Friday, April 17, 2009

O Cantinho do Portugal: the taste of the deep brine

The Portuguese are famed seafarers. They kicked off the Age of Discovery, found the way to India around Africa, circumvented the earth and spread the Portuguese genetic pool all across the globe.

Perhaps it is down to all those centuries spent in the sea that Portuguese food contains so much salt. Or so it was in O Cantinho do Portugal, an unpretentious cafe-like restaurant in Brixton's Little Portugal on Stockwell Road.

I had seen the place packed with the local Portuguese at any given time of the day and that is why I had no doubts about entering its rather unattractive pastel green interior in search for authentic Lusitanian grub.

The grilled goat shoulder I fancied was not available so I went for goat stewed in white wine. Floyd opted for seafood and rice, which turned out a soggy paella although not without its charms: the seafood was fresh and abundant and the rice was the right kind of paella rice. My goat came in equally satisfying quantities, garnished with boiled potatoes and wee bits of broccoli and cauliflower. The rustic earthenware dishes in which our dinner arrived were lovely.

Simple and nice stuff as it all was, probably half its chemical composition was pure unadulterated salt. In bewilderment, I was watching Portuguese families around me gleefully working on their plates. Surely, their food came from the same kitchen, so this salt level must be normal for them!

We went through our meal with the help of a jug of water. By the end of it we were so bloated we did not feel like dessert at all. Oh, just as well.

Pro's: Apparently, as authentically Portuguese as it gets.
Con's: Industrial quantities of NaCl. A bit depressing interior. Beware: olives and bread served before you order are not complimentary.
In a nutshell: Good for a one-off visit on your quest to try as many world cuisines as possible.

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