One of my personal highlights of Knit Nation – and one that had nothing at all to do with knitting – came after we’d packed up on Saturday evening. You see, my aunt kindly came to babysit for the weekend, so Armin and I decided to take advantage of this and go out for a little supper on the way home; a rare date. We didn’t have any big plans and certainly weren’t going to stay out long – so tired! – so the plan was, quite simply, to stop the van as soon as we found a convenient parking spot and go to the nearest reasonably promising bar or restaurant. Since we were driving through South Kensington and Knightsbridge, it seemed we’d have a reasonable shot at finding somewhere pleasant.
Which we certainly did. In fact, I’d say we lucked out quite spectacularly.
In the block or so of Old Brompton Road that we ended up on, there were a handful of possible eateries. All looked quite full (this was, after all, 8.15pm on Saturday night). Full of off-puttingly trendy and glamorous people. (Bear in mind I’d come straight from the show. I can try to be glamorous, if not trendy, but I wasn’t even half up to it at this stage.) But one little place had definite appeal, and wonder of wonders – they even had a table for us, as long as we were done by 9.30pm, which we certainly planned to be.
Cambio de Tercio, it turns out, is an awardwinning Spanish restaurant. Flamboyant paintings on the walls, featuring bullfighters and naked-breasted women, contribute to a gorgeous ambience. Service is friendly without being familiar, attentive without being pushy. And the food! Oh my. The food. We ate tapas-style, ordering I think five dishes, but this was a million miles from olives and chorizo; think, rather, foie gras-stuffed quail; ham and bechamel sauce croquettes; smoked eel and baked apple… everything utterly perfect, flavourful and well balanced, and beautifully presented. Even the calamari – which I don’t usually dare order anywhere but Cape Town – was exquisite. Dishes were brought to the table one at a time – so we didn’t have to squeeze it all onto a small surface – but with exquisite timing, each floating in just before we could start looking around for something else to eat. Heaven. Total heaven. We ordered coffee and a liqueur instead of dessert, but were brought fabulously dark, rich truffles to go with it. A perfect, perfect meal.
Now, I’m rather jaded when it comes to London restaurants. I know, I know. It’s generally believed that London is great for eating out – well, I don’t find this to be true. In my experience, if scoring on ambience, food and service, you can usually hope for at best two out of three – even when you pay through the nose! There are of course honourable exceptions, but they are few. And the overall standard is pretty low – when picking a place at random, as we did, you really might be letting yourself in for a miserable meal! I am spoilt, you see; Cape Town and Johannesburg really are restaurant heaven. Even the very ordinary eateries are pretty reliable, and the good ones are amazing.
So understand that I am paying a very high (if shockingly chauvinistic) compliment when I say: Cambio de Tercio reminded me of some of the best meals I’ve eaten in Cape Town. And you should go. It’s just wonderful.