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.
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.
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
and a selection of croquetas that were going fast.
We ordered: a seafood paella (for £7), which was as expected – delicious! The boxes look much smaller when photographed – the portions are quite generous.
perfect pulpo a la gallega (£7) – the traditional Galician way of serving octopus, on slices of boiled potato sprinkled with pimentón.
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.
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 was 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.
Oh how delightful that you were able to show both Celi and Tanya around and have an obviously gorgeous day . . . and ‘thank you’ for telling us poor orphans from across the seas about it so soon after Celi’s ‘introduction’ yesterday. Glad that proper libations accompanied the [of course] Spanish themed food and I can hear the echoes of the laughter from here! [I actually thought that Celi was headed > Barcelona for her second stop courtesy of your tuition or presence!]. Wish I could have joined you at the ‘mellow time’ at St.John . . . oh well, dreams are nice also . . .
It was a great day out and in some respects, just like being in Spain 🙂
*smile* Looking at Celi’s happy post re your day – remember how in the ‘olden days’ Alfred Hitchcock would not make a single movie without just a moment of himself ‘hidden’ somewhere – well, methinks there was a repetition of the idea on those frames also . . . vermouth methinks et al . . . ?
That is my hand, glass and camera in Cecilia’s photo, but those people in the background are complete strangers.
*big smile* Oh dear, thought so but I have been short charged – no other people on my photo . . . sleep well . . . at 2pm here I am meant to be working . . .
What Fun! To keep on tripping, sipping & dining with Celi & you all! Almost as if I were there too! This is why I love the internet! Muchas Gracias, Mad Dog!
Thank you too – I’m gratified that you enjoyed being with us in spirit 🙂
Oh, how fun! So jealous!
Thanks Michelle 🙂
I love what Fergus Henderson has started. The tail to nose movement is really gaining popularity world wide.
Must have been great to meet Cecilia.
Thanks Nadia – we had a great day out 🙂
It was a fabulous day and it’s great to know there are folk like Fergus Henderson offering one kind of dining experience and young folk like the guys at Oh Lola with what they have started. Thanks for all the forward planning…it really was a great day!
Thanks Tanya – it was great to have lunch with both of you and what a brilliant day out!
That sounds like my kind of night. Thanks for the history lesson on vermouth. I really love it. I like that you kept going too, also my kind of night. Jealous that you hung out with chica! What a fun time! Sounds like great food wine and company all around. I will say that takeaway is never as good, especially tapas or paella. You did the right thing by going in. Have a good weekend!
Thanks Amanda – I think one could make vermouth at home, like making sloe gin or patxaran. I will have to ask one of the bars in Barcelona, that make a home made one, for some tips. Looking at the ingredients here the Barcelona apothecaries might come in handy too:
Wow! This is totally doable. Great recipe! I must try it!! Thanks!
Yes and I’ve noticed that shops in London are currently stocking different brands so the new popularity is spreading – look out Martini and Cinzano!
¡Qué suerte haber quedado con Tanya y Celi! El restaurante tiene muy buena pinta, al igual que la comida.
Gracias Giovanna – eran realmente gente agradable en Oh’Lola y la comida era muy rica 🙂
Seguro que si, parecía muy auténtica y tu eres un experto en gastronomía española 🙂
Ha ha – gracias!
Fantastic, MD! I had hoped that the stars would align and you 3 could get together. They aligned, all right, and it appears you all shared a glorious day. The food! Wow! A day like this one would be a highlight of any holiday. Cheers!
Thanks John – we had a lovely warm sunny day for it too! Last week it was cold and raining and now it’s gone back to cold and grey. Obviously Cecilia took the sunshine to Milan 🙂
Hope she brings the warmth with her when she returns. It’s pretty darn cold here today.
I think Chicago is warmer than London at present 🙂
I’m not so sure, MD. Right now it’s 22 F or -5 C. Tomorrow is another story. We should hit 42 F or 5 C. Our weather this year is such a mixed bag. Spring cannot get here soon enough!
You are so right. We’ve go warmer nights here, but slightly colder days than you. In contrast, Barcelona has 14ºC this week. You know where I really want to be!
