Sant Yago, Southsea

As I get older I find that organising a night out with friends is becoming more and more difficult. We no longer have the time that we once had. Children, work and other commitments invariably get in the way. So I was lucky to spend an evening last weekend with some of my favourite people.

After a long and somewhat bizarre WhatsApp group chat we eventually settled on a date and a cuisine that we fancied. Our faithful group leader booked a table at Sant Yago in Southsea, which is on the south coast on Portsea Island. Sant Yago is a tapas restaurant and cocktail bar, located in one of the trendier areas of Southsea. I love tapas, and having spent several years visiting family in Spain, I am quite comfortable with Spanish food and generally know what to avoid. Regardless, I also like to forewarn an establishment that feeding me can be a challenge, so I decided to contact Sant Yago well in advance of our visit.

I sent a message explaining my many allergies and asked if they had an allergy menu that they could send me. And that was that. I heard nothing more and then forgot to chase up a reply.

On the day, my friends asked if I’d managed to speak to the restaurant about my allergies, and when I told them I’d not had a reply we all thought the restaurant had not seen my message.

When we got to the restaurant we were welcomed to our table and while we were ordering drinks, the server asked who in the party had the allergies. I was gobsmacked. They had seen my message after all. Not only that, they’d written me a list of everything on the menu that I could have. Double gobsmacked!

The list was extremely helpful, but I was surprised that dishes were missing that I would expect to be ok. Bread, for example. Also, there was no chorizo on the list, which in my view is a staple tapas ingredient and Mr Allergy and I virtually live on it at home. The slow cooked rib meat was also missing from my special menu, which was rather disappointing as it sounded amazing.

The other disappointing thing was that the menu advertised on the website was not the menu being offered in the restaurant. Some dishes were still offered, but others had been swapped for new dishes. This meant no chorizo in pear cider, braised pig cheeks or venison stew. I’d particularly been looking forward to the chorizo in pear cider as I’d eaten it here once before and it was divine.

I spoke to the server about my list and questioned why some things were missing. The rib meat and chorizo and chicken skewers apparently contained dairy. Now I know that some chorizo recipes do contain a bit of milk, but on the whole it’s such a small amount that it wouldn’t hurt. The bread was bought in, so they couldn’t guarantee it didn’t contain nuts. I said that as long as nuts aren’t part of the recipe, I’m happy to eat it (otherwise I’d have to avoid most foods made in a factory or environment where there might be nuts), but they were really nervous and not willing to let me try. I’m pleased that they took my allergies seriously, as many establishments don’t, and I understand that they have to manage their risks as they see fit. The last thing they would want is to serve someone potentially fatal food. But when an item on a menu may contain an allergen because of the environment where it is made, and not because it is in the recipe, I think the choice should rest with the diner.

I also wondered if one of the dishes ought to have been on my list. The steak skewer says it is served with pesto, which usually contains nuts and dairy. There was another steak dish that I wanted to try, so I didn’t ask about the skewers, but I can only imagine they wouldn’t have served the pesto.

I chose the pork crackling, sweet potato stack, potatoes in tomato sauce, bavette steak and pork belly from my list to share with Mr Allergy. He also ordered the slow cooked rib meat, chicken and chorizo skewers and mixed bread for himself. When my dishes came out, they had been specially prepared, which is very reassuring.

I have to admit that I was a bit naughty and tried a bit of Mr Allergy’s bread with balsamic vinegar dip. It was a risk I was happy to take, and I was armed with two epipens which my Navy medic friend was prepared to use.

The food was very good, in particular the pork belly and sweet potato stack. My only criticism about the food is that it wasn’t overly Spanish; it seems to take the idea of small dishes from tapas but then diverts into different cuisines. The service was excellent; attentive, professional and very friendly. I would definitely recommend this restaurant. If I was looking for traditional Spanish food I’d go to Nicholson’s on Albert Road in Southsea, but otherwise I would be very happy to go back to Sant Yago. J

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Adventures of Allergy Girl en España: Part 2

Whilst staying with my in-laws in the Catalonian resort of Pineda de Mar for IRONMAN Barcelona (not competing, I’d like to add), we were spoilt for choice on where to fuel up.  Staying at the Aquahotel we were pretty close to the centre of Pineda, the beach front and a 25 minute walk or short train ride from Calella. 

On our first night in the area, Trip Advisor recommended Ca L’Aureli, a tapas restaurant two doors down from the hotel, so we wandered down to find it really busy. 

We carried on a little further past a few bars and shops until reaching the main precinct. Part way along I noticed a name that I recognised from my Trip Advisor research, so we thought we’d give it a go.

The entry to the restaurant is understated, and we were happily surprised to be taken through to the covered courtyard garden at the rear of the restaurant.  It’s simply beautiful. 

