It seems fitting that, during a week that was dominated by the Scottish independence debate, I was invited to attend an event showcasing the food of an area that have their own dreams of independence – the Basque region of Spain. The Donostia Social Club, have ‘popped-up’ not-quite-permanently at The King & Co pub in Clapham to share their Basque bites with the lucky people of SW4. Their residency kicks off a series of 3-month stints by different street-food traders at the newly refurbished Clapham pub. I gave it a whirl to see if it’s worth a Yes vote.
Paul Belcher is at the helm and he is passionate about the unique food of the Basque region, which is a delectable blend of Northern Spain and Southwestern France. Having run his mobile Pintxos bar successfully at both street-food and private events he is now trialling this ‘bricks and mortar’ venue in The King & Co’s new kitchen. And we enjoyed every mouthful of his small–plates feast starting with the savoury Gordel olives we nibbled with a glass of icy Cava. The seared scallops with a perky Spanish ratatouille, green chilli sauce and almonds were perfectly crusty on the outside and creamy within – quite a feat when cooking on a large scale. The lamb cutlets with sweet pea puree and confit baby broad beans were a clear hit – I saw evidence of bone-gnawing which suggests they were considered pretty special by all. Crab and anchovy toasts were also very moreish but my star of the night was the Iberico pork cheek with butterbean puree and herb oil – something I could have eaten an embarrassing amount of. Oh wait, I did. It’s testament to the chef that the cheek-meat yielded immediately to the pressure of a wooden chip-shop fork – just delicious.
The newly refurbished pub itself is a lovely spot for a convivial afternoon – there’s a great outdoor terrace and a nick-nack-filled interior with mixture of eclectic vintage art and furniture. They have a great selection of UK and International beers by all accounts – I wouldn’t know, I was too busy getting acquainted with a glass or two of the very creditable Albarino. It’s definitely worth poking your head in if there’s a referendum on where to go for drinks and dinner.
(I was invited to review The Donostia Social Club at King & Co).