Cantoni del Poble 9

cantoni del poble 9

I woke up feeling remarkably good (it must have been the warm Catalan sunshine streaming through the window) and called Nookie to arrange lunch in Poblenou.

rambla de poblenou

We had nowhere specific in mind, so walked to the Rambla de Poblenou (a small and sedate version of the Rambla in Barcelona), which is full of little shops and affordable bars and restaurants (unlike it’s larger cousin).

The first place we looked at was Cantoni del Poble 9, somewhere I’d been to before with Adrian and Oli, about seven years ago. I remembered that their paella had been good and since they had fideuà on the menu today, it seemed like an easy choice.


We drank a vermut de la casa while perusing the menú del dia.

cantoni menú

If you look at the bottom of the menú, you will see that it’s a whopping €10 for three courses, including bread with wine, beer or a soft drink. If you sit outside on the terrace there’s a supplement of €0.60 – that certainly won’t break the bank.

fidegua de marisco

To start, I ordered the fidegua de marisco – a seafood fideuà, somewhat like the rice dish, arròs a banda, but cooked with short pasta (fideu). It contained clams, mussels, prawns and squid, with allioli on the side. I was pleased to find a socarrat in the fideuà – a crunchy bit from the bottom of the pan – both paella and fideuà should be allowed to cook without stirring and a crust forms on the base of the cooking dish. In fact, there’s a nice bit about cooking fideuà, where if you let it cook without messing with it, the pasta will stand up on end as if to show you it’s ready.

crema de calabacin

Nookie had crema de calabacin – a rich soup made with courgettes and cream – we think it was thickened with potato.

langostinos a la plancha

We both ordered the same for the main course, langostinos a la plancha con ajo y perejil, grilled shrimps with garlic and parsley, which were delicious. I was very pleased to see that the shrimp arrived with lemon scented hand wipes.

tarta de queso

For pudding we both had tarta de queso – cheesecake. I had intended to order tarta de zanahoriah (carrot tart, or probably cake), but they had run out. Never mind, the cheesecake was very good!

vi rosat

We drank a bottle of rosado with our lunch (included in the price)


…and I had a carajillo de cognac to finish.

Cantoni del Poble 9 is at: Rambla Poblenou 88, 08005, Barcelona.

The menú del dia costs €10 for 3 courses, including bread, beer, wine or a soft drink, which in my opinion is excellent value!

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Bodega Fermin

bodega fermin

On leaving La Mar Salada, Oli insisted on going for a beer. We didn’t have to walk far, as just round the corner is Bodega Fermin, an old fashioned bar which sells craft beer – a booming industry in Barcelona.

oli testing the beer

Oli was keen to have a beer before lunch, but we had to make a detour and ran out of time. Note the large selection of bottled beer in stock, hanging on strings above the bar.

vermut on tap

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Spanish bodegas, the word generally means wine cellar (from the Latin apotheca meaning storehouse, from the Acient Greek word apothéké) and are synonymous with small wine merchant/grocery shops that can be found all over Spain. Traditionally they sell wine from the barrel – one can bring in a bottle or jug to be filled and taken home. This is normally quite cheap and less expensive than buying a labelled bottle. Often bodegas sell groceries, such as ham, cheese, potatoes and bottled water. Bodegas also serve as a bar, so one can have a drink while shopping – what’s not to like about that! Above are Bodega Fermin’s tanks of vermut de la casa  – home made vermouth. There is no hard and fast rule about what a bodegas is, some are more like a wine merchant, others are corner grocery shops that sell alcohol and of course there are bodegas on vineyards containing hundreds of gallons of wine. Bodega Fermin has managed to incorporate trendy craft beer (with 8 draft beers on tap), without loosing it’s charm or bumping up the prices.

Bodega Fermin is noted for it’s tapas – above are a selection on sticks, which are pre-prepared and are (I assume) sitting in brine until required. The sliced cheese is preserved in olive oil –  something I’ve done myself (in the distant past) and flavoured the oil with chilli to give it a kick.

vermut de la casa

Since the arrival of my food baby, I’ve gone off beer and prefer to stick to wine, especially after lunch. As Bodega Fermin make their own vermut, I felt it was only right to test it while basking in the sunshine – I was not disappointed, it’s excellent! While vermut is generally served as an aperitif, it also makes for a good digestive (with a slice of orange, a couple of olives and a squirt of soda) on a lazy afternoon. I’m sure that Merv and Finn concur, as we polished off a few glasses each.

