Lady Barbara Judge discovers a spirited Spanish delight with her family at Encant Restaurant in London’s Covent Garden…
It was a special occasion, and my lovely daughter-in-law Margaret was searching for a new restaurant for us to try. Both she and my son Lloyd share my passion for food, so going for dinner with them is always a true treat. Our rule is to order many different dishes, so we can sample as much of the menu as possible.
On this happy occasion, Margaret found a real winner – Encant, a tiny little oasis of Spanish cuisine situated in the historic Maiden Lane in Covent Garden. Duende means, among other things, ‘mischief and charm’, and these words exemplify the ethos of the lovely little restaurant. The owner, Victor Garvey, is also the chef, and the theme of his Spanish cuisine is that it has been influenced by his travels around the world. The menu is filled with tempting tapas dishes – and we sampled many of them. They were all lovely, but we especially enjoyed the Pacharan marinated salmon rulada, with crispy sweet potato and red onion escabeche. This tiny little roll of flavours left us wanting at least two more, but having ordered half the rest of the menu, we had to restrain ourselves and move on to the next course – which was, if possible, even better.
This was semi-cured Galician beef fillet, with pickled Eryngii mushrooms with roasted hazelnut, and truffle and mushroom vinaigrette. The truffle mushroom flavour was clearly in evidence, and made this among the most interesting cured beef I have ever eaten. We also indulged in fried oysters with amontillado sherry and wild spinach. These oysters were about as delightful as oysters can be, but were outshone by the roasted quail with Iberian pancetta, and the luscious lamb chops served with a rosemary and tarragon aioli. These meat dishes, like the earlier beef, were the true stars of the show and were both interesting and elegant at the same time.
Having indulged so much, dessert seemed like an afterthought – but I can never resist this sinful course. Encant did not disappoint, and I loved the turron de Gijona ice cream sandwiches, which was vanilla ice cream sandwiched between chocolate and almond cookies, and surrounded by caramel sauce. The dulce de leche mousse was also delicious, as this special South American treat has always been among my favourite exotic flavours. The meal could not have been more delicious and delightful.
Encant has 26 seats and an open kitchen. I understand that all 26 are filled all the time, so my advice would be to book and come early, because this is a real winner. A big thank you goes to my children for ferreting out this festive, fabulous, tapas treat.
Lady Barbara Judge is currently the chairman of the Pension Protection Fund in the UK, and has held many posts across the corporate and charitable sector, including commissioner of the US Securities and Exchange Commission, and chairman of the UK Atomic Energy Authority. Lady Barbara has always had an abiding love for food, and her frequent international business travels have enabled her to indulge this passion in many top restaurants across the globe. (Lady Barbara Judge pays all of her own expenses.)