Taste test: The restaurant adding an authentic pincho of San Sebastian to Preston City Centre

Posted on - 3rd September, 2022 - 7:00pm | Author - | Posted in - Business, City Centre, Flag Market, Food & Drink, Opinion, Preston City Centre, Preston News, Restaurants in Preston, Reviews, What's On in Preston
Bar Pintxos paella
The chicken and rabbit paella ensured nobody left hungry

Just before embarking on another harrowing series of best and worst rated restaurants in Preston, my family and I were invited by Bar Pintxos (pronounced peen-chos) to its monthly food and wine taster event in the City Centre

The modern room upstairs was lively and bustling, with plenty of staff on duty, and we were lucky to be seated next to the full length windows overlooking our historic Flag Market and the Harris. A perfect view for an evening of food and wine from Valencia, one of the oldest cities in Spain, and definitely preferable to watching baffled motorists launch themselves on to bollards at the other side of Preston after being driven mad by the Ringway traffic chaos.  

We were swiftly asked if we’d like to order drinks, but as we were having the wine flight that evening we just had some water for the table. 

When everyone in the room was seated with drinks, the first course was quickly brought out: salted cod, rooted red pepper, garlic and extra virgin olive oil.

Bar Pintxos saltfish and garlic bruschetta
Saltfish and garlic bruschetta – worth being banished to the spare room

Two slim bruschetta per person, topped with a punch of salty cod, a hit of sweet red pepper and a liberal backhand into the sun of garlic was an intense combination of salty/sweet that probably made one’s breath smell like a Viking; but as everyone on the table was eating the same thing it brought us closer, like a raiding party. 

The next course was baby squid, ink sauce, edible sand and pickles.

Bar Pintxos squid in ink
Squid in ink, infinitely better than a squashed egg sandwich

My sister and I had already had several alarming run-ins with edible sand. On every beach holiday my mother Yvonne would hand everyone in the family a horribly warm, squashed egg sandwich that looked like a bulldog had fallen asleep face down on it. 

She’d then begin the British Beach Dining Ceremony by stamping all over a towel before shaking it into the wind to blast a short yet effective mini sandstorm on to the picnic and delivering the Words of Power: “Oh Give Over, A Bit Of Sand’s Not Going To Kill You.” It was a little concerning. 

An entire squid isn’t the easiest food to glam-up. I’d have just panicked and put a tiny hat on it, but the chef had gone for it. It still looked squiddy so the squeamish might struggle, and it was in a pool of its own ink, although who wouldn’t be in those same circumstances? But look at the photo – it was still a work of art.

I wasn’t overwhelmed with the subtle flavour at first, but half way through the course I realised that a white strip of stuff wasn’t just another part of the squid that I was trying not to look at, it was a sweet and sour pickle which lit up everything on the plate, and a sip of the wine that accompanied that course also added another dimension. 

The sand also turned out to be ground sesame seeds and not tiny bits of rock. REAL edible sand, Yvonne.  

The next course was orange cured salmon, oranges and caviar, which our group unanimously voted our favourite of the night. 

Bar Pintxos orange cured salmon, oranges and caviar
The chef resisted the urge to give the salmon orange fins and caviar eyes

Caviar. People love it or hate it. I’m not a fan because I can’t switch off the voice that says: “Them’s raw fish eggs, Karen. FISH EGGS. Ohh, and you’ve put them right in your mouth, you absolute stinker.”

I gave the black blobs accompanying the vibrant salmon an investigatory dab and was relieved to find that it was a smooth garlic sauce, so concluded that the kitchen had forgotten to defile my salmon with a bunch of fish eggs and I was free to enjoy the intensely zippy flavours of the oranges and black garlic.

However, it was later pointed out to me that there were two types of black blobs on the plate, the other being the caviar, which I’d unknowingly eaten quite happily without making a scene because it blended so well with the perfectly cured salmon.

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The final savoury course was Paella Valencia: rice with chicken and rabbit, green beans and crispy chicken skin.

Anyone with a love for paella would be made up with the authenticity with which it was cooked and presented, and the crispy chicken skin was an excellent additional flourish.

The entire meal consisted of the best quality produce, beautifully combined and presented, which is something that you might find in many great restaurants. However, there were a number of less obvious but more complex skills displayed by the chef. 

Each course was delivered in taster sized portions, but they were also light, so all of our group were still a little hungry until we’d finished the paella – the only filling course due to the rice.

Dessert was an airy parfait made of caramel and dried tiger nuts (chufa), served with a wafer thin bread biscuit, which was a perfect way to end the meal. To leave everyone at the table full but not miserably stuffed is a feat that distinguishes a good chef from an excellent one. 

Bar Pintxos parfait
Oh, go on then

The other skill was the layering of tastes and the pairing of wines. I’m not a big drinker or a wine buff, so if I find a type I like I tend to stick with it, and until my visit to Bar Pintxos I’d never bothered with a wine flight. 

I had an “Ah! NOW I get it”, moment with the wine that accompanied the squid, and from then on made sure that I got a bit of every item on my fork at the same time and took a sip of wine in between.

The talent and knowledge of ingredients that it took to create so many complementary layers was impressive, and the wines that were matched with the courses added an element to each one that elevated that individual dish in a way that even a wine ignoramus such as myself could notice.

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Add to the mix the friendly, capable staff and the personal touches that can’t be found in big chain restaurants, and customers got to visit a truly authentic little corner of Valencia for an evening.

The next area to be featured in Bar Pintxos’ speciality taster evening is Malaga, on Thursday 22 September. It will feature dishes such as seared tuna, escabeche and caviar, and milk fed lamb pressing, caper and raisin puree and charred baby vegetables on the menu. The cost is £55 per person including the wine flight.

Did your mother add ‘edible’ sand to your manky egg sandwiches? Grass her up in the comments.

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