Food 2019 – The Yeatman, Vila Nova de Gaia

Sunday, 14th July 2019 – The Yeatman, Vila Nova de Gaia

Sunday night was the blow out meal of the weekend, a 2 Michelin-starred tasting menu in what might be the best hotel in the area, the Yeatman. First, however, we stopped off for a drink in Porto before getting a taxi across to Vila Nova de Gaia. In our search for a good place to get a drink, we stumbled upon the Livraria da Baixa, another of the ex-bookshops that have become other things over the years. There seems to be quite a bit of that going on in Porto. We had yet another porto tonico, and this one was different again. The barman asked us which one we liked best, but they were all good in their own ways.

After we’d finished our drinks we headed to the Intercontinental and asked the concierge to find us a taxi to the Yeatman. It didn’t appear, after all, to be the sort of place we wanted to fetch up in looking all sweaty and dishevelled! Also, we wanted to get there a little early so we could have a second round of drinks in Dick’s Bar up there. We’d heard it had excellent views. The taxi pulled up and several uniformed doormen appeared to hold doors open and point the way for us.

It’s very nice! We were escorted in, shown to the restaurant, and asked if we could start the evening in the bar. We were soon installed in a table on the terrace overlooking the river and it is certainly reasonable to say they have a view. As well as the river, and Porto opposite, you get a view of the gardens and the swimming pool – the latter appeared to be full of seagulls using it as a giant birdbath. Perhaps they have a better class of seagull at the Yeatman. Who knows!

Armed with a port cocktail each we dragged our attention away from the seagulls, and towards the view. The weather was not as clear as we might have liked, but the vista is still pretty impressive, even without sunshine and blue skies. I rather imagine in fine weather it would be gorgeous.

The port cocktails were pretty good too!

We decided it was best not to have a second round, and instead moved across to the restaurant to start dinner. There is only the tasting menu (at €170 per person), but if, as we did, you reserve online, this is emailed to you along with your confirmation so you can let the restaurant know if there is anything you don’t eat. In our case it was the pork option, so we let them know and then relaxed into the evening, knowing we’d be well looked after. I should also say that the restaurant has great views, but we weren’t on a window table (I assume those probably go to people actually staying at the hotel), so I only got a photo at the end of the evening.

The first thing that happened, given the Yeatman is part of the Taylor’s port group, was that we were offered a glass of white port as an aperitif while we looked at the menu to make sure it was still to our liking, and we checked the wine list and decided on that or the matching wines chosen by the restaurant for an extra €75 for 6 different wines).  The wines in question can also all be bought through the Yeatman Wine Club so it was really easy to establish what we’d had for once. The aperitif was a glass of Churchill’s Dry White which is rather more sweet than the name implies, though it still has a good, dry finish and peppery notes that would probably mean it’s good with cheese too. It worked very well in the heat, well chilled as it was, even if taking a good sniff of it left condensation all over the glass!

Before the first course of the tasting menu arrived, our first glass of wine was delivered, a Filipa Pato 3b Rosé ( or more precisely perhaps Filipa Pato & William Wouter 3B Metodo Traditional Rosé, Bairrada, Beiras, Portugal, fresh, elegant, sparkling and just the thing with the parade of amuse bouches that arrived next.

First up, however, was a pair of cool towels for us to freshen up with, which were much welcomed.

The first morsels of food started to appear! And they were good! The first items was described as a Cocktail of apple, spinach and kale (manzana, espinacas y col) and was served with a very fresh bowl of oyster, jalapeños and apples with was fresh from the apples, tasted of the sea and packed a lively punch from the jalapeños.

It was soon joined by a tiny selection of “fish and chips” with two tangles of thinly chipped potato, and a piece of batters fish each. It was both fun and fabulous, and it was quite clear that the kitchen and the chef know what they are doing and have a sense of humour.

The cocktail was delicious (and may be the only way to deal with kale in a way that makes it palatable rather than like trying to eat crispy cardboard)! It was also a slightly alarming shade of green, with sweetness from the apple overlaying a slight cabbage-y bitterness.

The next round was barbeque chicken, and again demonstrated both humour and skill with a chicken sandwich, a smoked chicken oyster in panko breadcrumbs, and a chicken liver mousse, and superb even to those of us who normally avoid chicken (mostly for fear of how it might have been raised, though I rather suspect that the Yeatman is as concerned about provenance as Lynne and I are).

The final round of amuse bouches was tuna-based with a bonito “nitrogeno” that was tartare-style…

And a tuna “sandwich”, with fish roe and mayonnaise wrapped in a nori seaweed sheet. It was a fun thing, full of flavour and it came with its own little dramatic reveal from inside a scroll of paper that the waiter then opened at the table. I was liking this place, because although there is a formality to the Yeatman, there is also a great deal of playfulness, and the staff could not be friendlier.

