My latest restaurant discovery in Brentwood is bittersweet. Sweet because Manuel’s is a Portuguese paradise within walking distance of our home. Bitter as it won’t be there for that much longer. We were devasted to hear that the building it is housed within will be converted into apartments in the next year, so the owner is looking to relocate.
The restaurant is in the large back room of the Eagle and Child pub, but don’t let that put you off. While the pub is dark and brown and perfumed with ale, the restaurant is like a pearl disguised within a dusty shell and well worth seeking out.
As we stepped through we were greeted with a warm smile and welcomed into a bright, white room. The walls in the restaurant are panelled neatly, with pops of swirly blue and white Azulejos tiles that later reveal themselves to be wallpaper. The tables are simple yet inviting, with bottles of water ready and waiting to quench your thirst and candles flickering gently.
Discovering Manuel’s Portuguese cuisine in Brentwood, Essex
Once seated we were looked after all night by the owner’s daughter. The service was friendly and attentive, but not over the top and needy (nobody wants to be asked if their meal is ok every five minutes and thankfully we weren’t).
We don’t eat a lot of Portuguese food so we took a little bit of time deliberating over what to order. Everything just sounded so good we couldn’t decide. Thankfully the kind waitress stepped in to help two uninitiated fools navigate the menu.
In the end, I ordered the Portuguese Black Pudding (Morcela à Casa) to start, with cebolada onion sauce, apple and goat’s cheese. My partner opted for the Portuguese Salt Cod Cakes (Bolos de Bacalhau). For mains, I tried the 48-hour Confit Lamb Shank, which quite literally fell off the bone and was complemented with ridiculously smooth and creamy potato mash.
The standout dish, however, was the Portuguese seafood rice with monkfish that my partner ordered (huge food envy!). It tasted likely a soupy risotto, with a spicy tomato and seafood sauce, studded with mussels, crab claws, clams and huge tiger prawns.
Arroz de tamboril: Portuguese rice stew with monkfish
I’ve not made a Portuguese rice stew before, however, I make a lot of risottos at home and having read up on it a bit it doesn’t seem to be wildly different. It’s just a bit soupier and takes a little longer to make, but it’s easy enough to make at home.
In my simple recipe, I’ve put my own garlicky spin on the dish with garlic olive oil and scaled the seafood mix back to make it even easier to make. Instead of mussels, crab claws, clams and tiger prawns, I’ve gone big on the monkfish, prawn and chorizo flavours, with lots of smoky paprika to provide some more earthy spice to the sauce.
With a scattering of fresh parsley, it looks fab in a big bowl and tastes absolutely delicious with a cheeky glass of vinho branco.
A simple recipe for a Portuguese rice stew, inspired by Manuel's Restaurant in Brentwood, Essex.
- 200 g monkish fillets
- 6 large king prawns
- 4 tbsp garlic olive oil
- 100 g diced chorizo
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1/2 red pepper
- 1/2 brown onion
- 2 tbsp tomato ketchup
- 600 ml fish stock
- 150 g risotto rice
- 1 tbsp paprika
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 2 tbsp fresh flat leaf parsley
Slice the monkfish fillet into bitesize pieces. It can be quite tough to cut, so you will likely need a sharp, serrated knife to saw through it.
Add half the garlic oil to a large thick-bottomed pot and fry the monkfish and prawns for about 10 minutes over a medium heat. Once cooked, remove the fish and prawns and cover with tin foil.
Place the diced chorizo in the pan and cook for about 5 minutes in the juices. Add the diced vegetables and tomato ketchup to the pan and stir regularly for a further 5 minutes.
Pour the fish stock into the pan and add the risotto rice, bay leaves, paprika and pepper. Once the pot starts to boil gently, turn the heat down to the lowest setting and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir regularly so that the rice doesn't stick to the bottom.
Once all the liquid has been soaked up by the rice, add the cooked monkish, king prawns and half a cup of water and heat for about 10 minutes. Serve in a large bowl, with a sprinkling of fresh parsley leaves.