Monday, January 07, 2008

Bad Tapas

After so much hardcore partying over the festive season, I was quite relieved when Jo decided to opt for the more civilised option of a sit down meal for her birthday celebrations at the weekend. Her first choice - the wonderfully rustic Casa Don Carlos in the Lanes - was fully booked, so she’d taken a chance on Pinxto People, a swish-looking upmarket tapas place on Western Road. Intrigued by its modern take on traditional Spanish food, and impressed with the stylish décor, we were keen to sample the fayre. Sadly it seemed that the staff were not so eager to satisfy our expectations, and were officious to the point of rudeness from the outset. Challenging our ability to choose our own dishes and trying to pressure us into accepting their own selection (at a suggested £40 a head) our waiter immediately put our collective backs up – perhaps not realising what a feisty bunch of discerning foodies he was dealing with. His second mistake was in withholding our wine until seeing fit to refill our glasses – a situation we soon rectified in an amusing covert operation that involved whisking the bottle from a neighbouring table when no one was looking, and stashing it under the table. All very entertaining, but not necessarily what one would expect to occur during a supposedly slap-up meal. When our food finally arrived, there was a general disbelief at the size of portions, bearing in mind that most of the meat dishes came in at around £12.

Style over substance

My veggie options were limited (admittedly more so by my ongoing dental problems), and my chosen ‘Txick (get it?) peas and fake txorizo (groan) with goat cheese’ resembled nothing more than a tin of chick peas poured onto a plate and vaguely seasoned, with a tiny blob of cheese at each corner - and tasted just as disappointing. The others were generally unimpressed with their meat and fish choices, which were on the whole a classic case of style over substance. I am not against the idea of experimental cuisine in principle, but it can be tricky to pull off, especially with something as traditionally comforting as tapas. Give me the rustic dishes and cheerful staff at Casa Don Carlos or La Tapa De Oro (previously Ipanema) any day. Minimalist tapas just doesn’t work. Post dinner cocktails at Koba across the road helped raise everyone’s spirits after such an unsatisfactory dining experience, and the company at least was consistently excellent all night.
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