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Fino - Order the Arroz Negro!

Friday, 29 October 2010

Remember to check out the Penn State Christmas snack box giveaway. The competition is open to anyone, from anywhere and ends at Midnight GMT 30th October, 2010. Good luck!

One of my favourite places to eat in London is Barrafina for serving high quality Spanish tapas. My only complaint with them is their small seating capacity and no reservations policy which often meant queuing quite a bit. Fino is Barrafina’s sister restaurant but bigger and more expensive too.

Fino, London 06

Our party of five was seated at a corner deep in the bowels of the basement dining room. The entire room was brightly lit and there was lively buzzing atmosphere of happy diners. Our request of tap water was eagerly obliged and a little plate of juicy green olives were happily devoured. Rather than wine, we decided to go with some sangria.

Our menu had today’s date on it, so presumably the contents change depending on what produce is available and sourced.

Spanish cold meat platter”. I wasn’t paying too attention so I’m not sure if our waitress explained the cuts on the board. I think it was chorizo, jamon and salami none of which were particularly impressive. The jamon seemed particularly tough as well so it might have actually been lomo.

Fino, London 08

Pan con tomate”. To go with the ham, we ordered some of this typical Catalan bread of which every restaurant seems to do it slightly differently. Here, the rough and tough bread had a rather more delicate sweet tomato topping.

"Chorizo and Potato Chips". I was expecting chorizo fried with potato wedges but they turned out to be chorizo sausages wrapped in thinly sliced potato and then fried. It was so good we ordered another plate.

Fino, London 10

Classic tortilla. While the tortilla was delicious to eat with a mixture of softer potato body and less-cooked harder cubes inside as well providing contrasting textures, it is still just a little disappointing as Barrafina’s version comes with egg yolk oozing out from the center.

Queen scallops”. Named "Queen" but the size took us all by surprise; we were expecting something larger, luckily we had ordered one each as splitting them to share would be tricky. Nevertheless the scallops were sweet and cooked really nicely as it was still very nearly raw and retained the nice bouncy texture. Did find it a bit too salty though.

Fino, London 02

Seafood platter”. Meant for two to share, this £33 plate represented pretty good value as it had half a crab, a (pretty big) langoustine split down the middle and two scallops. Simply put, all the seafood seemed really fresh and sweet although the langoustine claw did have rather shrunken meat within so the poor crustacean was probably starved in a tank for a while.

Fino, London 03

I spent quite a while tangling with the crab body to get at all the juicy sweet meat within and much appreciated the lemon water provided to clean my hands later. The waitress also happily changed our dirty napkins. We found it a bit odd as the gills of the crab weren’t removed, but that was easily done ourselves.

The biggest joy of the dish was pulling back the shell to find it filled with sweet briny runny crab roe. Eating that roe with bread turned out to be a really magnificent combination and we also happily mopped up the remaining of the sauce on the plate with our bread.

Fino, London 05

Arroz negro”. As the PigPig was walking in, a random exiting diner shouted out to her to order this dish. She didn’t really need to as the PigPig loves this squid ink rice dish anyway. The version here was rather brilliant with lots of the rather indescribable squid ink taste and al dente rice while the squid was tender. Only problem is the rather dainty portion size.

Fino, London 04

Crisp pork belly”. The Chinese love to eat pork but sometimes it feels that the Spanish are a close second behind. This version here is certainly a superb job as the skin has remained on the meat and is definitely crackling while the meat still remains tender and not overcooked.

Fino, London 09

Rump of beef, baby onions and port sauce”. Unlike all the other dishes, this is a surprisingly large portion. The beef was slightly overcooked for me but still remained tender and juicy while the sweet/sour port sauce was a great foil to the meat.

Lamb cutlets, parsnip puree”. Normally there will be two pieces per dish but we had requested to have five, one for each of us. A good thing too as our family ties would have been stretched a little if we had to share the juicy morsels here. Tender, moist, succulent, the cutlets also had some fat left on them for extra taste. I found the cutlets pretty well seasoned as they were and the olive topping unnecessary and too salty as well.

Fino, London 07

Moving on to the desserts, we more also moved to a new location in the bar as we had overstayed our 2 hour table allocation. Whilst the seats were fairly comfortable, the tiny table was at a low height and made eating our desserts slightly tricky.

Shot of white and dark chocolate”. We ordered two of these as we had guessed they would be quite small as they were half the price of the other desserts. Although they look stunning, I wasn’t convinced by the overall effect. Both layers were like a frothy liquid chocolate and presumably meant to be drunk with the straw. Perhaps using more solid mousses would have worked better.

Chocolate mousse, ganache and chocolate crumble”. We also doubled up on this option as my uncle wanted one all to himself as he was spying a neighbour’s table and thought it looked great. In reality I found it somehow lacking a little somewhere although I can’t identify a specific fault.

Donuts, vanilla ice cream”. Rather underwhelming, the doughnuts felt rather dry despite being warm, maybe due to using less oil than the typical American version.

Fino, London 01

Altogether the bill came up to just under £50 per head. I have to say I could probably have eaten a little bit more but I was already thinking of having some ice cream at Oddono’s and was already holding myself back a bit. Service was decent and friendly at first but it got a little tricky to get the attention of our waiters later in the evening; at times it almost felt as if they would duck their heads and avert their gazes the moment they saw me waving at them.

Food – 7.0
Service – 4.0
Atmosphere – 6.0
Value – 4.0

*Guide to restaurant food ratings

I deliberately didn’t try dishes that were present at both Barrafina and Fino so I can’t make direct comparisons but the quality of cooking certainly seems equally high. While the style of cooking is definitely simple (than the complex Cambio de Tercio for example), it isn’t basic and there is plenty of quality in both the ingredients and cooking technique and as a result, the taste of most of the dishes were spot-on.

Best bit: any guesses? Has to be the crab roe.
Worst bit: forgetting to order the roast suckling pig in advance! First saw it in Barrafina but it was sold out so I spent a meal looking at a very happy family of three digging into the piglet. The waiter told us to go to Fino as we could pre-order it but that was over a year ago and I had completely forgot about it by now.

33 Charlotte Street,
Tel:+44(020) 7813 8010

Fino on Urbanspoon

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