Georgette McCready visits a sunny corner of Spain at the latest restaurant to open in
Southgate, Tapas Revolution
The first time I realised that sherry was a drink you could actually enjoy was some summers ago when we decided to escape the crowds of Marbella and drove up into the hills, where we came across a little roadside bar which served us a bowl of plump green olives alongside bone dry, chilled sherry in small wine glasses. It was absolutely delicious and very far removed from the sweet, sticky stuff my ma-in-law used to keep in her Ercol sideboard.
And so the dishes at Tapas Revolution, the new chico on the block at Southgate, are as delightfully far removed from the tired old tapas chains we had grown used to as that sherry we tasted on a Spanish mountainside was to the lukewarm schooner in Sussex. It’s clear that Madrid born chef Omar Allibhoy, who founded Tapas Revolution, first in London, is determined to do his nation proud when it comes to serving simple ingredients, freshly prepared, in his restaurants.
We called in on a mid-week evening and the place was buzzing. The decor is modern Spanish, with wooden tables, ornate tiles and a soundtrack of cheerful pop. There’s a terrace, from where you can sit and watch the world or take a table inside where there’s plenty of room for all kinds of people. There were students enjoying a beer (all the beers are Spanish, naturally), along with couples of varying ages and several tables of big, convivial parties enjoying a night out. There’s a nice relaxed vibe but this is combined with speedy, efficient and very friendly service.
Our waiter Liam is one of the few staff who isn’t Spanish, but this actor/theatre director has clearly done his homework on his brand and was both helpful and knowledgable about how the dishes were prepared. If you haven’t tried the tapas style of choosing small plates of food, which arrive at the table in random order, don’t worry – no one is going to judge how many dishes you eat, whether you stick your fork into a shared plate or pick things up with your fingers to get thoroughly stuck in.
We enjoy sharing plates, it gives us the chance to chat about what we’re eating, divide things between us and politely squabble over who’s going to eat the last, still sizzling garlicky prawn. We found five dishes between two of us – washed down by a pleasantly spicy bottle of Tempranillo (£16.95) – was just right for the pair of us, but with 29 different dishes to choose from – ranging from a simple bread with fresh tomato and olive oil (£1.95) through fish, meat and veggie dishes (all clearly labelled on the menu) – your curiosity may lead you to order more as you go along. If you really can’t decided what to choose, you can always opt for a set menu of small plates for two, at £24 or £28.
Do try the boquerones, even if you think you don’t like anchovies. These are nothing like those hairy, salty little beasts you get in a supermarket jar. They’re white anchovies, filleted and served chilled in olive oil, garlic and parsley, softened with a cider reduction. I promise you, you will be mopping up the last of the juice with a hunk of pan con tomate. The other dishes we enjoyed were a pan of huevos rotos, eggs mixed with potato, prawn and chorizo, gambas al ajillo and the classic patatas bravas, which were crisp, perfectly cooked inside, very hot and with just the right amount of spicy warmth. Another dish that in less capable hands, has all too often been rendered flabby or greasy.
We talked to Liam about the ingredients, who explained that Omar likes to choose the best for his kitchens, which is why the chorizo we enjoyed tastes better than the supermarket variety. He also prefers to bake or roast dishes where possible as this makes the food less greasy but retains its flavour.
Another time we might try an authentic paella, made to order, from £24 for two.
Tapas Revolution is good value. You don’t have the pressure of conforming to starter, mains and pudding (although I did try the Spanish take on crême brulée, crema Catalana, which was creamy, sweet with a hint of vanilla). Instead, choose what suits your budget and taste. You could, for instance, come for a pint of artisan beer and a small plate of tortilla de patates and come out with change from a tenner.
There’s also a mid-week lunch menu at £7.50 and Tapas Revolution even serves breakfast – by which I’m guessing they don’t mean the classic Brit on the Costas brekkie of a pint of lager . . . but whatever time you call in, that holiday feeling is infectious.