This blog is slightly out of sync with the rest of it really. I was meant to visit a Portuguese restaurant whilst I was running New Wine This Week, week 6, where we had a look at Touriga Nacional. Now I like to cook, so when I’m coming up with food pairings I do like to have a think of what to do myself in the kitchen, but then a few weeks back I realized that leaving one night of the week to the professionals isn’t a bad idea either.
So off I went on Twitter asking who knew of any good Portuguese restaurants around London? I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Tim for his suggestion of Nando’s. Thanks pal, but I was looking for something a tad more specialized! Although the refill tango always appeals to the 12 year old in me…
I was lucky enough to be pointed in the direction this place in Dalston, East London, called The PT Conspiracy. I gave them a direct message on twitter then followed up with a phone call to the owner, Rita. We couldn’t fix a date during the week, but decided on the Monday evening after, so that was last night.
I was going to bring the wine, and she’d provide a bit of food that she thought would work well. So before we go on, let’s talk about the food and wine pairing. So I brought the remaining bottle of the Churchill’s Estate Douro from Majestic that I’d bought on the “buy 2 and save £6” deal. Rita dished up some olives, some bread, and then pulled out this sausage called Alheira de Caça.
There’s a great story behind Alheira de Caça. Basically it’s a sausage that’s filled with game meats, breadcrumbs, and plenty of garlic. In the one I had last night there was hare, rabbit, partridge, duck, and boar, but I think they might be changeable depending on who makes it. The history behind this sausage, so Rita was telling me, was that it arrived about the time of the Spanish Inquisition. The Jews used to eat this sausage to prove that they were eating non-kosher stuff so the Inquisition would leave them alone. Little did the Inquisition know that they were all kosher ingredients. Rita wasn’t sure whether that was the exact origins, but we both decided it was a pretty great story.
So back to this Alheira de Caça. Normally it’s served up with a fried egg on top, but Rita decided against that one to make sure I got the full force of the sausage and the wine as a pairing. She absolutely nailed it. Touriga Nacional is big bodied and the taste is really big with blackcurrants and plums and a hint of coffee too. You need big flavoured foods with it to not drown in it. The Alheira de Caça was just that, and the consistency with the breadcrumbs really went well with the big wine. The flavours are so different from each other that none of them were cancelled out. You could taste what you were eating, you could taste what you were drinking, and they great together or on their own. Nice work Rita!
One of the biggest things that struck me though was Rita and her project, The PT Conspiracy. It’s a great looking place, and at the minute it’s a delicatessen. She’s only been going 3 months but has plenty of plans in her head for the future. As someone who has struggled a lot in the past with my own confidence, I have nothing but admiration for people who want to have a go like this. Get your own business started, build a loyal following (the sold out shelves that were all around were testament to her success of this), and then let your imagination go.
Small business owners like Rita, with an obvious passion and enjoyment for what she does is pretty inspiring. And Britain is doted all around with them. Apparently there are nearly 5 million registered companies in the UK. I thought that sounded very high, but I’ve checked a few sources and it’s spot on. Are we really a nation of shop keepers? Well maybe so, but I’d prefer to use the term entrepreneur. From the Rita herself, to Ben MacKinnon (the now famous baker of East London who supplies Rita’s bread daily), to Mama Vic (a fabulous West Indian lady who runs a Plantain Parlour on the way back to the tube station!), they all started doing something they loved and I’m genuinely chuffed for them it’s worked out the way it has.
If you’re ever in and around Dalston and looking for a place to go for lunch, look no further than The PT Conspiracy. You’ll never go back to Nando’s! I’ll definitely be back there for the week we decide to do Port!