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As part of our efforts to immerse ourselves in Portugese culture in advance of our move, we have been investigating the Stockwell area of London where around 30,000 Portugese people live. The first part of this was a visit to a wonderful restaurant called A Toca http://www.atoca.co.uk/index.htm
We took a friend of ours who hadn’t visited Portugal before, so his opinion was sure to be a great leveller, considering we are generally wearing our rose-tinted Portugal specs. I think he was expecting food which was complicated and “foreign” and he was delighted that what we got was very tasty, simple and in vast quantities! After he was presented with his Portugese steak, beautifully cooked and complete with fried egg, a mass of chips and a bowl of typical PT salad (with plenty of tomatoes and onions), he was rather shocked to get the big bowl of baked rice as well! My wife and I shared a huge pot of Arroz De Tamboril (Monkfish rice,) which was delicious and had the perfect gloopy consistency of some of the nicest seafood rice dishes we have experienced in Portugal.
Obviously we were very excited to be sitting in South London drinking Vinho Verde, albeit at a much higher price that in Portugal. It was also lovely that they had all the typical desserts, all home made and delicious. Seeing someone else have their first PT style chocolate mousse was fun. Chocolate mousse is Portugal is just in a different league to anywhere else, and once moved I intend to find out how to make it that way. I suspect a high prescence of egg-yolk. – perhaps someone could tell me? All this was concluded with a lovely Bica (a proper Portugese espresso which is like rocket fuel!)
The best thing of all though was that our friend left A Toca that night with an understanding of why we were so enamoured with Portugal and the culture of the country. We were, I think, the only non-Portugese people in the place, but we felt very welcomed (despite slight bemusement at our attempts at the language!) 2 televisions showed Portugese football and there were all the typical Portugese men you see in bars in the country chewing the fat, watching the football and enjoying a sagres or a bica.
A Toca is not much to look at from the outside – to quote my friend “it looks like a kebab shop.” But, for anyone missing the atmosphere, food and wine of Portugal you cannot go wrong.
There are several other Portugese restraunts and shops in the area, we cannot wait to try some more and report back. Thank you too all at A Toca for the welcome and the great food!