Liz O’Reilly tried Chef & The Whale, the newest eatery on the Budaiya Highway, and went back again and again and again!
I’m always up for new dining experiences, so was delighted when this little hot spot popped up quite close to home. I first visited at the beginning of January and, since then, have been back so frequently that I reckon I’ve tried virtually the whole menu.
It’s not just that the food’s good, although it undoubtedly is, but Chef Steve McGowan (he’s the one referred to in the name, of which more later) has come up with a menu that not only caters to your everyday Joe but is also heavy on both vegan and gluten-free options – a real boon for those following these diets.
As I said, I’ve tried a lot of the dishes, so, I’m going to share my own personal recommendations.
If you’re a meat eater, you truly must try the chicken liver parfait – flavoursome, with a liberal sprinkling of herbs and a rough meaty texture – this would be perfect for a lunch dish or starter. Ask for some extra bread and you’ll find the chunky paté portion will fill you for the rest of the day. It’s served with red onion jam, which adds a distinct touch of sweetness to complement the meat.
Another of my absolute favourites is the Baja Fish Taco. All the tacos here are gluten-free and freshly made in house daily. Steve has substituted tofu for the sour cream and mayo in the classic Baja sauce, so you’ll also find a vegan version of this dish on the menu featuring tempura banana blossom. Personally, I love the fish. It’s local seabass, perfectly cooked with its meaty texture and mild taste intact. Served atop a bed of crunchy raw red cabbage, it looks every bit as good as it tastes.
My good friend and regular dining companion would not forgive me if I failed to mention the Beef Birria Taco. Perfectly flavoured with mild chillis and adobo spices, the traditional Mexican street food meat has clearly been slow cooked and is melt-in-the-mouth tender. It is, however, served with a light sprinkling of coriander, which is not to everyone’s taste. I you don’t like it, make sure to say so.
If you have a big appetite, try the Superfood Bowl. Exactly as it sounds, this is a veritable mountain of healthy goodness which actually manages to taste really great at the same time as being good for you. I’m not going to list everything that’s inside – there are up to 19 ingredients and there’s a prize for guessing them all. Flavours to be aware of are the pumpkin, carrot and cumin hummus, puffed black rice and a truly impressive falafel – it makes me happy just thinking about it.
The dessert selection is pretty impressive too but I must admit I have yet to try anything other than the San Sebastian Cheesecake – partly because I always get carried away with the main menu and partly because I love it so much. The famous burnt cheesecake looks impressive and tastes divine; rich, creamy and at the same time both sweet and vaguely salty.
So, there you have it. My much-loved favourites. However, I’m told Chef & The Whale has also now introduced a breakfast menu. So, ask me in a few weeks and I’m sure I’ll have some more recommendations to add.
The name Chef & The Whale is a bit whimsical. The chef, as I mentioned, is boss Steve McGowan. And the whale is an animal that travels right across the globe, as does the menu.