Thursday, April 29, 2010

"Não falo português."

I read yesterday that there were approximately 30,000 Portuguese-speaking residents in Stockwell (this was via the Good Food Channel website, not the Bureau of Statistics – you can see where my research priorities lie). This makes sense when you’ve seen the concentration of Portuguese bars, cafes and grocers along South Lambeth road and Stockwell road. And we’re not talking Nandos, people (although there is one down opposite Brixton Academy).

I’ve been keen to check out one of the many bar/café/restaurants in the ‘hood which rate as “authentic” according to the following guidelines:
• Meat and fish menu. Simple as that. No frills. With side salad/chips/rice for mains.
• Flat-screen TVs broadcasting soccer 24/7 and positioned so that one is visible wherever you’re sitting
• Roomful of middle-aged male regulars who look slightly perplexed – but not predatory or pissed off, that’s very important! – when three clearly-not-Portuguese ladies walk in and sit down
• Kindly maitre d’/waiter who treats clearly-not-Portuguese ladies like regulars, and un-condescendingly points out the English translation clearly printed underneath each menu item after feeble pronunciation attempt.
• One type of beer available in bottles, but served with a tiny accompanying tumbler for the ladies
• Bottomless plates of olives and/or bread (good in theory, but bad when you’re a greedy carboholic and mains take a while to arrive)
• Simple, unpretentious dishes that YES, you probably could have cooked yourself… if you happened to be a Portuguese grandma
• Meat and fish. Give it to me. Let’s OD on protein and slop up the grease with bread.

So last night we headed to Grelha D’Ouro (“golden grill”) which is just up from the slightly fancier and utterly enjoyable Robato’s (Spanish tapas, great place for a date: maitre d’ wears a tux, flamenco guitarist on the stairs most Friday nights) on South Lambeth road. GdO is split into three areas – bar (yummy-looking trays of tapas thingies behind a glass counter), café (wooden tables, men watching football) and restaurant out the back (slightly moodier lighting, tablecloths, TV screens more unobtrusive).

Olives and crusty bread arrived immediately, house beers (Super Bock, £2 each – sweet, eh?!) arrived ice-cold. Menus were deliciously straight forward with accompanying illustrations (and English translations), and we immediately agreed to ask for cracked pepper when we saw our waiter toting a gimormous grinder from table to table – seriously, it was more than 3” tall. (And yes, that's the only photo from dinner.)

Terese ordered chicken with white wine and mushroom sauce (served with rice, veggies and fries, £9 perhaps?), and Rose ordered salmon steak with veggies (I have no idea - let’s say £10). I went for maximum seafood consumption with two entradas – mussels “in special Grelha D’Ouro sauce” (£5.50ish) and grilled king prawns (£4.50ish).

There was some issue with Terese’s chicken – namely, they forgot about it – which meant we all ate way too much bread, and poor T had to wait another 10 minutes for her food once ours had arrived. My mussels arrived on half shells, which certainly saved my prep time, cooked in a rust-coloured, reduced sauce of onion, tomato, white wine and dill
whatever, it was the first shellfish I’d eaten in months and it was delectable. Ditto the prawns – four fat juicy fellas cooked in a criminally tasty butter that was all too easily soaked up with crusty bread. Needless to say, I totally overdid it and went to bed with a bad case of indigestion.

I’d love to go back and share a fish platter or a soupy seafood rice (£20 for two people; Ronaldo's expression below is a good indication of my order envy face when I saw these delivered to neighbouring diners). The steaks looked pretty tasty too – they were served flesh-side-up on a sizzling stone, so you can flip and eat to your liking. Damnit – I’d just go back for the beer, tapas, and satellite TV…

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