There was a time, admittedly BCC (Before Capital of Culture) when Bold Street was home to your usual standard fare of restaurants, Indian, Pizza Parlours, Butty Bars and Chinese, but today it is truly cosmopolitan, and all the better for it. I write this on a Sunday, and I have to admit I was taken by surprise just how busy Bold Street was. Our destination today was EL Pecado, – the Spanish word for sin – now opened barely a month, whose website boasts an “eclectic menu which demonstrates some of the very best food and drink the different regions of Spain have to offer”. Now this is some claim, especially when you are an Independant concern rubbing shoulders with the likes of Neon Jamon, Lunya, Salt House Tapas and La Finca Eivissa, but this new kid on the block lives up to the hype. It’s seriously that good.
The restaurant itself is long and narrow, bright and welcoming, with some tasteful abstract art adorning the wall. The ceiling is nested with lightbulbs, connected by a multitude of wires, like some sort of kinetic art installation. I bet it looks fantastic in the evening. Myself and The G, who is an avid Iberophile, settled down for an afternoon of Spanish delights, and we were not disappointed.
We commenced our gastronomic journey with the toasted sourdough with tomato, garlic and extra virgin olive oil, along with the crisp fried Manchego croquettes. This proved to be a very good choice, as the bread and tomato combination was flavoursome and fresh to the palate, the croquettes perfectly fried and retaining that distinctive creamy mild cheese flavour.
Dishes are cooked fresh to order, and suddenly we were surrounded by all our other choices, which can be overwhelming, but in this case totally satisfying. The salt cod croquettes were delicate but tasty, with the crispy fried baby squid – with tentacles – delivered a satisfying crispy “snap”. For those of us who sometimes fall fowl to our indulgences, the roasted chicken thighs hit the mark nicely, especially the chimichurri sauce, which although strictly originates from the South America’s, continued the Spanish theme as it was probably introduced by migrant Basques. The mixture of olive oil, red pepper and garlic complimented the chicken most handsomely.
The crispy fried potatoes with bravas sauce was moorish – just how it should be – while the Imam Bayaldi – chargrilled aubergine with labneh and zhoug – a revelation. It was the first time I had tasted this Middle Eastern soft cheese, but it wont be my last, and I can say that of the zhoug sauce also; the flavours really came through.
The adventure was brought to a close by a superb Persian trifle, infused with pomegranate, rose water jelly and coconut and almond granola, and a desert I had never come across before, but I have to say, is something I want to consume again and again. Apparently, it was the idea of the manager Jay – an exquisite combination of coconut ice cream, a shot of expresso coffee that you poured over the ice cream, and a small glass of the mysterious Liquor 43 (Cuarenta y Tres) which you then add to it. And the result is absolute heaven in a bowl. You have to try this when you visit El Pecado – you will not be disappointed. And Jay deserves a blue plaque commemorating his flash of inspiration outside the restaurant door. Other delights were the bitter sweet Cafe Bombon and the two small glasses of sherry – a perfect disgestif to round off our visit.
El Pecado is a must visit, and as I have said at the top of this piece, deserves a place among the established heavyweights. It offers Spanish cuisine, but again has the confidence to add other influences from the Middle East and the Arab peninsula to add a satisfying twist. Many thanks to the El Pecado brigade who cooked for us (Michael Dawson), and Jay and Grace who looked after us. It was the perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon. To appropriate the musical genius that is Pete Wylie, El Pecado really is “sinful”. And all the better for it.