THE last time I’d met chef Neil Brown he was wearing the long, vacant look of a doctor, who had just finished a nightshift.
It was hardly surprising having been at the sharp end of a busy kitchen with celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay breathing down his neck for a week.
The culmination of an episode of his popular Channel4 show Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, it was supposed to be the night it all came together with a grand fanfare.
But with two camera crews filming his every move, producers barking orders like prison guards and a phalanx of waitresses quivering like jellies, it was never going to be the perfect night for a review.
While asked to proffer my opinions for the show (whether they use them or not, we’ll have to wait and see when the programme airs), I decided to give the place a proper go last week before putting pen to paper.
And the good news is La Granada Divino ticks a lot of boxes.
The Gaucin eatery is both inspired in its layout and design and definitely produces the goods on the plate.
You can hardly fail to be charmed (assuming you haven’t tried to drive to the door) as you arrive at the wooden door of this pretty grapevine strewn white-washed village house.
Unassuming from the outside you walk into a warm entrance space, with a few tables and the kitchen to one side.
And then comes the drama, as you are led upstairs and hopefully, on a good day, to one of the tables on the terraces outside.
Insist on booking one of the three eagle’s nest tables at the very top and you will be in for one of the most spectacular vistas in Europe.
Spread out in front of you is a blanket of untamed rolling scrubland, interspersed with rivers, lakes, oaks and pine woods, all melting down to the Straits of Gibraltar, the Rock and the distant hills of Morocco the icing on the cake. With castle-topped Gaucin as a backdrop, it is hard to be beaten.
Food-wise Neil has done his time in Andalucia (in Medina Sidonia, Frigiliana and Marbella) and is now back in Gaucin for a second stint. A jobbing chef, who trained in London, at places like Scott’s (more recently famous for the Nigella Lawson choke photos last year) and Harvey Nichols Fifth Floor Bar, among other spots, he is a true professional.
And, while he complains that the current menu is more Gordon Ramsay’s than his (he is set to change it this September), he certainly honours it well.
Out came a mixed starters plate, with all the ingredients for a holiday success… a thimble-full of gazpacho, a fresh anchovy on toast, a puchero croquette in a spicy tomato bisque, pea puree and goats cheese and, of course, a slice of delicious Spanish tortilla.
It was a veritable Andalucian meal in microcosm, not necessarily one for the gourmets, but most tourists will love it.
I preferred the amazing flatbreads of mushroom, pesto and grated goat’s cheese, sat on a bed of pumpkin puree, not to mention the healthy dorada (bream) as a main course, which was perfectly grilled and served with a great range of rocket, tomatoes and asparagus.
He also wowed with the way he served up Presa Iberica, or Iberian pork underbelly, deliciously rustic and chunky and also served with loads of veg.
“I try and use as much local produce as possible,” explains Neil. “The local butcher, the local greengrocer and even fish from the local market. And I plan to change the menu regularly.”
I deliberately steered away from grilling him on his Ramsay experience, for fear of being clobbered.
Had he learnt anything? Who knows. Who cares. In his own right, he can put this place on the map for all the right reasons.
If this place is so good, why did Ramsay get asked to visit lol? It’s not called “Kitchen Nightmares” for nothing.
Well now you can all come and find out for yourselves
Fred and Kb If you watched the programme the chef was overworking a large menu and not delegating to staff so he looked and acted depressed, the owners had no restaurant experience yet thought they could offer a large varied menu, yet left all decisions and work!! to their chef, who had also oversold his previous experience on interview so lots of negativity and poor communication all round!! Of course Ramsey did his homework and totally exposed all the cracks in the working relationships of this potentially beautiful restaurant in Gaucin. In the end the menu is far reduced but quality maintained and the chef produced a modern healthy menu using local produce at a good price, he manages his kitchen staff well after Ramseys honest critique. When I go to Southern spain I shall definitely give it a try, watch this space!!
Ella, I tend to frequent restaurants where the owners actually have prior experience of running a restaurant. I can’t see the attraction of want to eat in a restaurant just because Ramsay has been there. That would actually make me avoid the restaurant. Good luck to them, but it’s clear these people should not be in the restaurant business.
Fred, there are lots of people who shouldn’t be in the restaurant business.
The key here is Neil – he’s a good chef – and, as the show saw, just needed empowering and to come out of his shell.
New restaurants are always tricky… This place though, will survive, as its location is great, it’s views amazing… And it’s chef getting better by the day.
I hope you give it a try and eat your (always colourful) words… Excuse pun.
I lived in Genagaucil for a little while back in the early 2000’s and both it and Gaucin are charming little villages. As long as Ramsay didn’t highlight a basic hygiene issue then I’d probably try the place out. Running a restaurant is very had work and unless the passion is there from the outset, and more importantly, can be maintained, the venue will just stagnate.
It has aired. I quite enjoyed seeing “Andalucia’s best known restaurant critic” giving his views…
Who was this critic? No one seems to know who he was. Anyone?
Nice to see Mr Clarke on the telly!!
Fred, the critic is our own OP editor, Mr Clarke. He does have form:
No one has mentioned that Neil Brown, the Chef has appeared on many TV cookery programmes in the UK. Jobs for the boys as usual.
which tv program??
Which cookery programmes were those Bryan?
Bryan – what shows are these? As an over worked under paid chef – I can’t imagine what you mean by jobs for the boys?
does anyone one has any idea where chef neil brown is after restaurent closed