It’s a brave person who opens a restaurant, but opening two in the middle of a global pandemic is to be greatly admired.
When I first visited The Tapas Room in Deptford a decade ago, the joy derived from a glorious lunch, was tempered by the realisation that I’d be unlikely to visit again.
I wished for an independent restaurant to become a small chain and open one nearer to where I live.
A few months ago, it did just that, and The Tapas Room, Brixton was born.
This expansive mood has continued, and a Tooting restaurant has been added, so there are now two equidistant from my home. Who says dreams don’t come true?
I’ve reflected upon my first experience and why the food was so good, and have concluded that that period was something of a lull in Spanish cuisine.
Gone were the local high street restaurants so familiar and popular in my childhood. There have always been good tapas restaurants in the centre of town, but in the local neighbourhoods, this had been lacking for some time. The Tapas Room has changed this.
Now located in Brixton Village, I’ll get my one criticism out of the way quickly.
While I appreciate that dining often takes place about two feet in the air, sat on a bar stool in tapas bars the length and breadth of the Iberian Peninsula, I’m not a fan of it.
I prefer to eat sat at a normal table and chairs, with my feet firmly on the ground.
Tapas remains the very best social dining experience. It’s a chance to try several different dishes and discuss which you like best as you go.
We began with a selection of recommended dishes, which was good, because they were nearly all not necessarily those I would have chosen, without this gentle steer.
Boquerones, piquillo peppers and lemon oil (£5) or fresh anchovies are a totally different proposition to the jarred kind everyone buys to stick on a pizza or a Caesar Salad.
These weren’t salty but fresh, meaty and with the citrus element, almost palate cleansing.
One portion wasn’t enough and, together with bread, could have made a meal all on its own.
It’s been a good few years since I’ve eaten tapas down in the harbour at Barcelona, but from memory, this is the real deal.
Cod croquettas (£5) is a staple for me, I can rarely bypass this on a menu and I’m so pleased I didn’t. These were well seasoned, compact, and rather filling.
From here on it, I was pushed beyond my usual choices. Confit pancetta with chickpea puree and priparra chill (£7) was a surprise, given this was my first time trying pork cooked this way.
The process well and truly enhanced the meat’s smoky nature and tenderness.
Fried fennel with white beans, saffron and thyme was a good veggie option, but equally would have lent itself to inclusion of chorizo.
There’s something about the combination of this sausage and beans that works so well.
Last up was chilled octopus and tomato salad with citrus salsa and a sherry glaze – a nice change to have this fish served cold, and I loved the glaze.
There seemed no more appropriate way to end this meal than with churros – piping hot doughnuts with chocolate dipping sauce.
This was definitely the right way to go.
Unit 52, Brixton Village, Coldharbour Lane, Brixton, London SW9 8PS.
Pictured top: Some of the food on offer at The Tapas Room
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