Words/photographs/illustrations© 2019 Helen  Lewis

Imagine, 1966 and no olive oil in England!




Maria and I are on a road trip – a works outing, if you like. We’ve broken out of Pembrokeshire and are on the trail of a new olive oil, Pagos Del Guerrer Ecologico,imported from Valencia.


“I Know where these olives for the oilgrow – it’s near my home in Alberique. And many years ago, I knew the family.”


Maria starts laughing (and I thought I was driving quite well). She dabs at her eyes. “I remember, when I first got to England, it was so late. We have nothing to eat, so Paul, my husband, he goes to the shop, ‘corner shop’, you call it, yes?


“Yes!” I shout avoiding a Tesco’s Click-and-collect lorry that wants my lane.


“We eat slice-white bread, it tastes nothing like bread and instant coffee which tastes like nothing! And a very strange Frey Bentos! A pie, in a tin?” Her laughing is infectious, a pie in a tin is a bit of a joke. “In the morning I tell Paul, tonight I will cook properly, I will make paella. I sent him out to buy the olive oil. He was gone for hours, he returned with the tiniest bottle. This is the only olive oil in Oxford! He says. The only place that sells olive oil is the chemist!” She’s now laughing so hard she can hardly speak. “Imagine in 1966, no olive oil in England!”


(H: And I suspect none in Wales, Scotland or Ireland either).


Luckily for us Pagos Del Guerrer Ecologico – a prize-winning oil and one of the top 100 olive oils in the world, is available at the Curado Bar, Cardiff. The Curado Bar, owned by Paul Grimwood, is a slice of Spain overlooking the Millennium Stadium. If you’re cooking Spanish tonight, you need to be shopping at Curado in the morning.

Teej at Curado Bar is warm, welcoming and extremely knowledgeable about all things foodishly Spanish, she shows us to our table, coffee appears, bread and of course this famous oil. It was certainly worth driving down the M4 for, Pagos Del Guerrer Ecologico, is delicious, the vivid green puddle on my plate smells of hot, summer country-side. It tastes fresh and herby, it’s what crusty bread was made for.


We eat Champinones al ajillo (mushrooms in sherry and cream) which I would happily to have, for every meal, for the rest of my life, Bacalao con tomate (salted cod in a paprika and tomato sauce) and belly pork cooked in cider. We tried (only a taste for me, driving, boring) DelgadoZuleta Fino, a dry white sherry with some Manchego, a near perfect combo and a complete revelation, sherry, I thought, only came in a blue bottle marked Harveys at Christmas! And to finish (sorry if you’re reading this half-way through the morning and a long way from lunch) with Tarta de Santiago (almond tart), swimming, no, drowning in Pedro Ximenez Reserva de Familia, a more Christmas style sherry which I would like supplied intravenously.


We roll back to the carpark loaded with clinking bags of cheese, jamon, bread, wine and a wee drop of sherry, I'm wondering what the maximum weight is that my car can carry…






If you pop back next week, I’ll ask Maria to show you how to make Champinones al ajillo. Looking forward to seeing you on Saturday evening (April 6th 2019) if you’ve got your ticket for Maria’s Paella evening.

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