Spanish in Shoreditch – Tapas Revolution:
I first met Omar Allibhoy at an Olives from Spain event. He was up on stage cooking – with a faulty induction hob and a very short period of time to demonstrate Spanish Cuisine. Cheerful in the face of adversity, he produced delicious dishes which were scoffed in an instance. Since then I’ve been to the Westfield Tapas Revolution a few times, but never ventured out to his newest and coolest bar, Tapas Revolution in hip Shoreditch. It’s almost reverse engineering. I can’t think of anywhere LESS hip than a shopping centre – and even if it’s been around for a while now, Shoreditch is still regarded as one of London’s happening places. So, curious to see if it would work, I headed along there with a friend who spends a lot of time in Spain and knows rather more than me about Spanish food and wine.
One thing I do know is that I love a glass of cava. And, Spanish chorizo, olives and other nibbles
My friend went for ‘Gin Tonic’ instead, picking the Nordes Gin served with Fever-Tree Mediterranean tonic. with a garnish of mint and ginger. The gin comes from Galicia and is made from a grape distillate enhanced with twelve distillates, including ginger and mint. I almost regretted ordering the cava. I hadn’t realised that Gin was so important in Spain, but here there are five Spanish gins, all served with Fever-Tree and each with their own garnish to enhance the botanicals.
We ordered a range of classic and more unusual dishes. And, a bottle of Spanish rose, Libido Rosado Garnacha which is priced at £28. The wine list starts at £16.95 for both red and white wine – and most wines are available by the glass, 500ml carafe or bottle. There’s also a good selection of Spanish artisan beers, a few cocktails and a short list of sherries.
For me, no tapas evening is complete without patatas bravas and pimientos de padron. The peppers were first to arrive, beautifully charred and dressed with just a bit of salt and oil. I have been known to sit and just eat these all night.
Next to arrive, the calamares, came with a relatively mild alioli. Piping hot, with a beautifully crisp crumb exterior, the squid was tender and delicious.
A generous portion of patatas bravas came topped with a spicy tomato sauce and more alioli. Alongside it, we had a dish of Torreznos fritos, described as crispy pork belly with a mix of mojos verde ( which turned out to be a green coriander, garlic and vinegar dressing) and dulce (a sweet and spicy dressing). Something I’ve never tried before, the meat was tender and succulent with crisped fat. The dressings a perfect complement for an unusual dish.
Atun con mojo verde was a tuna carpaccio. The tuna was cut relatively thickly, but was fresh enough to work perfectly well served almost like a sashimi with mango and fresh coriander as a garnish.
Of course the highlight was a plate of Jamon iberico de bellota Joselito. My friend looked sternly at me as I tucked in.
You mustn’t chew it. Put a piece in your mouth and let the fat melt for a bit. THEN you can eat it.
I’m not sure whether it was just a strategy to stop me eating the lot FAR too quickly, but it worked and opened up a whole new sweet and aromatic flavour profile. A bit like wine tasting I suppose
Certainly the young lady carving the ham in the kitchen was taking it all very seriously.
A plate of carpaccio de ternera, seasons slices of 45 day dry-aged rib eye from 8 yr old Basque cows was so full of flavour it might almost have been a mild cure but for the tender, moist flesh.
Unbelievably after all of that we did indulge in a couple of desserts. Torrijas which was a kind of brioche filled with cinnamon custard and a pot of chocolate mousse with caramel and brownie. Both delicious and neither actually necessary.
I’m sad in some ways that we didn’t have space for paella or for ‘buncadillo’ – spanish burgers filled with all sorts of interesting ideas (how about black pudding, roasted peppers and fried egg – or chorizo with rocket and honey sauce). But then, I suspect I’ll be dragging my friends along to East London very soon to try some more!
This is a grown up Tapas Revolution, with some of the old favourites you’ll find in Westfield but with some serious and innovative new tapas. The top end of the Jamon range is just a little more expensive and there are dishes that perhaps wouldn’t work in the bar at Westfield but which, in Shoreditch do just push the boundaries a little. The pricing on a like for like basis remains much the same. Omar has embraced his new location and I hope the restaurant is as much of a success as it deserves to be.