Bodega Fermin is at: Sant Carles 18, 08003, Barcelona (on the main square in Barceloneta).

After the vermut appreciation, we had a glass of Patxaran and sampled some Asturian cider. While walking back to the Raval, the cider got the better of us and we were lured into an Asturian cider bar on C/de la Mercé. These bars serve a strong flat cider (sidra), which is poured from above the shoulder and into a glass held just below the waist in order to aerate the drink. As the cider bar make it’s own vermut, I stuck to drinking what I was used to. Oli, on the other hand, opted for Leche de Pantera Rosa – a drink that can be traced back to the Spanish Foreign Legion. Merv and Finn, sensibly, drank cider.

Fortified, we continued our journey. For a moment we were close to sitting down in a bar on Plaça de George Orwell,  but fortunately, Oli’s homing beacon kicked in and we marched on up the hill to Walter’s Bar. I drank a couple of glasses of white wine (for strength), before going to dinner a la casa de Jonas i Silvia.


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La Mar Salada April 2017

la mar salada

I pinched myself again – no I wasn’t dreaming. I was sitting in La Mar Salada, next to the port in Barceloneta. The sun was warm and so bright that the waiter cranked out the the parasol so we could read our menús without being blinded by the light.

La Mar Salada is an award winning restaurant recommended by Where Chefs Eat and Fodor’s. The chef, Marc Singla, previously worked with Ferran Adria (of El Bulli) at Talaia.

menú del dia

I’d looked at the menú first thing this morning – it was good, so I emailed Oli directly to suggest lunch. As you can see I got a positive response and we arranged to meet up with Finn and Merv at 2 O’clock.

crema de carxofes

I was completely sold on the idea of Crema de carxofes amb gelat de bacon, encenalls de foi i brou d’ànec – cream of artichoke soup with bacon ice cream, foie shavings and a drizzle of duck broth. This was a stunning, warm artichoke soup with a cold scoop of bacon ice cream floating in the middle …plus foie gras and duck! This is what I came for – baby globe artichokes are in season and the above combination was to die for!

llenties caviar

Finn wasn’t quite so keen on the duck, so chose Amanida tèbia de llenties caviar, escarola frisée, tagliatelle de calamar i vinagreta d’all escalivat i guindilla – warm lentil salad, curly endive, squid tagliatelle and roast garlic with chilli vinagrette. I could have eaten this one myself, if they hadn’t tempted me with artichoke soup.

bacallà a la planxa

I had  Bacallà a la planxa amb pil pil de ceps, favetes fresques i espàrrecs bladers for my main course – grilled cod with mushroom pil pil, baby broad beans and wild asparagus. I was told by a Basque friend, that pil pil is Basque for the bubbling sound made by something cooking in a pan. The cod flaked perfectly and had a lovely crispy skin. The thick garlic pil pil emulsion is synonymous with the popular Basque dish, bacalao pil pil, where the collagen in the cod, along with sliced garlic, thickens the olive oil they are cooked in to make a warm mayonnaise like sauce.

fish and chips

Oli had “Fish and chips” de lluç de palangre amb patates rosses i emulsió de romesco. I was very tempted by this myself, as I love hake (the fish in the fish and chips), served with a romesco sauce emulsion. Interestingly, English fish and chips has a direct link to Spain – Sephardi Jews, fleeing the Inquisition brought bacalao in a tempura batter to Britain and of course the Spanish were the first Europeans to discover the potato in the New World. It’s hard to imagine a Europe without potatoes, tomatoes, many types of bean and pimentón.

cake de llimona

For pudding, the popular choices were Cake de llimona amb gelat de iogurt (which I had) – lemon cake with yogurt ice cream

platàna estofat amb crema

and Plàtan estofat amb crema de la passió i toffee – stewed banana with passion and toffee cream. Both were excellent, though I’m wondering now why none of us tried the Mojito de maduixa (strawberry mojito), which sounds quite good!


