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Sangria by the sea

Sip icy sangria served with food evocative of the Mediterranean at the Spanish food fest at Fisherman's Cove

THERE'S JUST one thing better than sunshine and sangria. Sunset and sangria. Picture a sky aflame with colour and waves crashing endlessly as the sun dramatically sinks into darkness. Imagine kicking off your shoes and feeling deliciously warm sand between your toes as ice-cubes musically collide in a pitcher of sangria brimming with wine, juice and fresh fruit. And above it all, as the sun subsides, a silent, starlit sky.

Phew. Okay, now that we're done with the corny lines expected of any self-respecting food writer sent to review a "romantic, star-lit, rustic Mediterranean restaurant," let's get down to business.

First of all, there's no sunset to be had for love or money at `Sunset and Sangria,' the Spanish festival on at Upper Deck, the open-air restaurant at Fisherman's Cove (till September 5).

"People who come here have no option but to look into each other's eyes," chuckles a representative from the hotel, adding, "It's so dark they can't see anything else."

Lovely setting

But, honestly, the setting is fabulous — unless, of course, you've taken a terribly boring person for dinner. Warm yellow lamplight flickers undecidedly over delightfully uneven tables made of coconut wood and the only sounds you can hear, besides your own breathing, are the waves crashing in the distance. It's the kind of setting that reeks of romance.

And, once you tire of `your eyes are brighter than the stars tonight'-type conversation, there's icy sangria on hand, served with food evocative of the sun-drenched Mediterranean; fragrant with the tang of garlic, spiked with colour and romance.

Spanish menu

The Spanish menu, which will change three times over the course of the festival, begins with champinones rellenos, mushrooms flavoured with aromatic rosemary, and lusciously tender chilli garlic prawns tossed in garlic.

There's also ice gazpacho, a piquant chilled soup made with plum tomatoes and olive oil and a Spanish shrimp and bean soup. However, unless you are truly, madly, deeply into fish, perhaps you should steer clear of this one: Made with double flavoured stock, it has a twang that punches you squarely in the nose. The pan-seared fish, however, is subtler. Succulently flaky, the fish is straight-from-the-sea fresh. Cooked with wine and a dash of garlic, thyme and shallots, it is a celebration of flavour and gives Upper Deck's cannelloni, stuffed with crunchy asparagus and mushrooms, a run for its money.

"Spanish food is rustic," says Chef-De-Partie, S.P. Thirlok Kumar. "The flavours depend on fresh produce and people cook with ingredients grown on their land — tomatoes, garlic, peppers, olives."

Moving on to the dessert. So good that you're likely to stab your date with a dessert fork if she tries sneaking any of it off your plate, it includes an extravagant chocolat marquis, melding white and dark chocolate, sponge cake, bourbon and mousse, and a deliciously simple crθme Catalina, thick, velvety and served with a dusting of crunchy, caramelised sugar.


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