At the weekend I decided to throw caution to the wind and book a (hopefully) monumental journey at the beginning of next year, inspired by my father’s travels in the 1980s and a desire to venture out of London for longer than a weekend. I knew exactly who to take for dinner to get me excited and quash my anxieties at travelling solo.
However, this was not just an excuse to talk logistics; I also happen to know that said person is a particularly big fan of pastel de nata, which made Canela the obvious choice.
Newly re-launched this month, Canela (previously Canela Café) is dedicated to creating contemporary Portuguese cuisine, with a combination of regional classics and modern dishes. The restaurant’s new owners have painstakingly sourced everything, from the beautiful marble tabletops to the rare, boutique wines.
Admittedly, I was slightly out of my comfort zone when handed the wine list and finding that my go-to bottle of Malbec wasn’t there. Instead we were recommended to try Vinhas do Lasso. Produced in one Portugal’s coldest wine regions, it was lovely and light with citrus and honey flavours.
Canela’s menu is divided into small ‘petisco’ plates and platters, alongside larger mains, salads, sides and desserts. We started with the small plates – resisting the urge to order all eight – and settled on the alheira mini burgers with quail eggs, the squid boat (chorizo, peppers and spiced tomato) and marinated octopus with olive oil, all of which were rich and delicious.
A large plate of guisado (beef stew with poached egg and grilled banana) was surprisingly tasty, although perhaps not the most beautiful thing to look at. The beef was tender, served in a spiced sauce that went particularly well with our salad of beets and fresh herbs – a simple but extremely effective dish that would keep any beetroot lover happy.
Our talks of wanderlust were stopped in their tracks when a warm pastel de nata approached the table; one of (if not the) best I have ever tasted. With thin pastry and an extraordinarily light custard, it had barely been put down on the table before being devoured as if we hadn’t seen food in days. We both agreed it was a fair trade – a wealth of travel insight for a scrumptious custard tart.
Covent Garden is a location that I, like many other Londoners, sometimes prefer to avoid. However, Canela is such a lovely little gem that my return is imminent; I’ll just have to dodge the tourists instead.
33 Earlham Street