I finished with my usual Spanish pick up – a carajillo de cognac.

vi blanc

The menú del dia at La Mar Salada is a bargain, at €18 for 3 courses and a glass of wine. In addition to our lunch, we drank a few bottles of the house white and all of us had coffee with some kind of spirit in it. Our bill always seems to work out to be around €30 each and today was no exception.

La Mar Salada is at: Passeig Joan de Borbó, 58-59, 08003 Barcelona

Other visits:

October 19th, 2011
November 28th, 2011
April 23rd, 2012
December 3rd, 2012
November 27th, 2015
December 3rd, 2015

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Empanada de Atún

tuna empanada

Empanadas are pies that come from Galicia in the North West of Spain. The name comes from the Spanish verb empanar, which means to wrap in bread. These pies come quite large, baked in a dish, or small and half moon shaped, sometimes baked and sometimes fried. Empanadas have become so popular that they can be found throughout the Spanish speaking world and Portugal, which is just below Galicia. Large baked tuna empanadas are very popular in Galicia, but there are many variations, such as; cheese, clams, spicy beef or chicken with chilli, chorizo, eel, ham, lamprey, sardines and many types of fruit or other sweet fillings for dessert.


I’ve tried a few different pastry recipes for empanadas, particularly for the small half moon shaped  ones above, filled with a beef chilli mixture. Lard mixed 50/50 with plain flour and cornmeal  (sometimes referred to as corn flour) is good for a flexible dough with an excellent crunch and the Mexican masa harina (not the same as regular cornmeal) produces a light, delicate pastry. For my tuna empanada I used Claudia Roden’s recipe which produces an elastic dough with a crispy biscuit like flavour.

Empanada Pastry recipe:

2 large eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder
125ml olive oil
125ml dry white wine or dry cider (I used a crisp dry Muscadet, with a similar sharpness to Albariño Galician white wine, which is hard to find here)
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
375g plain flour

In a large bowl, beat an egg and the baking powder with a fork. When this is mixed together add the olive oil, wine and salt, before slowly working in the flour to make a dough. Knead the dough with both hands in/over the bowl. Sprinkle on a little more flour if it is too wet (it should be slightly tacky from the olive oil). Let the dough rest at room temperature in the bowl (covered in cling film) for one hour. This pastry is easy to make and stays elastic – I’m certain it would work well with a food processor or mixer with dough hook.

Tuna Empanada filling recipe:

1 large onion (chopped)
1 pimiento (charred, peeled and chopped) if in doubt use a chopped red pepper
3 large tomatoes (grated) or 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
6 pieces of garlic (finely chopped)
2 hard boiled eggs (chopped)
20 good quality large pitted black olives (chopped)
250g (drained weight) tinned tuna in olive oil – Ortiz is probably the best
A squirt of anchovy paste
A splash of red wine vinegar
A splash of olive oil
Cracked black pepper (to taste)
1/2 teaspoon sweet pimentón de la vera

Since the tuna comes in olive oil, I recommend pouring it off and using it in the pastry or in cooking the empanada filling (I used a bit in both). In Spain, sweet red peppers (pimientos) are commonly charred siting on a gas ring or grilled (broiled) to blacken them. When placed warm in a plastic or paper bag the blackened skin sticks to the bag and comes off easily. These peeled and sliced red peppers can be bought in jars from shops and markets (for those who don’t want the hassle of charring and peeling).

Fry the onion slowly in olive oil until it is soft. Sprinkle on the sweet pimentón de la vera before mixing in the garlic, pimiento and grated tomatoes. Allow the vegetables to cook in for 5 minutes before squirting in a little anchovy paste, a few turns of cracked black pepper and a splash of red wine vinegar. After another 5 minutes turn the heat off add the boiled eggs, olives and crumble in the tuna. Mix this all well and taste to see if it seems salty enough. Make sure that the saltiness of the olives is taken into account. When you are happy with the seasoning, leave the filling to cool for half an hour or so.

