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Fino: restaurant of the year?


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Yes,

I went 3 or 4 weeks ago.

I though the room was pretty dull really, kind of provincial brasserie/chain hotel restaurant.

The food though was genuinely good and some dishes in particular stood out. Memory is hazy but the high points were the lambs kidneys, and a kind of vegetable terrine type thing. Lamb kebabs, squid and other dishes were good too.

The tables weren't massive though, and we ended up with so many plates and bowls on the surface that at one point I dipped my bread into the water filled finger bowl rather than the oil, which amused my waitress if nothing else.

Pricing seemed decent (though I didn't pay for this particular lunch) and I would definitely go back again. That said, I am a little nonplussed by some of the superlative strewn reviews I have read.

Cheers

Thom

It's all true... I admit to being the MD of Holden Media, organisers of the Northern Restaurant and Bar exhibition, the Northern Hospitality Awards and other Northern based events too numerous to mention.

I don't post here as frequently as I once did, but to hear me regularly rambling on about bollocks - much of it food and restaurant-related - in a bite-size fashion then add me on twitter as "thomhetheringto".

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I tried Fino last night with a friend.

I have to be honest and say I found the whole thing a bit of a travesty and can’t understand why it has got such good reviews unless it is from people who have never set foot in Spain.

To my mind, the sort of Spanish cooking that they are trying to replicate here is based in three things.

1) Excellence of ingredients

2) Simplicity of preparation

3) Generosity of spirit

While Fino certainly has tried hard at 1) and 2) it failed pitifully on 3).

Although the address is Charlotte St, the entrance is actually on Rathbone Place and the door is guarded by the coolest looking man in history who intoned "welcome to Fino gennerlman" in a voice that sounded like Paul Robeson.

The room itself is fairly identikit modern British in its look with lots of blonde wood and chrome, not unpleasant but very standard

We started with two glasses of Hidalgo Manzanilla @ £4.50 a glass. It was pretty good, but given that you can buy a bottle of the stuff for not much more than that not great value. I was not that impressed with the list of sherries which has received such rave reviews. Apart from the Hidalgo and Lustau, it was a bit sparse.

We had a number of tapa starters

Pimentos de Padron – only £2.50 but for a measly bowl of about 10 peppers

Chorizo and Potato pancakes – really, really horrible matchsticks of something. Very nasty indeed. £3.00

Pulpo A La Gallega – actually very tasty Octopus cooked simply a la Plancha but £6.50 for a tiny portion was a rip off.

Classic Tortilla – perfectly OK but again at £4.25 for something with the circumference of a mug, it was very poor value

Squid Ink Croquetta – These were the best thing we ordered. Delicious little cakes of potato and squid ink. They were almost worth the £5 they charged. Almost but not quite

We then followed with what were meant to be main courses

Milk Fed Lamb Chops – A disgrace. Two tiny chops and I mean microscopic and costing a whopping £7.50. I figured that at £3 a bite. Pitiful

Chorizo and Beans – shoddy. A small bowl of beans with a few measly bits of chorizo. To you sir, £7.20.

A tiny side dish of broad beans and ham was £5.90.

So, the best part of £60 was spent on about a dozen mouthfuls of food.

The wine list was not great and they had very few good Spanish wines under £50 with many being in the £90 range ( good luck guys ). In the end we ordered a 2000 Qupe Syrah at £32 which was a bit young but not bad.

The service was amiable and bizarrely all French. An additional charge of 12.5 was added to the bill, but they did not leave the credit card slip open which is laudable in this day and age

We spent a bit of time speaking to Ed Hart who is the son of the people who own Hambleton ( sp?) Hall in Rutland of which I am quite fond. He opened this place , he explained, as he wanted people to experience the true Spain. So apparently the true Spain is the equivalent of being butt fucked, who knew?

Years ago in a Niles/Frasier moment, my brother and I came up with phrases that we could use in any review. His rang true last night

YOU COULD ALMOST TASTE THE CYNICISM ( copyright: Robin Majumdar 1998)

2/10

Edited by Simon Majumdar (log)
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Interesting; a tough review Simon.

Perhaps you ordered badly; of the 5 or 6 dishes we had at least 3 were good, and two were passable. Not top drawer by any means - as previously mentioned I found the positive fervour of some reviewers perplexing - but not so bad either for this type of place.

In retrospect the pricing does seem steep. In my defense the exact amount of pounds and pence had previously passed me by as I manged to avoid putting my hand in my pocket on that particular day.

The decor though actively angered me. True, it was as you say 'not unpleasant', but to be honest that sort of studied, contrived blandness is more likely to disgust and rile me than if they had rag-rolled the walls with excrement.

Fair comment about the strange address - I walked up and down Charlotte St three times in a fit of bloody-midedness before giving up and phoning the restaurant. Equally accurate critique of the doorman, he was very, very cool indeed.