Can Josep, named after the owner’s father, is a family restaurant through and through. We were served by the restaurant owner, who proudly pointed out the retro black and white photographs of her parents that have been printed onto the doors to the ladies and gents bathrooms. 

The menu was available in English, and consisted mainly of grilled meats and fish. Black paella is apparently the star dish, but of course this is no good for my fish allergy.

Although the menu doesn’t state the allergens present in each dish, the owner was able to discuss my requirements in detail and I settled on trying the grilled rabbit which was served with grilled aubergines and courgettes.  I had been expecting some potatoes, but these didn’t arrive, which wasn’t a problem as there was plenty of food on my plate.  This was my first time  eating rabbit, and it was delicious, although rather fiddly to eat from the bone. 

Mr Allergy and Allergy Mum-in-Law has the pork loin, whilst Allergy Dad-in-Law went for the cod.  All of the meals were simple but beautifully executed.  The grilled meats fitted well with Mr Allergy’s IRONMAN fuelling strategy, and of course I was well catered for.

I would definitely recommend this restaurant for allergy sufferers and normals alike. 

Photo credit Laura S

Adventures of Allergy Girl en España: Part 1

I recently spent a few days in the resort of Pineda de Mar, which is located several miles outside of Barcelona.  Pineda is a small resort, and we used it as a base camp for IRONMAN Barcelona, which Mr Allergy was competing in.

On route from Barcelona to Pineda we stopped for lunch at a small beach cafe in Mataro. There were a number of eating establishments along the main drag, but most were fish restaurants, which I had to avoid unless I wanted to end up resembling a puffer fish! 

The menu had a good selection of hot and cold bocadillos (sandwiches), and was printed in Spanish and English. I have a little bit of Spanish, so can usually get by, but what I found really useful was that this menu showed the allergen symbols for each item.  Many restaurants in the UK don’t have this, so I was astounded to see it in a small Catalonian beach cafe. Brilliant!!! 

I enjoyed a lomo (pork loin) boccy, which was served in warm crusty bread, spread with tomatoey garlicy olive oily stuff that went really well with the pork.  

To top it all there was a fabulous view and warm sunshine ☀️
I just wish I could remember the name of the restaurant! 

Cheat’s chicken and chorizo paella 

Ok, so this isn’t technically paella. For one, it isn’t cooked in a paella pan. It also doesn’t have any fish in it as that would make my face swell up and I’d stop breathing. So it’s more like paella rice and things. But all the same, it uses Spanish ingredients and flavours and goes brilliantly with a nice glass of Rioja (or two).

Serves 2

Ingredients 

1 skinless chicken breast, diced

1 red (bell) pepper, chopped

1 large white onion, diced

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1/2 chorizo ring, sliced

Approx 250g paella rice

Pinch saffron

1/2 pint Chicken stock

1 small tin chopped tomatoes or one large fresh tomato, chopped

2 teaspoons sweet/smoked paprika or pimienton 

1 teaspoon hot paprika or pimienton (optional)

2 bay leaves 

Handful Frozen peas

Method

  1. Heat oven to approx 200c (190c if fan assisted).
  2. In a wok or sauté pan, fry the chorizo on a medium-high heat until the fat starts to come out. You shouldn’t need to add any additional fat or oil but if you do, use a drizzle of olive oil.
  3. Next add your chicken and brown. 
  4. Add the pepper, onions and garlic and cook until softened. 
  5. While the veg is softening, add the bay leaves to the pan.  Make up your chicken stock and add the saffron strands into the stock. The saffron will release its flavour into the stock. 
  6. Now add the paella rice, and the paprika/pimienton and stir together, making sure the paprika coats all of the rice.
  7. Add the chopped tomatoes and the chicken stock and stir together. 
  8. Add the frozen peas. I’ve suggested a handful but you can add as many as you like. If you don’t like peas you could substitute these with chickpeas. 
  9. Reduce the heat and cook for approx 5 mins, stirring occasionally to stop it sticking. Once the liquid has begun to reduce, tip your paella into an ovenproof dish with a lid. 
  10. Cook for approx 20 mins in the oven with the lid on, until the rice is soft and the edges of your paella are going a little bit crispy. You may want to stir it halfway through to make sure all the rice is fully cooked.
  11. Remove the bay leaves (and don’t be tempted to lick them, I did this once and it wasn’t good!)
  12. Enjoy! 

This recipe is very versatile and you can change the quantities of the ingredients quite easily.  I sometimes like to mix up different chorizos in my paella to give different flavours. Our local Sainsbury’s sells sweet (dolce) and hot (picante) chorizo so I’ll often add a bit of each. My recipe only uses one chicken breast but you can add two if you want more protein. If I fancy a spicy paella (which isn’t the traditional flavour) I add more hot pimienton. You could also add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice before serving.