Tapas take centre stage at the Valladolid Tapas Contest

mcith_headsIt’s the annual all comers Tapas contest in Valladolid and Nick Harman has got a ringside seat. But as well as watching the three days of cook offs, he finds time to explore more of what this Spanish epicentre of small plate dining has to offer the food loving visitor.

I don’t mind eating horses but it’s very odd being simultaneously watched by them. Both horses are stone dead but they are very lifelike, very big and very, very stuffed.

They do rather worship horses in this northern part of Spain and when the best ones die they become decoration. I’m eating Shergar in the main hall of a ranch dedicated to the ancient art of fighting bulls on horseback, as evidenced by the sepia photos lining the walls. These days bulls aren’t really harmed, the rider ‘spears’ them with the three foot equivalent of the inside of a toilet roll, but the art is the same as my host shows me later with a macho display in his own private bullring.

First though some lunch. Continue reading

Ashdown Park Hotel – step back and step out in style

Country houses are all the rage, what with Downton making us sigh with longing. Nick Harman gets a fix of old school class at Ashdown Park Hotel

With a flourish the waiters whip off the cloches to reveal the meal beneath, a sight not seen in London since barrage balloons wobbled in the sky and Evelyn Waugh wobbled out of Whites. You can only imagine what some metropolitan critics would make of this; gleefully sharpen their pencils in preparation for stabbing the restaurant through the heart, no doubt.

Things are done differently in the country though, they hunt things, they kill and mostly eat the things they hunt, they are comfortable with corduroy and welly boots and mud. Here atAshdown Park Hotel and Country Club part of the sameElite Hotels Group as The Grand Eastbourne.  some things are still done pretty much as they would have been done thirty years ago. Continue reading

The madness of Madrid

Another year, another Madrid Fusion. Nick Harman goes to see what chefs are cooking up this time as they bring their tools, their tricks and their taste in tattoos to Europe’s premier culinary showcase.

DSC_0814 Elena Arzak is painting a balloon green, or to be accurate one of her team is painting a balloon green but it isn’t actually paint, it’s a form of edible starch dissolved in fish stock mixed with blended parsley. The luminous result is left to dry before  the balloon is deflated to leave a crisp Mekon-style helmet behind. Continue reading