It has been a while since I have been up to London, but I was long overdue seeing my father and a business meeting offered the opportunity to get the train up and meet him and his partner for dinner.
The venue chosen was Maresco, a blend of sea (Mar) and Scotland (Escocia) with the cuisine reassuringly Spanish and the ingredients very much of a Scottish bias. Just my cup of tea, with my father being of Scottish descent (thus me being half Scottish) and my enduring love of all things Spanish. I was rather proud of my pun title I have to say (needs Jaime to be pronounced in the Spanish way to work mind) – right up there on the ohdearlord-o-meter I thought.
The ground floors looks rather fine for solo dining,
but with 3 of us and my father no longer really up for getting on or off high stools we opted for the more standard table and chairs downstairs in the rather compact basement area.
At first blush the menu looks great, with stuff you don’t see that often over here like fideua (a Catalan dish similar to paella or arroz a banda, but using broken pasta rather than rice) and navajas (razor clams).
Whilst seafood is the clear focus, the meat and veg. sections are equally alluring (if somewhat more limited in scope, unsurprisingly so, with sea in the place’s name).
Proceedings (before I arrived, due to a Reginald Perrin “15 minutes late, badger gnawed the junction box at Swindon“, believe it or Didcot“😄, late running train/mobile torture chamber with those GWR concrete seats) started off with some rather nice pan con tomate (£4.5 for 2). Such a simple dish, which can be as dull as dishwasher if the ingredients are not top notch.
Here there was no fear of that,
with a lovely charry sweetness to the tomatoes, a nice hit of refreshing acidity and garlic, as well as robust seasoning (tomatoes need salt big time). The pan base remained nicely crisp (suggesting fresh prep rather than sitting on a counter). All in all a good start.
Next up were some exemplary chiparones (£11).
Beautiful tender, with a crisp (gossamer thin) coating. Just lovely, with a big squeeze of lemon, dunked in an accompanying punchy aioli. I thought this a decent portion size (I could have eaten a bucket load of them) for the price.
Croquetas Menorquinas (£9.5) had a nice crisp oil free shell encasing a creamy bechamel,
loaded with sobrassada and cheese (Mahon I think, but wasn’t really concentrating when they said what the filling was)
Little baubles of loveliness these.
The advertised patatas bravas were more papas arrugadas to me, being skin on newies,
but were none the worse for it with a punchy salsa and a pungent aioli.
We then moved on to the more substantial/ raciones sized elements of the menu.
A empretat salad, consisted of white beans (good texture to these, yielding to the bite, but avoiding unpleasant mushiness), smokey chargrilled peppers and floral, earthy, black olives.
All the elements were brought together nicely by a lovely vinaigrette and a salsa verde.
Scottish languostine are one of nature’s gift to us humans and should be up there on the top tier of seafood/any food. The meat is superior to lobster in my view.
These beauties are, for the most part, oddly ignored by us Brits and the vast majority go to the continent (a crying shame that). Seeing them here, with a fideua, meant an easy pick for us
Lovely sweet meat on these and I enjoyed sucking the brain juice out of the head (compulsory) and the meat out of the claw. The fideua itself had absorbed a rich fume de marisco (shellfish stock) and as a result was pumped up to the max. with flavour, as well as being dotted with more seafood. Easily enough for two or three to share and very morish. Definitely going to attempt a fideua at home at some point (pretty sure is a recipe in the Bar 44 cookbook for it)
Shetland mussels a la plancha were dinky little numbers,
but what they lacked in statute they more than made up for in flavour. These little flavor bombs bathed in a lovely rich broth.
I forgot to take a picture of the txistorra de la mar, seemingly their signature dish, which is a neat rift on the classic Basque cured sausage.
The usual pork or beef was replaced by mackeral and monkfish which gave it a surprisingly meaty feel (reminiscent of the traditional form of txistorra), with a nice hit of paprika driven spice. The links sat on a spicy yoghurt based sauce and a crisp taco, with the latter making it very portable to the gob. A beautilicious barnacle bill of a banger this
Prior to dessert, we decided to go French and interject a cheese course (£14.5)
A good aged manchego, with a distinct nuttiness, a floral goats cheese (monte enebro) and a creamy, but still with a bit of an acidic bite, blue (la peral)
Nice (and plentiful) crisp bread and a good chutney make this a very agreeable prelude to dessert.
On the pudding front,
I was immediately drawn to the Basque cheese cake.
Perfectly servicably this,
but it didn’t hold a candle to La Vina’s in Donestia – San Sebastian or indeed Mrs SF’s one.
More successful was a creme catalana ice cream,
which successfully transposed the flavours of a creme brulee into the ice cream format. My father very much enjoyed this.
On the booze front they have a rather interesting all Spanish list,
that has some off the beaten track stuff on it.
First up we had an unfortified (so not sherry) palamino from sherry country. These are seemingly very on trend at the moment, with it being argued they will appeal to a wider audience than sherry (much to my horror and despite my best efforts sherry sales continue to slide)
Interesting stuff this with a touch of sulfur initially (that blew off in the glass), a fino nuttiness, lime and quite robust white floral notes on the nose.
On the palate it was searingly dry, with a oily mouth feel. I liked it, but I am not sure it will convert many non sherry drinkers if I am honest. At £47, the mark up was not bad for central London (retails at around the £20 mark).
The red was a D.O.P Cangas (in the far Northern Spanish region of Asturias, which is firmly sidre rather than vino, country in Spain) number.
Rather nice stuff this, with crisp red fruits and a distinct herbal feel to it. On the palate there was refreshing acidity, slightly sweet violet and then a lingering citrus finish. Will look out for more Cangas wines on the basis of this wine, although production level are very small. Again the mark up on this wine was not too bad (at least for London), with it on the list at £61 and retailing (in the UK) at around the £24 mark.
We finished off with a decent PX.
Going to have a sherry moan now (of course you are, you are all thinking as you yawn).
The main drinks menu refers to pours (for the standard sherries on offer) of 100ml (the min. in my view)
The dessert menu, however, referred to the PX pour being 75ml (at, surprise, surprise, the same price).
I asked which it was (knowing in my heart of hearts what the answer would be) and of course was told a 75ml pour.
I mean how hard is it to have consistency on the menus?
Suspect it use to be 100ml and the reduction in pour size (but not price) is a sign of our inflationary times (the old don’t put the price up just reduce size and thus costs trick).
It was no real biggie in an otherwise very good meal, but stuff like that just grates a bit on me.
Very enjoyable meal at Maresco that pulls off, rather admirably, the neat trick of Spanish dishes using top quality Scottish ingredient. A bonny pair they make I can tell you.
Add to that a interesting and thought provoking wine list and you have a “muy bueno” all round offering for a Hispanophile like me.
If, like me, you enjoy Spanish food and wine, this place is a great option if in Central London. Good for a quick bite or something more substantial.
Address: 45 Berwick Street, London, W1F 5SF.
Nearest Tube station: Oxford Circus – 5 mins walk, Tottenham Court Road – 6 min walk – with latter a better option from or to Paddington train station as can get the much quicker and swisher Elizabeth Line).