I had the most amazing lunch on Saturday. It was the type of food I want to learn while in Spain. I went to Eslava, a restaurant that was on my must-do list of places to eat while in Sevilla. Before I left Wellington, I emailed Eslava to ask if I could stage in their kitchen. I never heard from them, which didn’t seem a big surprise, given the Spaniard’s way of life. So I decided to eat there, and if I enjoyed it enough, then I would ask in person if I could undergo work experience in their kitchen and learn from them.
Anne and I went for a late lunch, around 2.30pm, which meant every table was full, and 15 people were waiting. We stood at the bar, drank a caña, and enjoyed some olives while waiting for a table. Once we were at a standing table outside, we were able to choose food fairly quickly, based on a few things I already knew I wanted to try, and Anne’s recommendations from previous visits.
Eslava is probably most famous for their slow cooked egg served on a boletus cake, with caramelised wine reduction. Boletus is a term for the genus of mushroom producing fungus and the Boletus cake at Eslava tastes like porcini but the texture is a spongy cake like round.
The slow cooked egg on top is perfectly cooked, a yolk with the majority of the white removed, and the 2 sauces served with it complemented the flavours perfectly. One was a like a creamy porcini sauce, the other a sweet and slightly acidic caramelised wine reduction. I don’t know how they did it, but I would love to find out!
We also shared the carrillada, razor clams, solomillo con salsa de cabrales, and salmorejo con pescado a la plancha. Carrillada is a classic dish of Andalucía, and one that many Andalusians will judge the merit of a restaurant on. Slow cooked braised pork cheeks, where the meat is so tender it just falls apart. The carrillada at Eslava was delicious. In fact, it was so delicious, it was 80% gone before I remembered I had wanted to take a picture.
Razor clams are also common here in Sevilla, and they were tender and tasty, and one of those foods you feel a bit funny eating, as there is no dainty or delicate way to enjoy them! Later that same evening, when Elizabeth and I were wandering around the Feria de Tapas on the Alameda, Elizabeth tried some razor clams, and hers were served with a coconut milk sauce, which was a good match, although definitely not traditional.
Solomillo is on almost every menu in Sevilla, usually either served with a whisky sauce or a blue cheese sauce. We ordered the blue cheese sauce, and while it seems like an unusual combination to go with pork sirloin, the sauce was so scrumptious that I would have eaten it with anything! I have yet to try the solomillo con salsa de whisky.
Our last dish was the salmorejo with a grilled fish. The dish we actually ordered was salmorejo with smoked salmon, but at some point our waitress came over and told us that they had run out of smoked salmon, and gave us an option to get a grilled fish instead.
Salmorejo is a cold Spanish soup, similar to gazpacho but lacking the cucumber and capsicums usually in gazpacho, made only with tomatoes, a bit of bread, olive oil, a small amount of garlic and salt. That’s it, blend it up and enjoy your summer tomatoes! This isn't the traditional way to eat salmorejo, but the fish was perfectly cooked and the salmorejo wasn't bitter.
If these descriptions haven’t done enough to make your mouth water, I can tell you – it was all delicious. Post meal all I could think was ‘I really want to stage here.’ A few hours later, I went back when the kitchen was closed, but probably still doing prep, and asked to speak with the jefe de la cocina. I explained what I was after to a bartender/server, who said I should come back around 10.30/11 at night when the boss would be around. For the third time in one day, I made my way back to Eslava at almost 11.30pm with the hope of speaking to the jefe. Still packed, I stood against the wall in the bar, waiting for the bartender with whom I’d spoke to notice me. When she eventually did, she went into the kitchen and returned with the owner. Very kindly, and with much gratitude, he explained that unfortunately they did not have the space or time to accommodate my request, however it was a great compliment and he appreciated that I enjoyed the food so much that I wanted to learn from them. I left disappointed, but I know that I will return to Eslava for at least one more meal before I leave Sevilla!