Barkingside Portuguese restaurant adding a culinary twist
PUBLISHED: 16:33 06 November 2019 | UPDATED: 16:39 06 November 2019
Marta Freitas, who along with husband Carlos runs Capricho Portuguese Kitchen in Barkingside, on giving their country's cuisine a delicious and innovative new take
It's been quite a while since we spoke to you last, how has Capricho been doing?
It seems to be going from strength to strength. We've been open for just over two years now, but we are still getting first time customers walking through the door, and people who didn't realise we existed. I often get asked 'how long have you been here for?' and they are always surprised when I tell them.
Is it still you and Carlos at the helm, or are you taking more of a back seat?
As much as I need to take a back seat - it's addictive. I love everything about what I do. Yes, some days are stressful, but I find myself eager to get back to work by the time I'm on my second day off. Carlos helps keep me together and works just as hard so that I can fully focus on what's important. Also, I think it is very important to be as present as possible whilst I still have all of this energy.
How has the restaurant evolved since it started, is the décor and atmosphere still the same?
When we took on Capricho, it was an empty shell. There were no walls, no partitions, no kitchen, no electricity, nothing - previously it had been a bike shop. It was my first major project, but I had a vision and concept and I was so excited to get it up and running. Since then, I have revisited some of my initial ideas and added to the character of the place, so you'll notice a few new touches. But the atmosphere is pretty much the same. I especially love the vibe in the summer, when we push the bi-fold doors back, and people sit at the bar with a couple of small plates or 'petiscos' and a sangria - it feels very European.
Is there a typical Capricho customer these days?
We genuinely get customers of all ages and for all occasions. We receive couples, families, Instagrammers, business people, groups of friends - it's a very wide spectrum. It's very much an inclusive dining experience for everybody.
How would you describe the ethos behind the food at Capricho?
Capricho is 100 per cent about the quality of the ingredients combined with modern cooking methods and presentation. We fuse the best of Portuguese with modern European touches - it's about taking our country's food and steering it into a slightly different direction without compromising on that taste of home. Our chefs particularly like to use the small plates menu to showcase this as it's an opportunity to sample a combination of traditional and modern dishes in one sitting. Food is such a huge part of Portuguese culture - it brings people together and is a massively convivial affair - so we want our food to reflect that by not only being delicious, but also fun and exciting.
What would you say is currently the most popular dish on the menu?
The Polvo a Largareiro (grilled octopus) and monkfish have always been the 'traditional' favourites. But, having said that, our customers have really taken to the new menu, especially the tuna 'Pica a Pau' and hake tempura, and our premium cuts of meat, which we recently introduced, are frequently described by our customers as the best they've ever tasted.
Do you ever veer off of your country's cuisine?
We have one or two options that I would say are 'continental' as opposed to Portuguese. But then again, our ethos is all about creativity, so if this involves adopting methods from other nationalities to create something amazing, then why not!
Drinking is also a big part of the Capricho experience, can you tells us about this?
We love our wines and our gins. We've got a great selection of vinho verde, reds and whites and often we will do a weekly wine special or something new by the glass to try. I make sure my team build up a good rapport with our customers and guide them through our wine list in order to recommend a wine that's perfect for them. Portuguese wine is so under-rated with the Douro and Alentejo being the most famous wine regions. But Lisbon is really starting to produce some great wine and we are trying to wean customers away from the more commercial choices in order to broaden their horizons and give them an interesting experience. Two of our best-selling gins are Portuguese, and we have a list of specially crafted cocktails too. Although I have to say, our signature dessert cocktails are so popular I've had customers consuming them pre-dinner. A lot of people don't know that I am actually a trained mixologist too.
Do you return often to Portugal to keep up with the food and drink scene and also source products?
Actually we have just booked a work trip abroad. I will be going away with the floor staff, the chefs and kitchen staff to Porto for a team-building experience next month. The restaurant scene in Lisbon and Porto has evolved dramatically and we are anxious to take it all in and experience the amazing food and wine. At Capricho we are always trying to evolve and not remain stagnant. We've got a new member of the kitchen team who has come from Porto with an exciting new approach to Portuguese cuisine, so she will take us around the hotspots. These visits enable me to stay up to date with new and emerging produce that are not so commercial. Indeed, that's what makes us different - we are always seeking out something new for our clientele and we are always updating our menus.
Do you ever have events or entertainment at the restaurant?
Not yet, although we do have plans to introduce entertainment with a Latin theme. But watch this space and keep an eye on our social media accounts for updates.
Have you started taking party bookings for the festive season?
Yes, we've already taken group bookings for Christmas and we've got some pencilled in for January and February 2020 as well!
What can customers expect over the holidays?
We won't be working with a specific Christmas menu this year, which we have done previously. When people book with us, they say they do so to enjoy our normal menu. If that works for the customers, then it works for us. It's all about the customer at the end of the day.
Will Capricho be open on Christmas Day and New Year's Eve?
Christmas time is for family - it's very important for us to be able to manage a healthy work/ life balance not only for ourselves, but also for our staff. So, no, we are closing for a much-needed break.
Talking of which, any plans for 2020, perhaps another restaurant?
We get asked this a lot. There have been a few interesting opportunities but nothing concrete just yet. I'm enjoying putting my energies into this one, but never say never!
Get in touch: Capricho Portuguese Kitchen, 1 Broadway Parade, Fencepiece Road, Barkingside, IG6 2JU; 020 8215 2592; caprichoportuguesekitchen.co.uk