The dishes I had sampled made me feel that I could enjoy a return visit to eat my way around the menu with a fair success rate. Based on your review, I struck freakishly lucky, and should quit whilst ahead.

Cheers

Thom

It's all true... I admit to being the MD of Holden Media, organisers of the Northern Restaurant and Bar exhibition, the Northern Hospitality Awards and other Northern based events too numerous to mention.

I don't post here as frequently as I once did, but to hear me regularly rambling on about bollocks - much of it food and restaurant-related - in a bite-size fashion then add me on twitter as "thomhetheringto".

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Thom

The food, or what there was of it, was OK. Some things were pretty good, the lamb for example was a good ingredient, but there was just so little of it and you go from being expensive to taking the F**king piss.

Whilst these are supposed to be tapa, they are not charging tapa prices. I understand that their rents and rates must be through the roof in that part of town and that dictates the price, but such lack of generosity of spirit is the exact opposite of what one encounters throughout Spain.

It is a great shame as Spanish food of any real quality is under represented in London and it would have been a welcome addition

Ho hum

S

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That'll teach you to live in London then.

It's all true... I admit to being the MD of Holden Media, organisers of the Northern Restaurant and Bar exhibition, the Northern Hospitality Awards and other Northern based events too numerous to mention.

I don't post here as frequently as I once did, but to hear me regularly rambling on about bollocks - much of it food and restaurant-related - in a bite-size fashion then add me on twitter as "thomhetheringto".

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Macrosan is right Thom. In our neck of the woods, we can leave our doors unlocked when we go out, the streets are paved with gold, The police know everybody by name and the community spirit shines through, one step over the River and it all changes, the sun hides behind the clouds, people live in fear of East End Gangs roaming the streets and holding up banks, and the restaurants serve small lamb chops.

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

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Actually I noticed several typo's in Simon's post.

It should have read:

"To grim, Northern, pun-quoting Asians, who pretend to do something high powered in publishing in an ill-fated attempt to get any kind of lass whatsover."

No need to thank me Simon, with your lumpy misshapen fingers I realise it's hard to eat, let alone type.

Cheers

Thom

It's all true... I admit to being the MD of Holden Media, organisers of the Northern Restaurant and Bar exhibition, the Northern Hospitality Awards and other Northern based events too numerous to mention.

I don't post here as frequently as I once did, but to hear me regularly rambling on about bollocks - much of it food and restaurant-related - in a bite-size fashion then add me on twitter as "thomhetheringto".

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Actually I noticed several typo's in Simon's post.

It should have read:

"To grim, Northern, pun-quoting Asians, who pretend to do something high powered in publishing in an ill-fated attempt to get any kind of lass whatsover."

No need to thank me Simon, with your lumpy misshapen fingers I realise it's hard to eat, let alone type.

Cheers

Thom

See what happens when you turn down someone's pitiful attempt at a first novel

Word to the wise Thom, crayon is not the tool of choice for the budding Booker Prize winner

S

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'Budding Booker prize winner'?

I'm touched that you even think of me in such a way, though obviously your words would carry more weight if you actually had any credability at all in the world of literature (see previous post).

Of course if you called me 'A budding distributor of free newspapers outside tube stations' I may not be have been as pleased, but none the less would have had to accept that you were speaking from a position of some experience and expertise.

Cheers

Thom

PS. If you don't like the novel 'The breast-shaped hill' (a historical bodice-ripper, set in romantic Roman Manchester) at least consider my latest non-fiction effort - 'Manchester, why Londoners all wished they lived there'.

It's all true... I admit to being the MD of Holden Media, organisers of the Northern Restaurant and Bar exhibition, the Northern Hospitality Awards and other Northern based events too numerous to mention.

I don't post here as frequently as I once did, but to hear me regularly rambling on about bollocks - much of it food and restaurant-related - in a bite-size fashion then add me on twitter as "thomhetheringto".

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A free pint of Boddingtons ('A taste of Manchester', owned by some faceless Belgian brewing conglomorate) for anyone with a rudimentary grasp of Latin who can explain the hypothetical novel title...

Oh hang on. We're off topic...

Apologies.

Cheers

Thom

It's all true... I admit to being the MD of Holden Media, organisers of the Northern Restaurant and Bar exhibition, the Northern Hospitality Awards and other Northern based events too numerous to mention.

I don't post here as frequently as I once did, but to hear me regularly rambling on about bollocks - much of it food and restaurant-related - in a bite-size fashion then add me on twitter as "thomhetheringto".

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'Budding Booker prize winner'?

I'm touched that you even think of me in such a way, though obviously your words would carry more weight if you actually had any credability at all in the world of literature (see previous post).