In the meantime, divide the pastry into two pieces, one a bit larger than the other. Both round and rectangular pie dishes are commonly used in Galicia – I used a rectangular enameled dish measuring 11 X 9 inches (28 X 23 cm) to its edges, which is perfect for the above recipe. Roll out the larger ball of dough, so that it’s slightly bigger than the pie dish. You don’t need extra flour for the rolling, as the pastry shouldn’t stick. Grease the dish with a little olive oil and gently fit the pastry inside, rolling it over with the rolling pin helps. Trim the edges and prick the base of the pastry a few times with a fork. Divide the leftover pastry egg into 2 dishes, yolk in one and white in the other. Beat the white and brush the dough base with it. Bake the base blind in the middle of a preheated oven at 200ºC for 10 minutes (no baking beans needed). When done remove from the oven and allow the pastry to cool.

pastry lid

When cold, fill the baked pastry base with the tuna mixture. Roll out the remaining dough to a shape slightly bigger than the top of the baking dish and again use the rolling pin to ease it onto the filling, then trim.

egg wash

Go round the edges with a fork to crimp them down and poke a few fork holes into the top to allow hot air to escape. Beat the egg yolk with a teaspoon or two of cold water and brush over the top of the empanada.

empanada de atún

Bake the empanada in a preheated oven at 200ºC for about 45 minutes until golden brown. When cooked, allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

empanada cross section

Cut the pie into 6 portions and serve with salad and a glass of dry white wine or cider. If you have any left the next day, cold empananda makes an excellent lunch.

When it comes to half moon shaped empanadas, I’ve often wondered about a connection with the Cornish Pasty. Galicia is a Celtic region sitting directly opposite Cornwall, across the Bay of Biscay. While I can find no documented food connection, I have read that the Celts arrived in Britain from Iberia around 5000BC…

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Beef Casserole

beef casserole

beef casserole

I had some leftover roast beef and decided to use it up by making a casserole. I do like buying larger than necessary joints of meat, because they cook more evenly than a small joint, you get to use the leftovers in sandwiches and often in a completely new meal too! Here, with the exception of mushrooms, I used ingredients that I had in the fridge and cupboard.

I cooked using a Spanish lidded cazuela made of terracotta, but a cast iron casserole would do the job just as well. I prefer the above to a glass casserole dish, because either can be used to brown the ingredients on top of the stove before cooking in the oven. A glass casserole will break if used on the stove.

Beef Casserole recipe (serves 4):

1 lb beef (cubed)
2 pieces of streaky bacon (chopped)
6 pieces of garlic (finely chopped)
1 large onion (chopped)
2 sticks celery (chopped)
2 carrots (chopped)
6 mushrooms (chopped)
half a pint of beef stock
2 teaspoons of ground herbs (rosemary, sage and thyme – ground in a mortar and pestle with coarse sea salt and black peppercorns)
2 bay leaves
a dessertspoonful of plain flour
a splash of red wine vinegar
a dessertspoonful of tomato purée
a squeeze of anchovy paste
a good slug of olive oil

Fry the onion in plenty of olive oil, until it goes translucent, then add the bacon and brown it a little. Next stir in the celery, carrots and garlic. Cook these for a couple of minutes before adding the mushrooms. When the mushrooms have been coated in oil, the beef can go in and then sprinkle on flour and mix in with a wooden spoon – in essence this is making a roux, which will thicken the stock, meat and vegetable juices.

Slowly pour the stock into the casserole and keep stirring for a minute or two to blend everything together. Add all the remaining ingredients, put the lid on the dish and bring to a simmer. When the liquid is bubbling, put the casserole into a preheated oven at 120ºC. I like to check and taste things every 30 minutes or so, but when cooking slowly with a covered casserole in the oven, it’s fairly safe to leave it for a few hours and it won’t stick because the heat is coming from all round the dish.



I cooked this for 90 minutes in the oven and left it uncovered on top of the stove at the lowest heat for a further 30 minutes to thicken it slightly and to allow a little bit of sticky layer to form on top. This could be cooked just as well with raw stewing steak (or similar cut), but might need a longer cooking time to tenderise the meat. Similarly, this would work well in a slow cooker for 8 hours or so, with precooked meat or a tough cut best suited to long slow cooking times.

Serve with mashed potato and a robust red wine, such as Era Costana Crianza Rioja.

