I love the GF, I really do, but there are moments I really don’t want her around. Like, for instance, when I’m dining out. Not because I’m anti-social, you understand, but because good restaurants transform me into a greedy, selfish swine. “Don’t touch,” I find myself admonishing, “I ordered that, it’s mine.” And that, in short, is pretty much the story of our night in Jamón. The evening becomes a cat and mouse game, her making furtive raids on plates (my plates), and me defending them.
The truth is Jamón surprised me. I wasn’t expecting much. Firstly, because Spanish food remains so hit and miss here, and secondly, because I find the area a bit of a charisma vacuum. But here I am, proved wrong once again. The place itself looks the biz – a pristine white townhouse lit with elegant violet spotlights. Inside, custom made artwork presents swirling senoritas against an interior that’s based around a naval color palette and reclaimed wood touches. It’s a big place as well, extending downstairs to an even larger basement area, but one that never loses its sense of intimacy. In fact, it’s perfect for ‘date night’.
There’s an onus on authenticity, and that’s evidenced by the four Spaniards found in the kitchen. Ordering a series of dishes, we find no weak point. There is not a box that goes un-ticked. This applies to a tranche of black Alaskan cod, a separate slate of Galician octopi with ‘truffle aroma’ and a tuna tataki with ponzu sauce and refreshing hints of citrus. Then a shank of lamb arrives, slow-roasted for ten hours so it falls off the bone. It’s so soft you could cut it with a spoon. And then there’s the pile of Huelva prawns. Ugly sods these are, but my God they’re tasty. Eating them is a messy process that involves squelching their heads right off, but they’re a joy. This is Spanish cooking in its more pure and perfect form.
But forced to pick a moment that defines the night, then it’d be dessert: a white chocolate cream that’s deep, rich and velvety, its flavors rolling like a vintage wine. And speaking of wine, yes, there has been wine. But it’s outshone by a bottle of Inedit – a ‘wheat and barley beer’ created in collaboration between the Damm brewery and the world’s most celebrated chef: Ferran Adria. True, it’s not exactly the benchmark in brewing you’d expect, but it’s a clean, solid drop for the food that’s in front.
So yes, Jamón is a success. Unlike many of Warsaw’s newer restaurants, it doesn’t try and reinvent the wheel, and it feels all the better for it. There is certainly invention and creativity involved, but Jamón’s calling card is its honesty – it takes the simple, Spanish dishes that we all know and love and then replicates them faithfully. There’s no bastardizing, no Polonization. This is food as it should be and you should see for yourself. (AW)