Of course if you called me 'A budding distributor of free newspapers outside tube stations' I may not be have been as pleased, but none the less would have had to accept that you were speaking from a position of some experience and expertise.

Cheers

Thom

PS. If you don't like the novel 'The breast-shaped hill' (a historical bodice-ripper, set in romantic Roman Manchester) at least consider my latest non-fiction effort - 'Manchester, why Londoners all wished they lived there'.

Now if you ever write " The Sinking Chip: The Rise and Fall of Restaurant Magazine" please let me have first option

S

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I've got the first half sorted, but annoyingly our continued success means the latter section may have to be a work of fiction.

Stop the banter now, I have all sorts of high falutin' work I should be doing...

Cheers

Thom

It's all true... I admit to being the MD of Holden Media, organisers of the Northern Restaurant and Bar exhibition, the Northern Hospitality Awards and other Northern based events too numerous to mention.

I don't post here as frequently as I once did, but to hear me regularly rambling on about bollocks - much of it food and restaurant-related - in a bite-size fashion then add me on twitter as "thomhetheringto".

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Simon,

Very obedient. Thank you.

All,

'Mancunium' or 'Mamucium' was the Roman name for what is now modern day Manchester. Loosely translated it means 'breast shaped hill', because that's what the site by the rivers Irwell and Medlock looked like (well kind of).

No Boddington's for you.

Cheers

Thom

It's all true... I admit to being the MD of Holden Media, organisers of the Northern Restaurant and Bar exhibition, the Northern Hospitality Awards and other Northern based events too numerous to mention.

I don't post here as frequently as I once did, but to hear me regularly rambling on about bollocks - much of it food and restaurant-related - in a bite-size fashion then add me on twitter as "thomhetheringto".

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Good effort LML!

You beat me to the punch.

If there was one person I thought would go for it it would be you.

Have a pint of Marble Arch Brewery Chocolate Heavy instead.

Cheers

Thom

It's all true... I admit to being the MD of Holden Media, organisers of the Northern Restaurant and Bar exhibition, the Northern Hospitality Awards and other Northern based events too numerous to mention.

I don't post here as frequently as I once did, but to hear me regularly rambling on about bollocks - much of it food and restaurant-related - in a bite-size fashion then add me on twitter as "thomhetheringto".

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  • 1 year later...

Finally got around to visiting Fino this evening. Arrived with no appointment just a tick after 7pm and managed to get the last free table. The menu is oversized, and full of interesting options. It takes some time to work out what to order, and a few questions are required.

The charming waitress has a fairly heavy accent. We ask what Percebes are. “They are like gooseberries… They grow on cliffs.” She tells us. As they are in the seafood section of the menu this seems unlikely. A few more probing questions reveal them to be barnacles! Put us down for a plate of those then…

When they arrive they look odd. I’m reminded of the Sea-Devils episode of Dr Who. The plate smells very strongly of a harbour. To eat barnacles you have to twist the grey-white “head” from the rest of the tube and yank them open to get to the flesh inside. It takes a few attempts to do it without squirting warm sea-water across yourself. The taste is actually very subtle and the texture a little chewy but less so than a whelk or badly cooked squid.

Crispy fried shrimp arrive at the same time as the barnacles. Was that luck or some hand guiding the order of the dishes? It worked brilliantly. The shrimp are a flavoursome whitebait style dish. Picking back and forth between each of the dishes was a pleasing contrast.

To drink, we couldn’t decide between two options of sherry. Our waitress brought us a small glass of each to help decide. We selected the Papirusa (Emilio Lustau). It was light, very fresh, and with a wonderful aftertaste. It also worked brilliantly with the seafood.

The next dishes to arrive were the Jamon Iberico Gran Reserva and Jerusalem artichokes. The ham was pushing the boat out a little at £15 but it was a very definite treat. The artichokes were served with sage and a liberal amount of sea-salt. The scent from the sage was terrific.

An extra glass of red wine was called for at this point. We opted for a very drinkable Guelbenzu, which got no complaints.

Classic tortilla and pinchos morunos were the last of the dishes to arrive. The tortilla was pretty, an individual item rather than a slice from some monster backstage. The flavour was nice; we’d ordered the classic style so it was nothing showy. The pinchos morunos (which we roughly translated as pork kebab) came as four enormous cuts of pork. They were delicious: a crisp exterior and nicely tender inside. We managed two and a half before having to admit defeat.

Although feeling we’d already eaten too much we ordered the desert selection to share. Highlights were the shot glasses filled with cream and chocolate foam (eat with the straw provided) and a killer Santiago Tart – rich with ground almonds and topped with orange peel and raisons. The apple sorbet was simple, refreshing and just what was needed to finish the meal.

Total bill for two, a jot shy of £90. The service was charming and helpful. The food was good, expertly cooked, entertaining, and the options were interesting. We had a great evening.

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