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Posts Tagged ‘restaurant tapas’

Cuisine: Contemporary seasonal Spanish tapas.

Visit: March 2013

Price: Medium (very reasonable for central London as both the quality of food and the portions you get are well above average).

Refreshing Spanish salad at Fino

Refreshing Spanish salad

Food: Contemporary twist on traditional Spanish dishes. If you select from the classics such as the Jamón de bellota senorio (Bellota ham), ham and  piquillo croquetas (deep-fried and battered potato balls with ham or not spicy sweet red peppers) Pimientos de padron (small green peppers fried and served sprinkled with crunchy salt) and sliced Manchego cheese (hard sheep cheese from Spain), you cannot  go wrong. All these tapas are indeed very good and authentic.

Choosing something perhaps less common for a Spanish tapas bar table might be interesting for those of you preferring innovative and less oily dishes in the style of the popular London-based chef José Pizarro. One such treat are the Crisp fried artichokes, that look like a lovely flower decoration, but taste like real artichokes. Fried just enough, with no oil dripping from the crisp vegetables and the mayonnaise-based dip is rich yet spicy with some hot paprika powder sprinkled over it.

Crisp fried artichokes

Crisp fried artichokes

Another, more refreshing contemporary tapas is the Fennel, radish & pomegranate salad. It is so crisp and zesty that it reminds me of spring and sitting on the beach by breezy see. Lovely salad that can freshen up your palate between the fatty meaty, fried and cheese dominated spanish dishes.

With wine the bruschetta-style toasted bread goes very well. The Pan con tomate is great with young red wines or refreshing white Verdejos. It is rather a big slice of bread and not a tiny piece of baguette, so be ready for a proper sized plate. The juicy tomatoes spread over the crunchy bread balance the dryness of the toasting process.

Pan con tomate

Pan con tomate

From the seafood the grilled Octopus & capers served on a wooden tray is very good, although a larger portion than is common for a tapa. The multiple pieces of baby octopus were tender, not chewy and spiced just right.

Fino sandwich

Fino sandwich

The deep-fried Fino sandwich is as its name suggests the signature dish of Fino so we had to try it. The name of the sandwich is also a bit deceiving, but you have to try it. I will not tell you what it is all about, but picture below can give you a hint. Just come to Fino and try it for yourself, it is quite interesting and if you like something crunchy and are not a vegetarian you will probably like it a lot.

Drinks: The mostly Spanish wine list is very good. Depending on how deep into your pocket you have, select one of the the top ranked Ribera del Dueros (such as the Vega Sicilia Unico), the middle-of-the-road Priorats or one of the more affordable Riojas. Red wine is in general a better choice because of the richness of the food, nevertheless a crisp Verdejo or deep Godello for an aperitif is a great start and both will surely go well with the seafood dishes. We went for one of the newer wines of the Alvarez family, of the Vega Sicilia fame. Their Alión Cosecha 2006 is deep and structured Tempranillo expressing in its concentration the dry climate of the  Duero area. Complex wine with very long finish that calls for intense dishes to match.

Ribera del Duero with jamon

Ribera del Duero with jamón

Atmosphere: Modern, fresh, fun and vibrant. There are many people coming straight after work, so you will see some ties there, but overall you can wear something casual. Comfort lovers will love the cosy booths, bar fans appreciate a corner bar area with views of the restaurant, curious minds will surely often peak into the open kitchen and exciting interiors seeking crowd will be amused with interesting decorative finishes. It is a great place to go with friends, business partners not relishing overtly pretentious gastronomic restaurants or bringing there a first date since it does not feel too intimate.

Cosy interior of Fino

Cosy interior of Fino

Opening hours: Mon-Fri 12:00–2:15 pm, 6:00–10:15 pm, Sat:6:00pm-10:15pm , Sunday: Closed.

Address: 33 Charlotte St  London W1T 1RR, United Kingdom

Contact: Tel: +(44) 20 7813 8010

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Cuisine: Contemporary Spanish tapas.

Visit: November 2012

Price: Medium (for the quality and quite generous portions this a very good deal in central Madrid).

Mesón Cinco Jotas

Mesón Cinco Jotas is a success story of a chain of restaurants doing a great job! With branches in Madrid, Barcelona, Seville and even in the Portuguese capital Lisbon it can easily lose track of quality, but this is not the case of the Mesón Cinco Jotas in Madrid as the restaurant/tapas bar is serving excellent and innovative tapas in a modern environment in the middle of the historic part of town.

Atmosphere: Modern, fresh and casual. Sitting between a heard of colourful bulls on one side and real life-size hanging hams on the other you know that you are not dining at a vegetarian restaurant. Meat is omnipresent in most of Spanish tapas places and Mesón Cinco Jotas is not an exemption. Central location attracts many tourists, but locals blend in quite high proportion so I cannot classify it as a tourist hangout. Its casual interior suggests that dress code is not a topic to be worried about, therefore wear anything you find yourself in while browsing the labyrinth of the old town.

Salmonejo cold soup

Food: An innovative take on typical Spanish tapas. The plates are rarely simple, with the exemption of fried green peppers with crumbly smoked salt, which are a staple vegetable tapa in Spain. They make them superb here – not too oily, large in size, with more depth thanks to use of the smoked salt instead of the usual white salt. Tortilla (a thick egg omelette) with fresh bread is served before your order comes and it is hard not to eat it all as both are very good.

Fried green peppers with salt

Of course you can also have a slice of Jamon Ibérico, the hard and intense Manchego cheese and other Spanish meats and cheeses, but it is the careful experimentation with traditional dishes that they do so well here, so you must try at least one of their ‘old made new’ plates as well.

Salmonejo is an Andalusian style of cold soup made from tomatoes, bread, vinegar, garlic and oil. It is different from gazpacho since it is more thick and creamy, because of the bread. Dried Spanish Serrano ham and diced hard-boiled eggs are added as a garnish. They must have used high quality tomatoes in this soup as it tasted so smooth and elegant that if too ripe or unripe tomatoes were blended in you would recognise it on the palate. It is very filling as well, therefore ordering a lighter second and third course is a smart choice.

Morcilla: blood sausage

I went through a different way though – the stones-in-your-belly feeling after your lunch requiring a long siesta dining style. I could not resist trying Morcilla, the Spanish take on a slightly spicy blood sausage. A great risk paid off. The Morcilla served on a red pepper puree, full moon-shaped potatoes and topped with a green olive cream dollop was superb! One of the best I have ever had. The ingredients freshened it up and calmed the racy flavours of the blood sausage so each bite fashioned almost a yin-yang taste of harmony.

My friend got Grilled squids and she was also impressed by her choice. Gently grilled, not burned or undercooked, sharing a plate with a vegetable ratatouille and the squids’ own black ink sauce, the dish looked not only gastronomically seductive, but it also tasted very good as my friend confirmed.

Grilled squids tapa

Drinks: Wines by the glass or “una copa de sangria” (a glass of sangria) are an option for light drinkers. I had a glass of red wine that I did not like much so I ordered a glass of sangria that was lighter in alcohol than I am used to and therefore ideal for lunch. They have Spanish wine list that is not super extensive but covers many regions of Spain with at least one example.

Address:
Plaza de Santa Ana, 1; Madrid 28012, Spain

Contact: Tel: +(39) 915 22 63 64

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