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Matthew Grant

Abac

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Abac was good. It is a beautiful room, I imagine it would be very nice at lunchtime with the sun coming through the curtains but at night it was lovely. I love those lights.

Crab tartare with avocado and mushrooms was exquisitely fresh. Scallops with a potato Blinis was very good if only for the beautiful scallops topped with pepper (espelette?). The portion looked very large due to the scallops being sliced, I would have thought that they ere cut into three pieces but apparently they managed five slices from every scallop, The blinis didn't really work coming across more like a heavy omelette.

We shared a middle course of Macaroni, with Lobster Bolognese. What a great dish, a beautiful rich ragu stuffed into the pasta. topped with small slices of Lobster and a foamed bisque sauce. A real luxury tasting dish that IMO wouldn't have been out of place in a 3 star restaurant. Main courses were perhaps less successful . I had the suckling pig with Mango tatin. The pork was lovely but the tatin did little to elevate it. Milk fed lamb appeared to be rolled shoulder that had been cooked sous-vide. I just don't get cooking a dish like shoulder sous-vide, what is the point? The fat hadn't broken down enough and paired with a vanilla sauce and chicory just didn't work at all though Rachel conceded that this is down to her taste (and mine). The restaurant did query why it had been left and offered to replace it but Rachel declined. Coffee baba to finish was very good, not overly sweet and pleasantly light. Excellent service and Xavier Pellicer was very friendly when he came to chat at the end of the evening.


"Why would we want Children? What do they know about food?"

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We had a very good menu at Abac last week, but nothing earth-shattering until the arrival of an espardenya with a tiny pigs' foot patty and a "cat's ear" mushroom that looked exactly like an espardenya--a clever visual pun. Then the piece de resistance, a pigeon roasted over charcoal. My only gripe was that we each got just half a pigeon.

FABULOUS. The leg was served separately, stuffed with the bird's innards.

The confit of gambas and the grilled calamares with wild mushrooms and almond milk were also excellent, but the dish that did not work for me was a tepid bowl of veal tendons in broth with broccoli, raw clams, and caviar.

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That's really interesting, Culinista. I ate at ÀBaC a couple of times recently and the one dish that I really had problems with was the clams with veal tendons. When I wrote up the experience the other day on my blog I said: "In my honest opinion I don't think this dish works. The individual elements were all cooked perfectly and were great by themselves, there's no denying that. But eating it all together just didn't quite make sense to either of us, so we ate the clams with the caviar and then the tendons with the broth and the broccoli." ( http://aidanbrooks.blogspot.com/2008/12/taken-bac.html )

My conclusion was that the food was for the most part very well executed as I would expect from a restaurant of this standing, the exceptions being the tuna "hamburger" which was seriously over-salted and the pumpkin and chocolate parfait dessert in which the flavour of the pumpkin was drowned by that of the dark chocolate. The best of the dishes were excellent - the sous-vide prawns, watercress, tomato and crunchy bread being the best of them in my opinion. The calamar with rossinyols, crema of almonds and cep broth was also a brilliant exhibition of relatively simple produce-led cooking.

I was less enamoured of the pigeon à la brasa. The breast with spinach garnish, trompettes de la mort and sauced with its own jus was fine, but the separately served ballotine of leg stuffed with butifarra negra was accompanied by a very vinegary garnish that seriously detracted from the overall dish.

My problem (apart from the size of the bill at the end of the evening) was conceptual. Neither my guest not I could really fathom how several of the dishes fitted into the flow of the meal. And I really had difficulty with the cultural diversity of the menu, with dishes varying between classical Catalan, French nouvelle cuisine, classical Castilian and modern eclectic. I'm no culinary conservative (I trained with Peter Gordon a couple of years ago and still love his fusion food), but I was getting dizzy with the clash of styles on the ÀBaC menu. Xavier is of mixed Catalan/French descent, trained in France and practising in Catalunya. I think the problem may well be that he's not really sure which of these two traditions he truly believes in.

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