A sign of a busy (read: successful) place is often the way in which your reservation request time is dealt with. A firm – sure, we can do a table for you at 8pm on Friday is a likely indication of the place being under-booked. I enjoyed a very brief, and delicate tango when I tried to negotiate a table for 7pm, and accepted the alternative 6:30pm reservation slot with good grace. To sweeten the rather early dining time, we had a voucher for their November dining promo offering a complimentary bottle of vino, and so understood why the reservations book would be particularly stowed out.
The staff were as cheery as I’d remembered them from earlier in the year – a good sign that any teething issues of a new restaurant had been taken in their stride. Our bottle of vino blanco was a nice zippy little number and certainly set us up well for the night. Bread and oil arrived simultaneously and we had a chance to look at the menu.
I have a feeling that it is impossible for a two people NOT to over-order in a Spanish restaurant. Even if your table-mate and you have cloned taste buds and synchronised watches, it’s still rather tricky not to go down the ‘Uh, yeah, we’ll have one of that, that , those , them, these…..’ until the waitress’s eyes spark and show that fear of knowing there’s no way in hell everything’s going to fit on the modestly proportioned table.
The other night, this came at the magical ‘six items’ mark, so I have to admit it was a helpful cue to reign in los caballos. First to arrive were the rocket salad, and the grilled Chorizo alla plancha. The chorizo had a fantastic barbecue grilled flavour, and I suddenly had pangs for summertime again. The rocket salad, whilst not inexpensive at nearly five quid, was a generous serving, and was a nice light compliment to some of the richer dishes we’d chosen.
Next up was the hotly-tipped fritura de bacalao, which was three huge chunks of cod, deep fried in a super light batter. This was accompanied by a tangy lime mayo. It had been my fave the last time I’d been in, and definitely held on to the title. The Spanish meatballs (albondigas) are maybe a bit of a predictable choice, but it was a good one. They were a nice texture , not too solid, and came in a tasty tomatoey sauce. Lou had the gambas pil pil, and said the prawns were good if a little too fiery on the chilli front.
Lastly we had the patatas a la importancia, which is sort of like eating a de-constructed tortilla.It’s a kind of chaotic looking dish, with skinny fries, egg, onion and asparagus all tossed together. It’s crazy looking, but absolutely delicious, nicely seasoned , with soft onions and a really nice quality of asparagus for this time of year.
We gallantly tried to get through everything, and I had to shed a wee tear about the fact that we couldn’t quite muster the space to accommodate the last half a meatball. Dessert was a no-go as a result, but a very kind gesture of a Spanish liqueur to finish the meal was much appreciated. I decided the hazelnut was the winner, Lou sided with the apple. Both were really fantastically flavoured.
The review should probably end here, but actually, those two liqueurs made a nice segue into moving on to Tapas’ twin purpose of being both Barra y Restaurante. So, with the restaurante bit out of the way, we moved from the table to take a couple of the high chairs at the bar, and spent the next few hours working our way through an impressive proportion of their not-inconsiderable drinks list. In what can truly be described as no particular order, we went on to enjoy Amontillado sherry, a couple more dynamite liqueurs – the liquor 43 (caramel!) and the Ponche Osborne (oranges!) being so lip-smackingly good and alarmingly moreish. Somewhere between this we also managed to get through a great bottle of Cava Rosado.
We had a great night, and on the way out, I half-expected to find ourselves on La Rambla when we headed through the door. Hasta luego!