BY PALOMA LACY
In a world besieged by chain restaurants, family-run operations are few and far between. Run by a husband-and-wife team, A Torre in Crystal Palace brings that family feel and there are fewer things more comforting on Sunday lunchtime than that.
I’ve always wondered why Portuguese cuisine has taken so long to receive the popularity of its near Iberian neighbour.
Tapas restaurants have always had a fan base but the delights of Portugal remain somewhat undiscovered by most. One of the most popular is peri peri chicken – meat marinated in a fiery pepper sauce – before being chargrilled to seal in all the lovely juices.
A Torre’s interpretation was gold standard and I was pleased to see they hadn’t dumbed down the marinade, which had fire and bite, leaving a warm after glow. Two chicken quarters were served with home-made chips and salad – this is my kind of dish.
Apologies, I jumped a step and the chunky bread and fish pates (tuna and sardine) deserve a mention – as an appetite whetting start. Our group of six shared a few starters, including two national showstoppers, bacalhau (salt cod fritters) and my all-time favourite, prawn rissole. The latter filled with prawns and béchamel sauce, and crisp fried.
A Torre’s portions are healthy and all of our party ended up taking a doggie bag home. The same would have happened with the fish stew (caldeirada), had two friends not decided to share. The dish was too big for one but a great option for two with bread. A mix of white fish and shellfish, combined with vegetables, in a tomato sauce made for a hearty lunchtime main.
The mixed grill went down well with another of my friends, standing out from the norm with the inclusion of grilled chourico, Portugal’s national sausage, which is similar to Spanish chorizo. It was pudem caseiro (crème caramel) for four out of six of us to finish off a memorable meal.
Paloma was not a guest of A Torre