For many years, Spanish food in the UK was distinctly underwhelming. Stodgy potato tortillas, greasy patatas bravas and limp prawns in garlic – often washed down with cheap plonk. But the food company, Tapas Brindisa, was instrumental in changing the perception and dining experience of Spanish food. Twenty five years ago, they set up shop in Borough Market and made it their mission to provide unbeatable Spanish food, bringing delicious Iberian hams and other amazing ingredients to London. Then they opened the tapas restaurants (now in Shoreditch, South Kensington, London Bridge and Soho) and recently the Food Rooms in Brixton.
Here you’ll find food that’s a great example of superb ingredients cooked brilliantly. I went to the Soho restaurant – an airy, sleek establishment where you can sit at the bar at the back and watch the chefs working in an open kitchen. The waiter couldn’t have been more helpful, crossing dishes out on the menu that I couldn’t have and suggesting alterations to some to make them gluten-free and dairy-free.
I ordered the Fish Selection Plate – a cold selection of cured mackerel, Nardin boquerones (white anchovies to you and me), cured tuna loin and sardines. This was a magical case of the sum parts being just as great as the whole. The mackerel had a delicious subtle smokiness and the tuna was beautifully cured, too – without overwhelming saltiness. The sardines were full of flavour. And the plump, mild-tasting and jucy white anchoviews were a world away from their counterparts in the supermarket aisles. All joined together made a fest of beautifully cured fish.
I also ordered the Broad Bean Salad with Iberico Ham and Roasted Tomato Water. Much has been written about Brindisa’s Iberico ham – and for good reason. Mouthwateringly sweet, with fat that melts in your mouth, this added a delicious layer of flavour to the broad beans and tomato.
On top of this, I got the Ox Cheeks with Dried Fruit and Red Wine Sauce. A dish full of sweet and savoury tones, and incredibly soft, meaty beef. Overall this was a meal with depth of flavours, sophistication and an overall sense of great pleasure. The pleasure of eating but also of consummate professional chefs truly enjoying cooking amazing ingredients.
Oh, and a wine list that doesn’t have a single bottle of Rioja!