The sommelier brought the next wine, an Ilha do Pico Arinto 2017, from the Azores and fermented in oak vats for 6 months. The result is incredibly drinkable, especially with seafood, which is where the menu started. It doesn’t look as if it often escapes from the Portuguese speaking world, which is a pity because I really enjoyed it and would like to drink more of it.

It went brilliants with the Gamba Blanca (crayfish) with crab and clams. The crab and clams were in the form of a neat little beignet, and we were encouraged to use our hands to eat it rather than being wussy and using cutlery, neat though the cutlery was.

There was a sauce with it that needed to be scooped up and smeared on the beignet, and it was a positive pleasure to do just that. The dish was described as including chawanmushi, a traditional Japanese appetiser of steamed savoury egg custard and usually full of things like prawns, fish cake, mushrooms and so on so I assume that was what was holding the crab and clam mix together.

The crayfish came separately, carrying on the egg custard theme but being decorated with what the French would probably call mimosa style eggs, coriander and a traditional broth. It was a most excellent portion of shrimp, prawn, crayfish, whatever you want to call it.

We had moved, oenologically, onto a new white wine, this time a glass of Anselmo Mendes Parcela Unica 2016, made from Alvarinho grapes. We got the expected peach, citrus and minerality from it, which went well with the shrimp, and also with the cuttlefish that was brought out next. These were tiny cuttlefish served  two ways, with fried rice and with a gloriously unctuous spicy Hollandaise sauce. The first pieces were served an a plate possibly made from a dried cuttlefish, which just made me laugh…

It also tasted good, especially dredged through the spicy Hollandaise sauce.

The other pieces came on a plate decorated with octopus shapes. It seemed a lot of trouble to go to, but then it’s that sort of place.

We knew we’d moved on from fish when the waiters brought us some butter in a very stylish box…

There was also a dish of olive oil, the oil a lovely shade of golden yellow that instantly made me want to dunk some bread in it.

That was made possible when the loaf of sourdough was put in front of us.

We had reached what would usually be the suckling pig course, but the restaurant swapped things round and served us the national beef first. It was a small but perfectly cooked piece, the iron of the rare meet working brilliantly with the roasted spring onion, the Jerusalem artichoke puree, and the rich, deep civet sauce. The meat would probably have fallen apart with just the application of a spoon, but we used our knives, cutting small pieces to try and make it last as long as possible. With it was drank a mighty fine, deep Maria João Private Collection 2008 from the Dão, and made possibly from Alfrocheiro, Aragonez, Touriga Nacional, and Jaen grapes (at least the 2010 was), with notes of chocolate, toasted cocoa, spices and dried red fruits that I definitely picked up.

If the beef and wine combination was good, the replacement for the suckling pig, which came next was sublime. It was the same accompaniments or mango, coconut and chilli, but served with two perfectly cooked pigeon breasts, the skin beautifully seasoned and crsip. We drank a Boavista Reserva 2015. I’ve seen the wine described as “deep ruby colour. Complex, deep, intense and seductive hints of both red and black fruit, plus tobacco, spices and dark chocolate”. I see no reason to disagree with that assessment.

The last of the pigeon was gone, and it was on to the home straight for a dessert or two, starting with wild strawberries (in different textures), including a soup served in a wonderfully complicated drinking vessel. This definitely was essence of strawberries in all their wonderful forms, and it was a brilliant way to complete an excellent meal. Especially with a glass of Adega de Favaios Moscatel Colheita 1999, a sweet white moscatel instead of a port, but made with much the same levels of care, commitment and, dare I say it, obsession to create an ideal dessert wine. The Moscatel Galego grape produces a clear, bright, golden coloured wine, with citrus freshness and honeyed sweetness that matches fruit as well as chocolate. It’s a wonderful wine.

There was also São Tomé chocolate (with toasted corn, toffee, and whipped cream) which came along with the terrifyingly well-stocked petit fours trolley. We resisted the temptation of an offer to let us have a piece of everything on the trolley because I think we’d have needed to be put of trolleys to be taken out to the foyer if we’d done that.

I did weaken and have a tiny doughtnut, and a pastel de nata though, along with a cute little meringue.

We turned down the offer of infusions or coffee and were presented with a copy of the menu each in a lovely sealed envelope, along with a list of the wines we’d drunk. It was a lovely evening, and we were more than happy to get a taxi back to the Intercontinental instead of trying to walk to the metro (which would be doable, but who wantes to after a meal like that, right?)

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