Tramontana Brindisa, Shoreditch
Spring has sprung. The season of love is upon us. And the good folk at Tramontana Brindisa have laid on a very special menu to get us all in the mood. This east London outpost of Catalonian importers turned serial restaurateurs specialises in “Spanish Mediterranean” cuisine – north eastern Spain, in other words. The restaurant’s regional identity comes across in the name, Tramontana : a lovely, evocative word that translates as “from beyond the mountains”. Just saying it out loud brings to mind bucolic images of tumbledown shepherds’ huts in the foothills of the Pyrenees. The menu has a rustic feel to it too, featuring goats’ curd with honey, black pudding with chorizo and soft-boiled eggs with romesco sauce. Close your eyes, breathe in the exotic aromas wafting from the open kitchen, and you could almost forget that you’re two minutes away from Old Street roundabout. The restaurant itself occupies a bright, airy space that stretches a surprisingly long way back from its unassuming frontage on Curtain Road. A long, stainless steel bar, hung with strings of tomatoes and garlic and legs of jamón ibérico, leads down to a neat little garden at the rear. Needless to say, it’s all in the best possible taste.
Make a date for Saturday lunchtime between now and the 3rd of May (i.e. one of the next three Saturdays) and book yourself and your date in for the £35 spring lamb menu. This is a real treat: a milk-fed lamb leg – each – roasted in Cava and served with prunes, pine nuts and roast baby potatoes. You’re presented with a glass of Cava as you walk through the door, followed by a metric ton of Manzanilla olives and Padrón peppers (wonderful, charred to perfection and liberally seasoned with fat flakes of salt), then jamon croquettas and an asparagus and egg salad dressed with spicy romesco sauce – but this is all preamble to the main event.
As the lamb arrives at the table, presented with due ceremony, the waiter points out a little sticker wrapped around its ankle that reads tierra de sabor. “The label,” he says, coming over all serious, “means it is of the highest quality.” Good to know, say I, but you don’t need a working knowledge of quality control in the Spanish meat industry to appreciate how good this is. Pale, succulent meat coated in a caramelised Cava and prune juice glaze: it’s the stuff dreams are made of. And, like everything else on this menu, it’s huge.
What to order? Assuming that you’ve booked the spring menu, you should know what you’re in for before you walk through the door. With no choice to speak of it’s impossible to fall back on idle menu chatter, so bring your conversational A-game. Take the welcome glass of Cava at a relaxed pace, and try to avoid gorging yourself on olives: spitting out olive stones is so not a good look. It’s a big meal, so exercise a little restraint as the dishes roll out: curb your inner glutton (or inner feeder) and you’ll reap the rewards later. Skip dessert, finish with a coffee and a shot of milk of magnesia, and go share a siesta.
Chowing down on a bouncing baby milk-lamb – never weaned, hence the name, and sent on a one-way trip to the slaughterhouse at barely a month old – might be considered too visceral an experience for some, so make sure your date is just as much of a cold-blooded carnivore as you are before booking. The dessert, torrijas – a Spanish take on French toast (Spanish toast?) – is delicious, but, yet again, enormous. After four starters and an entire leg of lamb, it seems rather an affront to decency.
3. One point knocked off because it’s lunchtime. Another for the fact that you’ll need a long lie down after eating here. Maybe that’s a good thing…?