Owned and run by passionate food enthusiast Carlos Dinapoli, it’s a grazer’s heaven, rich in Spanish food made with local ingredients. Never mind your sangria and donkeys, this is proper Spanish food, with a proper Spanish welcome.
You know those places you go into in Spain, where you can plot up at the bar with a cold beer or an eye-wateringly robust gin and snack at little plates of tapas and chat?
Where there’s a constant buzz of people coming in and out who all seem to know each other so you feel like you’re in a friendly home, and an array of trays on the countertop fridge thing rammed with anchovies, seafood tentacles in oil and olives? That’s what this is.
They do some main dishes too – the paella is to die for – but honestly, I can’t think of many nicer things than sitting up at the counter for hours, picking endlessly at beautifully crafted little plates, and drinking with friends.
[pullquote]I’m not always very good at eating tapas. By which I mean I’m actually very good at eating tapas, but not very good at pacing myself.[/pullquote]
I tear straight in, scoffing down amazing plates of little morsels without breathing much in between, thinking they’re all tiny and amazing but it’s all fine because they’re small, and then very often find myself explaining patiently to my stomach a bit later that it needs to be more accommodating. (“Put the bread and oil DOWN Sam, there is plenty of food coming.”)
In truth I shouldn’t be allowed to review places like this, I’ve got no sense of restraint; often more glutton than gourmet. It’s just that everything is so tasty, and cooked with love. How can you NOT guzzle it down in seconds?
We whiled away a good few hours up at the bar, joined by Brighton Food Festival’s Nick Mosley where we all sat idly gossiping with Carlos, and managed to work our way through an extraordinary array of foods, from the exquisite slithers of Iberico ham, to the suckling pig with bubbled crackling.
Best name for a dish has to go to the perfect ‘Seagull Fights’, which were heavenly little cuttlefish and prawn croquettes, and special mention has to go to the paella, which was so authentic I nearly leapt off my stool and shouted ‘Olé’! In fact I might have done if I hadn’t eaten so much I could hardly stand. Leaping probably not on the menu by then.
The suckling pig was astounding – the tenderest pork I’ve ever eaten, topped with light, crispy salty crackling and served with slices of quince and some soft Padron peppers. I did actually drool a bit. The potatoes in a spicy Canarian mojo sauce and the authentic morcilla brought an instant sensory recall, and even the slightly baffling Heston-sounding dessert creation made with black pudding and crème caramel was good (there is some creativity happening in that kitchen). The pudding with no name.
But as well as the excellent food, the best thing about this place is the ambience. I’d move in if I could, and nearly did. But eventually we had to slide off the stools and out into the cooling summer evening. But I’ll be back. Hasta la vista Aguadulce.
10-11 Kings Road