Casa Madeira, 46b Albert Embankment, London SE1 7TL (020 7735 0592). Starters £4-£9.50, mains £7.50-£20.50, pastel de nata £1.50, wines from £14.99
Sometimes eating places name to me. Sometimes I simply don’t hear. Casa Madeira is a kind of eating places. I’ve pushed previous it a whole bunch of instances. It is on my route dwelling from the centre of London: south over Lambeth Bridge, proper alongside Albert Embankment, and there it’s tucked into the railway arches beneath the line from Waterloo. The pavement right here, in the shadow of the MI6 constructing, edges a large terrace given over to outdoors eating. Over the years I’ve glanced at the tables beneath the umbrellas as I’ve handed, at clusters of individuals leaning in over their plates, and thought that it regarded like enjoyable. I’ve thought I ought to go there. Then I haven’t gone there.
Still, I’ve eaten a few of Madeira’s meals. You might effectively have completed, too. These arches had been initially occupied by the Madeira Bakery and Café, which opened in the Nineteen Eighties and specialises in pastéis de nata, burnished Portuguese tarts of their cups of pure flaky pastry, which at all times make life higher. Business boomed and by 2005 they needed to transfer to a devoted manufacturing web site in Wandsworth. On day they’ll make 30,000. If you’ve ever eaten a pastel de nata in London, it in all probability got here from them.
‘Split open and generously smothered’: grilled prawns and piri piri sauce. Photograph: Sophia Evans/The Observer
They transformed the arches right into a trio of companies. To the left is a spartan café. To the proper is a well-stocked deli. In the center is the restaurant. They even have a bar a brief distance away on South Lambeth Road, the coronary heart of London’s Portuguese group, however that is the mothership. Needing someplace by which to mark a selected second in my life, I e book a desk for six.
The reality is I love the most acquainted bits of the Portuguese repertoire. I used to be as soon as correctly hooked on the meals served at a grill home on Brixton Hill, initially referred to as the Gallery. They did the greatest piri piri rooster, a spatchcocked marvel of smoky char and chilli and salt. They did fabulous grilled ribs and chorizo, a denser, meatier model than its Spanish cousin. They did a small variety of issues very effectively. Back behind the takeaway was a hilarious, windowless restaurant, with a minstrel gallery and kitsch murals the place they served ludicrously good worth blended grills, and dishes of clams and thumb-thick prawns. One of the homeowners died, the remaining proprietor offered up, the high quality deteriorated after which a hearth closed them altogether for a yr or two.
‘Thick taut-skinned lengths arrive in custom-designed terracotta dishes’: chorizo. Photograph: Sophia Evans/The Observer
I miss the Gallery. So as a substitute, right here I’m finally, on the outdoors terrace at Casa Madeira, beneath umbrellas outfitted with heaters that forged a ripe orange glow after which minimize out for a minute of gloom, earlier than all of a sudden reilluminating. Around us sits a blended crowd – suited and booted males who I resolve are spies from MI6, a youthful set in critical puffas in opposition to the chilly rippling off the Thames simply over the highway, a couple of households. Uniformed waiters work these tables, vigorously. The service has a candy and solicitous air to it. There’s a variety of opening out of stands at the aspect of every desk for trays from the kitchen. While there are actually sufficient waiters, there will not be fairly sufficient folks working the grill out again given a few prolonged waits. Cultivate persistence.
But the meals, when it arrives, is every little thing. I really feel silly for not having been right here earlier than. Rugged bread arrives with little foil-lidded pots of a salty sardine or mackerel pâté. We all dig in. I remind the different elders at the desk that it’s a snap for the fish paste of our youth. We conclude that’s why we prefer it. We place an order of dishes to share. Thick lengths of taut-skinned chorizo arrive perched in custom-designed terracotta dishes with a effectively of booze at the backside to be ignited. Broad blue flames gutter and spin for jiffy at the finish of the desk. It lends hunks of the chorizo a welcome char and splits the pores and skin so the juices run. We have a deep bowl of thumbnail-sized white clams, in a garlicky broth which calls for to be completed off by the bread, and grilled prawns which have been cut up open and generously smothered with piri piri sauce.
‘Further alternatives for bread moppage’: pork and clams stew. Photograph: Sophia Evans/The Observer
Mains are variations on the similar theme, which is what we’re right here for. There could be very little in the approach of flummery popping out of that kitchen. It is stable substances, handled with due care and a focus. There are blended grills, with rooster and pork escalopes, a bit extra chorizo and the stars of the present, expertly trimmed lamb chops. We have grilled sardines, their silvery skins blistered and curled, in order that the flesh comes away from the bone, and a stew of pork with extra clams which gives additional alternatives for bread moppage. Chips are scorching and crisp. Salads are recent and vinegary.
We end, after all, with a pastel de nata every and they’re nonetheless heat, so every little thing is ideal. The pastry flakes down our coats. The candy, set custard coats our mouths. Prices are affordable and in locations extraordinary. The specials blackboard affords a complete turbot for 3 or 4 folks for £55. I’m advised it must be offered in the present day and that usually it will be round £75. I inform him about the £135 at Brat at Climpson’s Arch. He laughs. “We couldn’t cost that right here,” he says. I’m positive they couldn’t. That’s not a grievance.
‘Burnished tarts of their cups of pure flaky pastry’: pastéis de nata, and a few glasses of madeira. Photograph: Sophia Evans/The Observer
At the finish they convey us every a thimble glass of a darkish, caramel-coloured madeira and we toast what’s, for me, a final evening of freedom. As eating places are lastly opening up, I’m closing down. The subsequent day I’ll start two weeks of self-isolation forward of the hip substitute I’ve been banging on about elsewhere on this newspaper. It’s additionally one among the causes, alongside the small matter of a raging pandemic, I’ve not been leaving London. I’ll begin reviewing once more throughout the entire of the UK as quickly as I can. So sufficient with the complaining emails already.
Magazine deadlines being what they’re, this piece was written earlier than it occurred, however you’re studying it after the deed has been completed. I’ll have already got been fitted with a spiffing new ceramic hip. I shall be half man, half crockery. So no swanning round these eating places for me for a short time. Instead, some fabulous folks shall be retaining my seat at the desk heat, by telling you about eating places they love. See you very quickly.
The information of latest openings retains coming. Edinburgh-based cooks Sam Yorke and Tomás Gormley, with expertise between them working with Tom Kitchin, the late Andrew Fairlie and at the Lookout by Gardeners Cottage, are to show their pop-up supper membership right into a everlasting fixture. The high-end Heron will open this summer season on a web site on The Shore in Leith, and could have an à la carte menu that can change each few weeks.
At the different finish of Britain in Lewes, West Sussex, chef Richard Falk, who spent 5 years at Robin Gill’s extremely regarded Dairy in south London, is to open Fork. He’s describing the trendy British menu as ‘modern but accessible’, which is a phrase broadly open to interpretation. The opening menu guarantees flank steak with salsa verde and smoked bone marrow, lamb rack and offal with wilted gem, anchovy and capers and English strawberries with whipped yoghurt, elderflower and feuilletine. Visit fork-lewes.co.uk.
And (type of) between the two in Manchester, the Deansgate Square growth has simply welcomed the arrival of Atomeca, an all-day venue with a drink providing from the award-winning bartending brothers Joe and Daniel Schofield and wine knowledgeable James Brandwood. To soak all of it up there’s a brief Spanish-inflected meals menu of cheese and charcuterie plates, tostadas and habas fritas. At atomeca.co.uk.
Email Jay at [email protected] or comply with him on Twitter @jayrayner1