My family rarely used to eat tapas when I was growing up. While we often went on holiday to Spanish countries, but we would normally order big dishes, such as paella. I think this is largely because my Dad, in a ‘Joey from Friends’ manner, didn’t like to ‘share food’! However tapas really seems to have taken off recently in London and funnily enough, I read an article in the Evening Standard a couple of days ago which said the reason for this is because Londoners have finally learned how to share! Quite sad that apparently we didn’t know how to before, but there you go.
One of the chefs who kicked off this foodie revolution is Omar Allibhoy who couldn’t understand why Spanish food wasn’t as popular as other types of cuisine in London, such as Indian and Chinese. Numerous restaurant openings later, television appearances and a book, Omar is certainly trailblazing for Spanish cooking in the capital.
Last week I tried out his aptly named ‘Tapas Revolution’ in Shoreditch and although I was looking forward to it, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. Looking at the menu online, the prices looked very reasonable, so I wondered what the quality of the food would be like. I’ve had bad experiences with tapas in the UK before, where the flavours have been fairly bland and yet you seem to end up paying a fortune.
Ceri joined me and upon arrival, we stuck into some absolutely enormous Gin and Tonics. The first one was Gin Mare & Fever-Tree Mediterranean tonic, served with basil and rosemary. Here’s Ceri and her infamous ‘gin cup’ – she hates me taking her photo but that’s silly, because as you can see, she’s an absolute beaut!!
The menu at Tapas Revolution is separated into Hams & Cheese, Meats, Vegetables and Fish, as well as bigger paella dishes. As much as I love paella, we thought it would be a bit more fun to try lots of smaller dishes, so we ordered two from each main ‘section’…
Queso manchego: Castillian ewe’s milk semi-cured cheese
This was rich and gorgeous, I could have eaten a lot more of it. I’ve previously only had queso in melted form as a dip, so it was nice to try it like this and it complemented the meats well.
Ibérico mixto: mixed board of jamón and chorizo ibéricos
These were very tasty, especially the jamón. You can’t beat proper Spanish jamón – every time I went on a business trip to Spain, I had to bring some back. On one occasion, our Spanish PR manager even brought some over to London for me!
Albóndigas en salsa: beef meatballs in a white wine and tomato sauce
These were lovely and just melted in your mouth. The sauce was rich and full of flavour, I had to resist the urge to dunk my bread into it!
Torreznos fritos: crispy pork belly with a mix of mojos verde and dulce
Overall this is probably the dish I liked least. The pork was a bit like pork scratchings and there was a bit too much sauce on top of it. Still enjoyable but not quite as much as the others.
Pimientos de Padrón: fried sweet green peppers
This dish was a big surprise for me. Ceri’s sister is a big fan of Omar and his cooking, and these were her recommendation. As you might know, I’ll always go for meat or cheese over vegetables, but I’m so glad we ordered these. They were sweet, salty and delicious!
Croquetas de piquillos e Idiazábal: sweet piquillo pepper and smoked cheese bechamel croquettes
These were exactly how you would expect and tasted great – the bechamel was rich and moreish!
Atún con mojo verde: tuna carpaccio with coriander and mango dressing
I really enjoyed this, although it seemed a little bit out of place compared to the other dishes, but I’m not sure why. It felt a bit more like an Asian dish rather than Spanish, but still a welcome course in our tapas experience!
Gambas a la plancha: peeled large pink prawns cooked on the griddle
Some of the biggest prawns I’ve had in London for a little while, these were fab.
We also later moved onto a different Gin & Tonic, the Nordes Gin & Fever-Tree Mediterranean tonic, served with mint and ginger.
So overall, I was very impressed with the quality and taste of the food. The decor of the restaurant was also fitting with the Spanish theme and if you weren’t looking out onto Bethnal Green Road (and if it was a little warmer!) you could certainly think you were in Spain. I noticed that even the tiny details, such as the soap and dispensers in the bathrooms were Spanish!
But perhaps most importantly, the waiters were Spanish and many of the guests were too, which I think is always a good sign. If natives of the country where the cuisine is from are there, it must be authentic, and it must be good!
And what’s especially great about a tapas restaurant like this is that there are so many dishes on the menu, it’s impossible to get through them all in one meal (unless you’re particularly rich and hungry!!) So every time you go back, you can try something completely different!
If you happen to be around this Bank Holiday weekend, the restaurant is hosting a ‘summer fiesta’ between 6pm and 9pm on Friday 28th and Saturday 29th August, with festivities led by Omar himself. As well as the regular Tapas Revolution menu, visitors will be treated to a giant version of Omar’s internationally-renowned Paella, cooked al fresco on the terrace, and entertainment in the form of traditional Spanish flamenco dancers and fiesta DJ’s, accompanied by Spanish craft ales, wines or, of course, a jug of fresh Sangria!
I was invited to review Tapas Revolution by Neil Reading PR and Tapas Revolution but did not receive any payment. All views are my own.