Take me with you!!!! 😀
Being a curious person I had to hop over to your blog to see what happened the other day when you met together. Thank you so much, Mad Dog, to have let us take part at your Spanish adventures. Glad you enjoyed. – So sad, that Oh’Lola isn’t round the corner from where I live, I so want Paella right now! You really made my mouth watering…
By the way – if I’m not wrong Vermouth in form of Absinth has been forbidden (or prohibited or banned?) for quite a long time due to a reported abuse during the twentieth of the past century. That’s maybe why it has been “forgotten” for so long…
Hi irmi – it’s good to see you here and I’m glad you enjoyed the account of our adventure.
While Vermouth and Absinthe both contain wormwood, Vermouth is a fortified wine of about 16% – 18% ABV and Absinthe is a strong spirit normally 45% ABV plus. It was thought that the Absinthe was a dangerously addictive psychoactive drug and banned in the USA and many European countries by about 1915. However, it was never banned in Britain (though it wasn’t popular here) or Cataluña (where they continued to produce it). Since the 1990s it has been scientifically proven that Absinthe is not a hallucinogen and it has been unbanned in most countries, including France. It is thought that the attributed hallucinations may have been down to poisonous adulterants in cut price brands and excessive drinking. As far as I know, Vermouth has never been banned.
Thank you Mad Dog, for adjusting things a bit for me.. I think I confounded the two and forgot totally that Vermouth is much more lighter, yeah. It’s an aperitif, not a hard liquor… I think I’ll have to do me the favour to have some Vermouth sometimes… 😉
Have a nice evening, Mad Dog.
Thanks irmi – you too!
Wow, a real celebrity chef sighting. Only a piquant capper, of course, on a splendid day all through with two fabulous women I’ve long admired! I envy the three of you, but am all the more delighted you got to have this grand time together and, best of all, shared it with the rest of us. Many thanks.
Hi Kathryn – thanks so much for visiting, I’m glad you liked the post.
Fergus is a very sweet person – he’s shy and bashful and quite unlike most of the chefs on TV. He’s in it for the food and not the money. I feel privileged to chat to him on an irregular basis.
Just when I thought your day couldn’t have gotten better, or been more envious… there was Fergus Henderson 👽
I had my fingers crossed when we went in there 😉
Ohmygoodness~ I think my “Texas” is showing. Give me a good steak and I’d be happy. Shellfish/ sea food: not so much. The vermuth, however, looks wonderful! Hope your time with friends was lovely.
You’d be OK in Spain – Galician steak is considered to be among the best in the world and so is the vermouth 🙂
I was in Spain a long time ago as a college student. I have vague memories of white gorillas and good food. 🙂
I wondered what you were talking about for a minute and then remembered Snowflake, the white gorilla in Barcelona zoo.
Yep. That guy was something special. Funny, though, I didn’t remember his name was “Snowflake”. It should have been “Snowdrift” or SnowStorm”. 🙂
I always felt a bit sorry for him, but the rest of his family had been killed by a hunter – as an albino he was short sighted and that with his colour would have put him at risk. Poor thing, I’m sure he would have preferred the jungle.
I read that he fathered many offspring (22 maybe?) but not many gorilla babies made it to adulthood. Weak genes of his coloring? I also read that he was thought to be 38-40 years old! Quite a feat for a white gorilla in captivity.
What a delightful day the three of you must have had together…eating, drinking and chatting in person.
Yes indeed – a little food bloggers convention 🙂
It was INDEED a jolly good – in fact – wonderful day. Loved it.. Thank you so much! So sorry it took me so long to find your post – I feel like I am only now come up for air. c
PLus I have every intention of making my own vermouth! I am a convert!! c
I’m not surprised, that was a whirlwind trip, followed by the Great Escape 😉
I might make some Vermouth too – they can vary quite considerably in taste and are great served with a small pickle on a cocktail stick. It sounds odd, but the vinegar seems to go well with the bitter Vermouth.
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I’ve seen you commenting around on other blogs I follow, so glad Celi linked me up to you! It looks like you both had a lovely day together. 🙂
Hi – nice to see you here – I’ll have to take a look at your bog too 🙂