I ate an Oyster card last week. No, it was not because of a lost bet, but the climax of a delicious meal at Cambio de Tercio. This is the signature Restaurant of the Cambio De Tercio Restaurant Group and is in the heart of Chelsea. Open for nearly 20 years, it has produced modern and innovative Spanish cuisine for many lucky Londoners.
Though an ardent admirer of the current trend for rustic brasserie meals, I have grown a little bored of excellent robust steaks! I decided to celebrate my birthday somewhere a little different.
And it was a subtle and remarkable experience.
Warming cocktails at the bar over the road were followed by a warm welcome from the team at Cambio. Bold Iberian decor flooded my lazy eyes which obviously shot straight to their newly installed gin bar. The interior is, with a brazen red and yellow wall, heavily influenced by Spanish hues but has an overtly modern chic feel to it.
All the waiters are ‘professional Spaniards’ and excellently attentive. Our waiter, on discovering it was my birthday, decided I must celebrate by attempting to drink ten bottles of wine – a challenge I grasped with gusto, though ultimately failed.
Enough about decor and drinking (the Spanish wine list is second to none and we settled on a full bodied Tempranillo) and on to what sets this restaurant apart from your local tapas joint – the food.
We started with shared tapas.
The Chorizo of Spanish Wagyu beef that was air cured in Finca Santa Rosalia, Burgos is like no other spiced meat you’ve had. It manages to be rich and ever so elegant with a delightfully subtle piquancy floating through it.
An absolute scene stealer was the unique “8 hours roasted tomatoes” in sweet Oloroso wine with basil caviar and goats goat cheese. This dish has ended the age old question “how long does one cook a tomato?” – I can assure you it is not a minute under 8 hours! And the basil caviar complimented it like the Tempranillo did my eager lips.
Dishes kept flying onto our table, exciting our enlivened senses. No tapas table is complete without a school of fish tapas. A divine, almost sushi-esque, tuna slipped down far too silkily. The classic Andalucian style fried squid with alioli is a light and crispy ubiquity, for which fingers must be used! One’s tentacles were another absolute necessity when attacking the large gambas “a la plancha”, which was rounded off with parsley oil.
I like to eat the prawns without the shell but with the tail. My sister, even in such elegant surroundings, will eat the crustacean from head to toe and suck out their sweet brains…each to their own! Yet the sublime thing about Cambio is that it was actually I who looked more out of place.
I could have drawn stumps there and then, after a sip of sherry, and been a happy replete gentleman.
But this would have meant that I missed the chance to kneel at the altar of the succulent Spanish pig. On a table of four, three of us gorged on different cuts of magnificent swine.
I opted for Pluma Iberica a la Brasa, piña asada y pure de Lima or flame grilled Pluma Iberica (the finest cut from and acorn fed pig) thick hunks of grilled pineapple and lime puree. The acidity of the lime cut through the rich pork and the grilled pineapple was a fresh and juicy side effect – working almost like a refreshing sorbet. Simple with three bold flavours matching each other stride for stride. My fork was never far from my plate but did dance over to the crispy suckling pig and the unctuous pig’s trotter.
The apogee of the meal was obviously my edible Oyster card. Essentially a classic dessert accurately executed, it was supremely tarted up by the blindingly fun extras. Edible rice paper with a full tube map lay beneath a rectangle of sumptuous chocolate cake, a smooth quenelle of soft coconut ice cream, and of course a white chocolate Oyster card. This was bought to me with a candle and a Spanish choir singing “Cumple anos feliz”to me. Marvelous. The cleverness in this dessert is that as it was placed down, I heard other tables excitement and incredulity at this dish – it ends up selling itself thereafter.
Vivid desserts aside, Cambio de Tercio is a great restaurant with superb quality food. I believe Raphael Nadal counts it as a favourite when he is playing in London, so if it is good enough for the Spanish terrier then it works for me! The holding company also has a neighbouring tapas bar and sherry bar and a g ‘n t bar, and at the end of my road a paella restaurant. More scouting missions will be needed!