Camino means ‘way’ in Spanish and right now any one of its three London restaurants can show you the way to a seasonal Spanish treat.
Looking like thin leeks, or a steroid-fed spring onion, the Calçot is in fact an onion shoot grown in Catalonia and harvested from January in its second season of growth. This method was created by an inventive farmer in the late 19th Century in Valls west of Barcelona.
The harvest is the cue for calçotades, or calçot fairs, across the region. The calçots are grilled over hot fires usually made from grape vine branches, wrapped in newspaper which makes them tender, put on terracotta tiles (to keep them warm), and then stripped of their blackened leaves and eaten dipped in salvitxada or romesco sauce.
The proper way to eat them involves tipping your head back and lowering the calçot into your mouth as if you were a seal being fed fish.
You don’t need to do that though, and we didn’t when invited to try calçots at Camino Kings Cross.
We take the edge of our lunchtime hunger first with some choices from Camino’s very user-friendly Spanish menu.
Four Ibérico ham croquetas, topped with manchego shavings, go down fast, as do prawns with garlic, Guindilla chilli (a mildish, sweet chilli from northern Spain) and white wine. Sourdough bread soaks up that sauce. We add to that Arroz Negro – creamy black rice with squid, cuttlefish ink and alioli.
We love the sustainably caught Atlantic octopus tentacle generously dusted with Pimentón de la Vera on a bed of olive oil mash, although it was a bit Dr Who visually and the Morcilla De Burgos, black pudding made with rice and served with alegría Riojana peppers. A hot, sharp pepper from the Rioja region.
And then the calçots, smoky from the grill and happily reclining on a soft bed of romesco sauce. We eat them with a knife and fork because we’re British, and also to save on our dry cleaning bills.
They are tender and sweet, not oniony, and are served dusted with toasted almonds. We wash them down with hearty gulps of La Miranda De Secastilla, Viñas Del Vero that partners very well with the calçots.
Pretty much stuffed with so much food and wine, we still manage to share a Tarta De Santiago with turrón almond sauce. It’s just the kind of dessert I like, not having much of a sweet tooth.
Camino is one of the older ‘modern’ Spanish restaurants in London, I seem to recall first trying it in 2006. It celebrated Spanish cooking in a relaxed way that felt right for London, and at affordable prices, which happily it still does.
Make your way to any of the three Caminos before the end of March and the end of the calçots season.