Cambio de Tercio
163 Old Brompton Rd
London, SW5 OLJ
Tel. 020 7244 8970
Food type: Spanish
Nearest tube: Gloucester Road/ South Kensington
Website: Cambio de Tercio
It has been a while since I last visited Cambio de Tercio. For me, they produce some of the best modern Spanish tapas in London. Easily as good, if not better than the Barrafina chains. Yet for some reason, Michelin have continued to ignore them and yet have seen fit to award stars to Barrafina (why?) and Ametsa. Since my last visit, the restaurant has undergone a renovation and expanded next door, taking over the wine shop. Good news since it was pretty hard to get a table without having to book in advance.
Anyways, the decision to have a nice long Sunday lunch here was necessitated by a last minute cancellation by another restaurant. I had booked to dine at Takahashi for lunch but at the 11th hour, and I mean it literally since I received a phone call from the restaurant at 11:30 am, I was informed that they had to cancel our reservation since the restaurant had been flooded by the heavy rain and they had no electricity. By then we were on our way to London and after a quick search online for last minute tables, we ended up at Cambio.
The menu format has not changed much since I last visited. There is a long selection of tapas which is now divided into classic and modern (called Chef’s Signature Tapas) dishes as well as main courses. They now also have a tasting menu at a very fair £45 if you are indecisive, but it is almost always better to just create your own tasting menu with their tapas selection.
We started off our meal with a plate of iberico ham from Sanchez Romero Carvajal. The ham had been hand carved with a lot of care and was unsurprisingly very good given its supplier. This came with some picos breadsticks instead of pan con tomate (tomato bread) which used to accompany it previously. Hard to say more really since this is essentially shopping for a very good product which had been handled with care.
Next, we tried a yellowtail tiradito with an interesting dressing made from mango. On top was more diced young mango and pickled onions. Mango is a very dangerous ingredient to use, given that it can easily overpower the fish, especially a delicate one such as yellowtail, yet here it was carefully judged so that there was just a nice hint of its fruitiness and a nice balance of sweet and sour.
A summer salad of nectarines, tomatoes and strawberries had excellent quality fruit and vegetables but there was hardly cooking involved here. Still, a tasty plate of food.
We tried the iberico ham croquettes which were very well made – crispy on the outside with a nice oozy and runny centre. On the side was a little tomato and thyme dip which was bursting with sunshine flavour.
Their signature octopus is a interpretation of Galician octopus – the octopus slow cooked then flame grilled to give it a lovely smoky note. This was served on a bed of cauliflower puree with ample dustings of paprika and paprika oil. The octopus was extremely tender and simply melted in the mouth but for me the dish was pushing the limits with its seasoning, bordering on over salted.
Another signature which has been on their menu for ages is their patatas bravas. Instead of fried potatoes with a spicy tomato sauce, you are instead presented with hollowed out cylinders of crispy potatoes filled with the traditional spicy tomato sauce and topped with sour cream and chives. Their new interpretation of patatas bravas is successful because despite all its modern touches, it actually improves on the eating experience of the original.
One dish which they have not messed around with too much is the traditional tortilla – served with a generous grating of summer truffles. All the truffle in the world would have been for nothing if the tortilla was not properly made but thankfully it was – with a nice caramelised crust on the outside and a runny, liquid centre.
We really enjoyed the Spanish wagyu sliders. Not the most traditional tapas dish per se. In fact nothing Spanish about it other than the origin of the beef. That is a new ingredient for me – Spanish Wagyu. I guess these Wagyu cattle are everywhere these days. Scottish Wagyu. Welsh Wagyu. And now Spanish Wagyu. It may not be the most original of dishes, but boy was it tasty. The meat had been seasoned with a bit of Worcestershire sauce (that’s Lea & Perrins to the lay man) and I loved the kick it gave to the burger patty. Reminds me of the burger stalls you find on the streets of Malaysia.
The final tapas dish was roasted bone marrow served with croutons with a smear of the same spicy bravas sauce. This was fine. I mean its hard not to like bone marrow – it is pure cow fat which means plenty of beefy flavour which is boosted with a veal jus reduction. Not sure if the bravas sauce was needed on the croutons, but it was not offensive either.
Of course, one of the dishes I have to order when I come to Cambio is their suckling pig. Lovely crisp crackling (one can never have too much crackling) with soft juicy meat. They have changed their garnish around. Kumquats for a bit of sweetness and acidity but I am not sure what the parsnips were doing on a summer dish. Seasonality fail. But tasty nonetheless. Also there was plenty of a gravy… I mean roasting jus to keep things lubricated.
You would think with that amount of food, we would have passed on desserts but the group of us were hungry for more. I chose their ‘different’ carrot cake. I was thinking maybe some microwaved sponge. Maybe carrot soil. Who knows what the chef’s mind would be up to. It turned out that it was pretty similar to an actual carrot cake. Nice sponge with cream cheese icing and a carrot sorbet. Oh and a baby carrot dipped in chocolate. It tasted fine, but in the effort to being different, I couldn’t help but just wish for a piece of carrot cake.
I really enjoyed the savoury courses at Cambio. Aside from the octopus dish which was very heavily seasoned, I could not fault the execution of the other dishes. The tiradito in particular was very exciting to eat because it made used of a tricky ingredient like mango in a way which was sensible to the composition of the dish. As with previous visits, I feel that there is room for improvement with the desserts – they are fine but I struggle to get excited eating them. Frankly, next time I will just order an extra savoury course and skip desserts.