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Merluza con Garbanzos y Chorizo

chorizo, garbanzos y merluza

chorizo, garbanzos y merluza

Hake with Chickpeas and Chorizo

I really enjoyed a bacalao with chickpeas and chorizo dish recently in Barcelona and thought I’d cook something similar at home. Hake is quite a good substitute for bacalao, since it’s from the same fish family. While hake is not salted and dried like bacalao (salt cod), it does have firm flesh, something that occurs with salting, and handily, has a solid back bone, so no searching for the tiny little bones as with cod. Also, hake is very popular in Spain (unlike the UK) and can easily make it’s way into a soup or casserole like this. Anyone not liking hake or fish could just make chickpeas with chorizo – in Spain the two combined constitute a dish in their own right, as well as being a basis for many others.

Merluza con Garbanzos y Chorizo recipe (serves 2 hungry people):

3 soft cooking chorizos (cut into 3)
2 slices of smoked streaky bacon (cubed)
2 small hake steaks 200g (chopped)
250g dry chickpeas
1 large onion (chopped)
1 carrot (chopped)
1 red pepper (chopped)
6 pieces garlic (finely chopped)
2 bay leaves
a tablespoon olive oil
cracked black pepper
a teaspoon pimentón dulce
a teaspoon hot smoked pimentón de la vera
a squirt of anchovy paste (or half a fish stock cube)
a splash of sherry vinegar (optional)

This is a simple one pot dish, which could be cooked in the middle of nowhere, if one had a little salt cod and cured chorizo. A shepherd or traveler in Spain, two hundred years ago or more, would have cooked similar meals and this is not unlike the way that American cowboys cooked baked beans from scratch, over an open fire in a Dutch Oven. In Spain a lidded cazuela made of terracotta would be a more common cooking vessel, but a cast iron casserole with lid, will do an equally good job.



I soaked the chickpeas in plenty of cold water overnight for 12 hours. One could cut the time down considerably by using a pressure cooker or by buying chickpeas tinned, but I specifically wanted to do this the old fashioned way, so that everything was cooked together and absorbed all the flavours.

add the chorizo

add the chorizo

Fry the onion in plenty of olive oil, until it goes translucent, then stir in the bacon, followed by the chorizo. When the meat has taken some colour and the pimentón in the chorizo turns the onions red, the carrot, red pepper and garlic can go in.



Mix in the pimentón dulce and the hot smoked pimentón de la vera (add this to taste if you don’t like things too spicy).

stir in the chickpeas

stir in the chickpeas

Drain the chickpeas and give them a rinse before stirring them into the pot.

con agua

con agua

Pour on water to cover all the ingredients and add the bay leaves. Note, it looks like there are tomatoes in here, but the red colour is all pimentón and red peppers. Turn the heat up until the liquid is bubbling, skim off any foam and put the lid on before transferring the cazuela to a preheated oven at 150ºC. If like me, you use a couple of hake steaks, remove the back bones and add them to the dish – it all adds to the flavour at the end of the day.

chickpea casserole

chickpea casserole

Check the casserole after about an hour – the chickpeas should become soft somewhere between 60 – 90 minutes. Once they are tender squeeze in an inch or two of anchovy paste (to taste), sprinkle on some black pepper and add a splash of sherry vinegar (optional). I deliberately held back on the seasoning before the chickpeas were tender, as salt can inhibit the tenderising process – some pulses will not tenderise if salt is present. In this instance the salt comes from the anchovy paste. A fish stock cube could be used instead, but again, after the chickpeas are tender.

add the hake

add the hake

Push the cubed hake down into the liquid, replace the lid and return the cazuela to the oven for another 20 minutes.

chorizo, garbanzos y merluza

chorizo, garbanzos y merluza

Taste the casserole and adjust the seasoning to taste.

chickpeas, chorizo and hake

chickpeas, chorizo and hake

Cook on top of the stove at a low heat for another 10 – 15 minutes or until some of the liquid has dissolved and the surface starts to become thick and sticky (the collagen in the fish and particularly the bones causes this). Remove the bones and serve with crusty sourdough bread.

I enjoyed drinking a hearty Spanish red wine with this, such as Carta Roja, Monastrell Gran Reserva.

