cheeks caramelised in red wine with apple textures (raw slices, puree, foam)

…but a big smile appeared as the next dish was ‘Crispy roasted Burgos style suckling pig “3 hours” with rosemary potatoes’, probably the dish we both desired the most while looking through the menu. Coming from a Chinese background, I think both the PigPig and I can appreciate a good suckling pig, and we absolutely loved the one here in Cambio de Tercio. The skin was cracklingly crunchy, the fat deliciously juicy and the meat tender, succulent. I was a little concerned at first at the lack of sauces available, but then I realised this is the best way to eat it, to savour the flavour of the pork all the better. A broth made out of pork bones was all that was needed (worth noting that the waitress poured the broth over the potatoes and not the pork so as to not ruin the crackling, well trained she is).

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Crispy roasted Burgos style suckling pig “3 hours” with rosemary potatoes

At this point, I was already more than a little full, but the PigPig had other plans and we ended up ordering two desserts. The ‘Hot liquid, dark chocolate cake, ginger ice cream’ was disappointing; although the inner chocolate liquid itself was deliciously rich and dark, the outer cake lining was far too light, and the two layers failed to meld together in this case. Very bad. The ginger ice cream on the other hand was pretty good with just enough ginger flavour. Worth noting is a little pile of chopped nuts below the ice cream to give a little crunch to the dish.

Cambio de tercio, London 15
Hot liquid, dark chocolate cake, ginger ice cream

The ‘Deconstruction of the Crema Catalana’ was a bit mysterious, as it seemed just like a scoop of vanilla ice cream paired with a kumquat flavoured cream on the side.

Cambio de tercio, London 14
Deconstruction of the Crema Catalana

Altogether, the grand total came up to £55 per head, which is really quite grotesque as we didn’t have any alcohol or drinks nor did the food contain anything especially expensive (the amount of foie gras in the first tapas was very small). On the other hand, we did order a lot and was full enough to skip dinner later that day.

Food – 8.5
Service – 7.0
Atmosphere – 7.0
Value – 4.0

Overall, I have to admit the food here is very good and is now the best Spanish restaurant in London (in my books anyway). I’m quite surprised they don’t have a Michelin star yet, as their food is far better than Maze. Unfortunately, the price tag here requires larger pockets than I currently have.

Would I eat here again? Probably not due to the price, but I’m quite keen on trying their cheaper sister restaurants.

Cambio de Tercio
163 Old Brompton Road,
Tel: +44(020) 7244 8970
Official website

Cambio de Tercio on Urbanspoon

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