Besides the numerous taco shops that are currently filling our bellies, Spanish cuisine is the flavour of the moment, with tapas restaurants galore enticing us in with their jamón Ibérico and queso Manchego. Newcomer Eclectic, set up by charming chef Juan Martínez Gregorio is a cosy little private kitchen tucked away in Sheung Wan, serving traditional home-style Spanish fare in a relaxed, humble setting.
The space is very intimate and homely; it isn’t just an empty space with a table and chairs, but actually looks like it could be someone’s dining room, ready and waiting for the dinner party guests to arrive. As you enter, there is a Hong Kong-sized open kitchen (I’ll get back to the cooking appliances later!) that opens on to a long dining area with comfy sofas at the back, perfect for enjoying your complimentary glass of sangría.
The first course, which we also savoured on the comfy sofas, consisted of simple and classic cold cuts: 16-month aged Manchego cheese, chorizo Ibérico and pan tumaca (country-style bread topped with a gorgeous tomato and garlic purée): this was the perfect start to our dinner party.
Seated at the rustic wooden table, our second course was an empanada de frito from Cartagena, Juan’s hometown. Whereas South American empanadas come as individual pockets of delight, this one was more of a giant pie, which was shared between us. Inside the lovely, flaky pastry were black olives and tuna, bathed in a delicious tomato-zucchini sauce. I later discovered that Juan’s ‘oven’ is just a tiny tabletop oven, much smaller than the one I have at home! It’s amazing that he can run his private kitchen with this, but honestly, looking at and tasting the empanada, you could never tell!
The pimientos del piquillo, so named for the beak-like shape of the peppers, were stuffed with a combination of fish and prawns, bathed in a red pepper and paprika sauce. The flavours were wonderfully delicate, although we all agreed that they could have done with a little more spice.
Our fourth course, not to be mistaken with a gazpacho, was a salmorejo from the Spanish region of Córdoba. This cold tomato soup contains a blend of red pepper, bread, garlic and olive oil, sprinkled with strips of jamón Ibérico, chopped red pepper and crumbled egg to add some exciting textures. For me, it was a little too intense and acidic, but I’m never a huge fan of gazpacho-esque dishes anyway.
The papada de cerdo al vino tinto, or pork jowl slow cooked in red wine, was beautifully tender, having been cooked in Rioja for two hours. It was hearty and delicious; the perfect home-style comfort food.
Dessert was quite simply out of this world: flambé strawberries with black pepper and ice cream. As the smell of toasted almonds filled the room, we were lured towards the kitchen to watch Juan prepare the strawberries, sautéing them in butter and sugar before flambéing them in brandy. The freshly ground black pepper added an interesting and subtle warmth to the dish.
Eclectic is BYOB, but I would recommend also trying some of the gorgeous Spanish red wines sold by the bottle, starting at only around $160; cheaper than you’d find them anywhere else, but the most important fact is that you’d struggle to actually find them anywhere else…
To match the dinner party (as opposed to generic private kitchen) theme, the time between courses is somewhat slow, meaning our 7-course meal (there was also a salad but I chose not to write about it, as a salad is a salad) lasted over four hours. Taking into account that Juan’s cooking appliances consist of a teeny tiny oven and two plug-in hot plates, I’m surprised it wasn’t even slower! If you’re in good company, enjoying fine wine and delicious food, time will fly by anyway, so just embrace it and relish the fact that you can host a dinner party with someone else there to do all the hard work! All for only $400 a head too – bargain!
Room 603, 6/F, Cheung’s Building
1-3 Wing Wo Street (actually Wing Lok Street)
Tel: +852 9158 1584