La Cucina Caldesi: A night of tapas – cookery course, London

Posted on January 23, 2012

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Simple yet tasty

Tapas used to be free. A small plate would be balanced on a drink from a bar, holding a few nibbles to prevent too-speedy intoxication.

Now you’ll pay a few pounds a pop for bar nibbles and tapas is a meal type in its own right. I love most things in miniature and Spanish is no exception.

So I was pretty pleased when my partner and I were bought a night of tapas at La Cucina Caldesi as a gift. It was a fun evening for foodies with one caveat: there wasn’t a huge amount of cooking per person.

La Cucina Caldesi is a restaurant and cookery school. The restaurant part is five minutes north of Bond Street and the cookery school is tucked just behind it.

Behind stable-type doors, the teaching kitchen had two large wooden tables with bowls of partly-prepped ingredients. Around 20 people were booked in for a night of tapas, and although it was a little cosy, there was space for everybody. There was an extra station at the front with ovens and a hob.

Yes, that man is watching me...

Having never been to a cookery course before, I had no real idea of what to expect. First, everyone was given a disposable apron and a name tag. Everybody was a little awkward at this point, not really sure where to be at but intent on being polite to all other participants.

The ingredients for around six meals were distributed around the kitchen. Around each of them were several knives and chopping boards. I wondered how this would work: would we rotate around each board? Would there be time to cook each dish?

It turned out to be more ‘everyone muck in’ than each cook a set of dishes. The course leader went round each dish and demonstrated what to do before leaving us to pick a station and get stuck in. There was chorizo in cider, roasted pepper and aubergine bruschetta, meatballs, garlic mushrooms, patatas bravas and mussels.

There was a bit of swapping and changing, but generally a few people took on each dish. I chose mussels, since I’ve never prepared them before, and got busy scraping and cleaning. Whenever a dish got to the cooking stage, the chef gathered everyone round the cooking station to demonstrate how to cook it, hauling in volunteers to take on tasks.

Once everything was complete, we laid everything out on the wooden benches (four helpers had helpfully been cleaning up as we destroyed the kitchen, so no tidying to do). Everyone grabbed a plate and a glass of wine and tucked in.

I really enjoyed a night of tapas. Although the cooking was quite basic (so suitable for beginners!), the chef passed on some helpful tips, including:

  • the best way to peel garlic is to smash it with the flat edge of a knife
  • rinsing your fingers without rubbing them together will help get rid of the garlic smell
  • leaving the knot of an onion intact when slicing it keeps it together and easier to cut
  • if a mussel is slightly open, gently tap it on the counter – if it closes, it’s good to use, otherwise discard.

It was at 6:30pm on a Friday, so no need to miss work, and La Cucina Caldesi does weekend courses too. The only thing I would say is there isn’t masses of cooking for each person – you don’t get your own hob, just a board and a knife – but there was a nice communal feel with everyone contributing and having a go.

A great gift and recommended for seasoned foodies for a fun evening, or novice foodies for trying out the basics in an open, relaxed and tasty way.

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Posted in: cuisine