Plankton and sherry in El Puerto

The  Lonely Planet guide has an ‘eating’ recommendations for each place. As good fortune would have it, just around the corner from the apartment is a Michelin starred restaurant “Aponiente” (€€€). It’s a seafood fusion place created by a leading Spanish chef Angel Leon.

One’s experience began with the warm welcome by besuited staff, into a tastefully decorated room that takes only 24 covers. The kitchen has a staff of about 10, whom one could see through the glass wall in the entry foyer. Everyone looked terribly serious.

A menu was presented, with two choices – the upper half of the page had an entree, mains and dessert list, and the lower half of the page had the same, but slightly shorter. Hmmm. How does one order here? The maître d clarified everything in a flash: two degustation menus, the upper one has 21 courses, the lower one is a shorter version of that one having only 14 courses. With matched wines? Si! The 14 course version seemed to be the sensible option considering the dining experience was starting at 9.00 pm (the time the restaurant opens).

AponienteThat’s when the sherry began, a different one matched to each dish … and nothing like the tipple grandma would have on a special occasion! Chilled, dry, sweet, straw, syrup like … a new glass with each course … And not the usual tablespoon sized serve in the bottom of a voluminous glass that one expects with a degustation menu, but regular servings.

The food was exquisite. Beautifully presented, every dish provided a unique palate experience. Instructions were provided on how to eat each course, to ensure the blending of the flavours and textures as the chef intended. And the sherry kept coming. Plankton (didn’t realise there were so many things classified as plankton) featured in wafers, in sauces, in custard together with octopus caviar, fermented mackerel, something not quite an oyster … And the sherry kept coming. The wine waiter described himself as ‘El diablo’ (the pointy beard and wicked grin confirming the self assessment, together with the volume of sherry he served)!

Rolled out the door at midnight, thankful the apartment was just around the corner.