In Boca: Abantal

LAST UPDATED: 8 Mar, 2012 @ 12:37
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In Boca: Abantal

By Jon Clarke

WELL established, but well out of the way of the normal tourist sites in Sevilla, Abantal is a restaurant you have to make a special trip to find.

But the fact that it is Sevilla’s longest-running Michelin-starred restaurant should be enough of an allure to take the 10 minute walk from the old town, for foodies that is.

And with Sevilla-trained Julio Fernandez Quintero at the helm – a former winner of the Andalucia Top Chef award – it is a true home grown
Andalucian success story.

Having learnt his trade at Sevilla’s cookery school he has been chugging away at Abantal for seven years, with a Michelin star arriving for the first time in 2009.

It was not immediately much out of the ordinary; the modernist interior, with a slight hint of the 50s, being, if anything, a touch sterile, while its wall-mounted sculptures a bit bizarre to say the least.

Like many Michelin-star restaurants, it was also a little cathedral-like in atmosphere, but the staff – in particular the female somelier – warmed up, when they realised our children, three and six, were not going to run a riot.

The menu was blissfully simple, with regular seasonal changes, which must be commended and there was a heavy emphasis on fish, which made a change.

Described as ‘creative Andalucian cuisine’, we were quickly furnished with a nice plate of aperitifs including a delicious cod roe salad and goats cheese wafers, as well as a beetroot salmorejo with tuna and crusty salt.

We went for a la carte, rather than the menu degustacion, which seemed to be what most of our fellow diners were favouring. But with children our time scale was tight.

The starters included a splendid ajo blanco almond soup with long elegant Huelva prawns, an original touch and quite delicious.

My wife’s giant red prawns with rice and allioli were also a total winner.

Foie gras ‘yoghurt’ with peach and red fruit compote sounded fun, but that is one for another day.

While we tucked into starters our children were served a terrific piece of cod, with wonderful square cut chips, stacked out in the shape of the game Jenga… My son Alfie loved them.

My main course of mero, or grouper, was as good as I could have hoped. In Spain they say mero is the country’s best fish. A phrase goes that

‘Mero es del mar, que cordero es del sierra.’… Mero is from the sea, what lamb is from the sierra.

And this certainly matched up and was terrific served with mashed potatoes.

My wife’s pargo, or snapper, was equally good and served in a prawn bisque with Norway lobster. It was rich and succulent.

We washed it down with one of my favourite Spanish whites, the godello-grape chestnut Guitian from Valdeorras, in Galicia, at 24 euros a snip.

There was a great list of Andalucian reds, but we were driving so that was that.

But just before the kids went nuts and the wheels came off I had one of these wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime desserts that was just about perfect.

A banana cake with light lemon sorbet, rich cream, chocolate toffee, pecan nuts and caramel crisp… It looked like a dog’s dinner and should have tasted so… but once mixed up, this was heaven.

Abantal certainly deserves its star… and the kids liked it too! The future bodes well.

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