The hardest thing about being a restaurateur is having constant worries about various, constant things. For example worries about staffing, suppliers, produce. I suppose all of these things can be wrapped up into one over-arching theme – consistency. And the scaling and triumph over Mount Consistency on an everyday basis must be paramount factor in your business being successful or not. And to that, I have to admit, Lunya over
the years has constantly met these challenges. It summits time and time again.
The new restaurant has been open for a few months now, and set over two floors in its historic Albert Dock setting, it pretty much is business as usual. And by that I mean the “Three F’s” – fantastic food, fantastic atmosphere, fantastic staff – they are all present. The Lunya brand of quality remains untouched by this new venture. Really, did you expect anything else? Really?
The G – my dining companion of choice and lover of all things Espania – arrived early and was treated to a lovely crisp white Rioja by our waitress for the night Rebecca, who was to be mission control for the nights gastronomic adventures. However, I have to admit that me and the G both made a basic schoolboy error, straight out of the Food Reviewers Handbook. It’s embarrassing and its a cardinal sin: “Don’t eat too much
that you can’t sample a desert…” However, and this will become clear, we are definitely blaming Chef Fran on this one…..or at least a part of it.
When you think “tapas”, what springs to mind are small dishes, and this is maybe true in some Catalonia bars, but with Lunyalita, portions are bigger than the norm. The prawns look like they have worked out on “muscle beach”, under the watchful eye of Arnie himself, but are sweet and tender, aided by a light olive oil dip, infused with flakes of chilli and garlic. Our entrees of a variety of olives, and the slow proved bread from
the Baltic Bakehouse with allioli where extremely moorish and set the standard for what was to come. The G has an irrational love of anchovies which Chef Fran was very happy to indulge by giving us a taster….and they were exquisite. Not too salty, just right. The Duck pate was very clean on the palette; the dish can be slightly gritty in inferior hands. Oh, and the pomegranate purée is a masterstroke. Our congratulations.
I am a self-confessed black-pudding connoisseur, it is a dish both under-valued and under-utilised. Not so by this brigade. The ‘Morcilla de Burgos” were superb, and again the apple purée elevated the dish several notches. The batter encasing the onion rings deserves special mention, for being very light and unassuming. A culinary bullseye. This though, was surpassed by the Deep Fried Monte Enebro, which is, I declare today, a
must-try on your visit. Monte Enebro is a relative new cheese on the block, having been introduced to kitchens circa 2003, when it won the Spanish top goat cheese award. Here, it is sumptuous and satisfying, the honey glaze adding to the richness. Love cheese? Yes please!You will adore this.
Now back to our “schoolboy error”. We ate too much, and were too full to partake a desert. Perhaps three tapas each would have been present and correct, and then we could have facilitated a pudding. However, we protest that Chef Fran was culpable, M’Lord, in our downfall. We asked for two smaller versions of the pork fillet medallions and the Bacalao with Samfaina, but as Rebecca informed us, he wasn’t going to skimp on how they usually would cross the pass. Isn’t this called professionalism? By this point the G was already in the dining equivalent of the bus that rounds up the stragglers in the Tour De France. I gamely continued, and was happy with a score-draw.
Everyday a restaurant starts from base camp and summits – hopefully – Mount Consistency. It helps when the Kitchen Brigade and the Front Of House are all working collectively, seamlessly, intuitively. Rebecca knowledgeable and friendly; Chef Fran a bubbling cocktail of sinewy intensity and passion.
The future looks good. And this passion and commitment stems from the management. Elaine, who with her husband Paul, owns the enterprise, spent some time with us discussing the new restaurant, the ethos of the cuisine, the Lunya philosophy. She is knowledgeable, approachable and warm. And this filters down to the rest of her staff. She cares, and they care. It’s so recognisable. Apparently Elaine’s husband is a coffee aficionado, and she agreed with us that many a great dining experience is ruined by terrible, lack lustre coffee. It predominantly comes last in the meal, but first in the memory. We had the coffee, and it was sensational. Just like Lunyalita.