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Yesterday, I went on an outing with friends (and fellow bloggers), La Chica Andaluza and Cecilia. I discussed where to go with La Chica Andaluza a couple of weeks beforehand we decided on a Spanish themed day. That week, Time Out gave rave reviews to a new paella place in Hatton Garden called Oh’Lola. When I was buying my bread at the St. John (late that week), I went to have a look – I could see a paella and an arroz negro cooking inside and the fantastic smell of Spain had me convinced that it was worth a visit.



But, I’m getting ahead of myself. A true Spanish outing should include a visit to a bar for an aperitif of vermut or sherry before lunch. I’d arranged a rendezvous with Cecilia at the Angel, so it seemed like a good idea for us to meet La Chica Andaluza en route to Oh’Lola, at Morito in Exmouth Market. Here we were guaranteed to find a good selection of Spanish drinks.



We all ordered the same – El Bandarra vermut from Alt Penedès in Cataluña. Vermut, more commonly known as vermouth here, is an aromatised, fortified wine, originally used for medicinal purposes, especially stomach disorders. Many of these medicinal liquors contained wormwood and the name vermouth is the French pronunciation of the German word wermut (wormwood). Modern vermouth became popular as an aperitif in mid to late 18th century Turin and later in the 19th century as a key ingredient for many cocktails. While the popularity of cocktails has never waned, the drinking of vermouth as an aperitif fell out of fashion somewhat in the 20th century. However, there has been a vermut revival in Barcelona during the last 20 years, where old family recipes have been dusted off – many bars produce their own unique blend. Sales are booming and some bars have opened that specialise in vermut alone.

Our thirst temporarily slaked, we walked down through Clerkenwell Green and across Farringdon Road into Hatton Garden.

oh'lola menu

oh’lola menu

Once inside Oh’Lola we perused the menu on a blackboard above the counter. Oh’Lola doesn’t serve alcohol, but the extremely helpful staff suggested I go to the supermarket round the corner to buy a bottle of wine. I couldn’t find a screw top bottle of Spanish wine, but noticed a bottle of cava in the fridge (also from the Penedés) which solved the corkscrew problem. Back at Oh’Lola they cheerfully handed us some plastic cups at no extra charge.

bubbling paella

bubbling paella

Oh’Lola does seafood, chicken and vegetable paella on a daily basis with a special black rice (arros negro) Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Fideuà is served on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Take note celebrity chefs and supermarkets – they do not add chorizo to paella here!



In the counter top display they had some excellent looking octopus,

baby squid and calamari

baby squid and calamari

baby squid and calamari



and a selection of croquetas that were going fast.

seafood paella

seafood paella

We ordered: a seafood paella (for £7), which was as expected – delicious! The boxes look much smaller when photographed – the portions are quite generous.

pulpo a la gallega

pulpo a la gallega

perfect pulpo a la gallega (£7) – the traditional Galician way of serving octopus, on slices of boiled potato sprinkled with pimentón.

croquetas boxed

croquetas boxed

all the croquetas that they had left! These were excellent (and great value at £1 each) – the dark ones on the right are chorizo, the middle are mushroom and on the left are bacalao.

Oh’Lola is not a big place and probably does more takeaway business than eat in. However, the food is excellent and the staff bent over backwards to be accommodating. While we were in there I noticed two giant paellas disappear and two more were on the go before we sat down to eat. This is real Spanish cooking at a reasonable price.

Opening hours, Monday to Friday 8am – 5pm.



Having finished our lunch and cava, conversation continued and we adjourned to Vinoteca in St. John Street (after a brief visit to Smithfield) for a bottle of wine. I’ve never eaten here, but they have a huge selection of wine, some of which is quite inexpensive. We enjoyed a bottle of Tempranillo for £17.50.

the st. john

the st. john

Not quite sated, we went to the St. John across the road, for coffee and an Armagnac. It would have been remiss of me not to take Cecilia (a breeder of Hereford pigs) to the St. John (home of nose to tail in Britain) for a brief visit. Fergus Henderson turned up, almost on cue. He’d come down from the office upstairs to grab the last sourdough loaf for his supper.

…and a jolly good day was had by all!

Oh’Lola is at: 58 Hatton Garden, EC1N 8LS.

Morito is at: 32 Exmouth Market, EC1R 4QE.

Vinoteca is at: 7 St. John Street, EC1M 4AA.

St. John is at: 26 St. John Street, EC1M 4AY.

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