La Carbona, Jerez Spain.

 

April 2018

It’s still rare although less so than 10 years ago to find an eating place that recognizes that diet has an important impact on life but none on traditional measures of health. Such places use the big three (fat, salt, and sugar) ad lib for flavour, not to protect the public against imaginary health risks.

This delightful Michelin-named restaurant feels like the kind of environment we associate with Michelin: high ceiling, white tablecloths, staff going about their business with an air of easy formality and dignity, peace and quiet. And when the food arrives there is absolutely no silly restraint in respect of the big three, here especially salt.

We arrived around 1 PM having driven down from Seville, and were the only people in the place for about 20 minutes, until a few couples and a gang of about 30 French-speaking older middle-aged people arrived. A cute but clueless girl dropped a dazzling amuse-bouche potato salad made of cold little pieces of boiled potato dressed with red onion, chives (or something like them) and a gorgeously-balanced dressing, alive with salt. Warm soft bread arrived at the same time.

We went for two starters and a main shared between us, and chose a 2011 Rioja from the long list of Spanish wines when it became clear that the nice girl had no idea what to suggest and nobody else was around to help. The wine was perfectly lovely, smelling of classy tempranillo and gripping convincingly in the mouth, at €29.

A large puck of finely-chopped tuna sprinkled with roe and a couple of little leaves of herb was so succulently seasoned we had to try to continue to appear well-behaved as we hoovered it up along with the lovely soft bread. Next came another round flat item, warm braised skirt steak in its reduction sauce sitting on shaped mashed potato with just the right suggestion of garlic and, yes, salt. The shredded meat was a bit chewy but full of the flavour of the sauce with its garlic and wine background. Delicious, and again gone in a flash.

Finally there was a roast “leg of lamb”, actually a shoulder (the little scapula was part of the large chunk of meat) slow-cooked so it was falling off the bone but gorgeously crisped around the outside. A little couscous helped soak up the reduction, and the meat was enough to finally satisfy us both. Tender, tasty, perfectly seasoned.

It’s not like this lunch was even haute cuisine so much as just very high class bistro food, but we were really well satisfied and out the door for under €100 (about C$140). I don’t think there’s any chance I’ll never be in Jerez again (I expected it to be a classy touristic capital of sherry production but it had an industrial-flavoured old town centre not enhanced by our having arrived at the 2 PM to 5 PM Spanish siesta). But if I was, I’d head back to this delightful place. Highly recommended.

Food 9.4, service 8.8, ambience 9.3, value 9.0, peace and quiet 8.6.

About John Sloan

John Sloan is a senior academic physician in the Department of Family Practice at the University of British Columbia, and has spent most of his 40 years' practice caring for the frail elderly in Vancouver. He is the author of "A Bitter Pill: How the Medical System is Failing the Elderly", published in 2009 by Greystone Books. His innovative primary care practice for the frail elderly has been adopted by Vancouver Coastal Health and is expanding. Dr. Sloan lectures throughout North America on care of the elderly.
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