Classy Spanish Food at Gaudi in Clerkenwell

63 Clerkenwell Road, London EC1M 5NT.

Madrid chef Nacho Martinez-Jimenez left the two star Michelin El Cenador de Salvador restaurant in Madrid three and a half years ago to start his own place called La Nunciatura. It was the forerunner of his London adventure, and with Gaudi's in Clerkenwell he seems to have made an immediate impact. Obviously Nacho knows how the publicity game works over here, and outside the front of the restaurant is a large framed version of Bill Knott's positive review in the Sunday Telegraph (I think). Most of the other critic's seemed to like what Nacho is trying here which is to bring a combination of modern Spanish food combining the best of all the regions, to a London foodie crowd desperate to try and sample new angles with food. The food tends to be very rich and creamy cooked in lots of butter, but apparently is very authentic and a fine example of what you can find in Madrid today. There is no chance here of getting a plate of tapas or paella, and most of the dishes will be a total new experience unless you are a frequent flyer to Madrid or Barcelona.

The 60 seater has outgrown the talents of the chef, and an additional venue in the West End is being urgently sought as you read this. The décor is slightly unusual with giant alligators on the wall and broken tiles and plaster whorls with an open kitchen on the ground floor helping create a bustling atmosphere. I could have done with some light background music however-a touch of Paco Pena would have gone down well and would have improved the atmosphere even more. I started out with nicely chilled Gazpacho soup with steamed lobster, croutons and virgin olive oil (£10). Very pleasant flavour, not too rich and the croutons were just how I like them, nice and crispy. My dining companion was an old friend who now teaches at Nottingham University .He has been to Seville a few times rating it as one of the best cities in the world, and he also found Nacho's cooking highly imaginative and different to what he had experienced there. We also had to try one of chefs signature dishes, the elaborately named Pimientos de Piquillo Rellenos de Brandada de Bacalao, Salsa de Tinta (Roasted Spanish Pepper stuffed with Cod Mousse, Leek and Courgette Nest with Squid ink sauce). Highly unusual dish but not something I would order again, as I found the sauce tasteless and rather bitter.

Further specialities followed such as a delicious pork fillet with spanish peppers and paprika on a bed of sauteed potatoes and fried baby calamari stuffed with prawns and spinach in a hot saffron sauce. Detailed reports were unfortunately misplaced following the second bottle of Spanish wine selected from the wine list which is of course, all Spanish. Dessert wines are also a speciality at Gaudi's and should be tried along with the desserts if you have any room left. The 1972 Pedro Ximenez red is one well worth trying. Try The Gaudi experience for yourself maybe originally for lunch to see if the style of food is up your street, as it is a dining event slightly out of the ordinary with plenty of challenges for the taste buds.

Michael Hepworth-September 99.

+44 (0)171-608-3220
+44 (0)171-250-1057

Average price for two w/wine £80

Open for lunch-Set price £12.50 TO £15

Nearest tube-Farringdon home page