“My Tamales are Red Hot”, so sang Hugh Laurie ( of House Fame) on his 2011 album Let Them Talk. Unfortunately, PUJOL number 13 on this years Best 50 Restaurants in the World list does not seem to have heard this. Pujol is in Mexico city where one might expect a certain kind of spiciness when eating out, even if you don’t want Red Hot Tamales all of the time.
We dined at Pujol on the 20th April, this year and we took the tasting menu at 995 Pesos ( about £50 or $77). Our reservation was for 7 pm, which for a city like Mexico was early indeed. We soon realised why we’d been unable to get a later booking as they stagger the arrivals – only a quarter of the tables were occupied when we arrived. Fair enough, but we were offered the table, next to the bar, which doubled as the glass washing and the coffee making area. We rejected this and took another table.
We started our meal with some snacks. This was fun, a smoking pumpkin, with baby smoked corn, some tiny tacos, a finely sliced avocado and a consommé. I’m honestly not sure what was in the consommé, but it was wonderful. However this was where the service started to fall down. Before I had finished my nibbles, Boom, Bang, the next course began to appear. Quelle Horreur!! We had to ask them to slow it down somewhat. And they did but the service on the whole was very indifferent.
So there were 10 Courses, YES TEN, but they were only tasting size. The first was Tortilla souffle with escamoles. For those who do not know, ESCAMOLES are ants eggs! And they either come from the roots of the Agave tequilana ( Yes you are right TEQUILA)
or the roots of the Agave americana (Mezcal) A must try!!
As you can see the Tostada dominated the plate, the serrano chili sauce was nice without being too overpowering
So now onto course three, this was Fish ceviche taco with Hoja santa tortilla. Beans. Hoja santa (Piper auritum) is an aromatic herb with a heart-shaped, velvety leaf which grows in Central and Southern America as well as in parts of Florida.The name hoja santa means “sacred leaf” in Spanish. I ate it several times whilst in Mexico, cooked a number of ways, but I really feel it is not memorable enough to go hunting for it in my local grocery store. At PUJOL, the Hoja Santa leaf served as the taco to the ceviche and although this was a bit gimmicky, the whole thing worked (this is their signature dish) and was delicious.
Next came Purslane noodles with grilled onion and spearmint. We were not overly impressed with this dish, neither in its appearance nor its taste, sort of cactus and Purslane. Not our favourite. Though Purslane is valued for its high levels of Omega-3 fatty acids; it is considered to have higher levels of this essential fatty acid than any other vegetable!!
Our next course was also rather nondescript, Sorry! it was a small aubergine and not sure what else, see for yourselves
Then, it was Pork confit with Almonds, Raisins and Cumin Mole, an absolute delight and one of our favourites. On the down side, it was another plate of food, which was brown and cream in appearance.
But then we went onto Mole. This was called Mole Madre, the taste was interesting but a plate of Mole by itself?? For the uninitiated Mole is a rich thick, dark, brownish-red sauce, but the term is really more general than that. Mole can be anything from dark and thick to soup-like and bright green, with red, yellow and black mole. Three states in Mexico claim to be the home of mole, Puebla, Oaxaca and Tlaxacla, with Peubla and Oaxaca being the best known. However it is almost always served over something, meat or fish, or even rice, but on it’s own?? Did you eat it with a spoon? ( we did not have one) or scoop it up on a fork, or even a knife?
Then came the desserts, all four of them. Honestly, you can see for yourselves, they were all cream in colour, and not one of them stood out as being memorable.
But honestly they all blended into one, both in appearance and taste.
Firstly it was Banana served with macadamia zest, camomile flower.
Thyme biscuit. Lemon gelatin. Pulque sorbet. Cookie soup. White chocolate.
Guava Sorbet, Mezcal and Chilhucle chilli salt
And this? well some sort of Mousse in a chocolate casing? but as I said, all the colours and all of the flavours in the desserts blended into one!
So all in all, I will not be recommending this restaurant to anyone, anytime soon, but the consolation is that although it is rated one of the best restaurants in the world, it does not come close to being one of the most expensive, that honour goes to Guy Savoy in Paris at a whopping $1200 for two people!!
One other restaurant that I will mention here is “Dinner” by Heston Blumenthal at the Mandarin Oriental in London. It is rated this year at # 7. I love Heston’s food, having eaten at his flagship restaurant ( the Fat Duck in Bray Berkshire, UK ) many times, even before it became famous. “Dinner “is no different, it is innovative, fun and the service is exemplary, having said that the bill for two will set you back about $600. Not to be sniffed at!