I had been wanting to try España for the longest time. The idea of small plates dining still appeals to my small appetite…being able to experience a bunch of flavours and textures in one meal without being committed to a single entree. But what if not every dish hits the mark? Have all the good cooks moved on to their sister restaurant, The Fat Badger?
As you can tell by the title, I wasn’t exactly thrilled by our meal here. Not quite down to the level of “meh”, but not a “yay” either, so somewhere in-between: “eh”.
It was a rainy, miserable night in the West End. España is a cozy spot and can get a bit loud. But after a few glasses of wine, it just adds to the dark, festive environment. I actually didn’t drink at all this meal. Maybe I should have…
Their menu online seems fairly up-to-date, with the noticeable exception of “Spanish Style Scotch Eggs” no longer being on the menu :(. I love the scotch eggs at The Fat Badger and wanted to try España’s version. Too bad…
I got the sneaky feeling that sometimes this menu read better than it actually tasted.
The churros called out to Wicca…therefore we had to get them.
I was driving that night, so San Pellegrino would have to do. It’s actually a great palate cleanser.
Whole Fried Local Anchovies with smoked paprika aioli. At $5 it was the tastiest, best bang-for-the-buck dish of the night. Reminded us of those deep fried pregnant fish you can get at greasy spoon Hong Kong restaurants.
One of the two special features that we got that night: Duck Egg on Toast with shaved lardon. The lardons were shaved super-thin, practically melting into the duck egg. I found this underseasoned and underwhelming. I really couldn’t tell if the lardon added anything to the dish or not.
But at least it looks nice :P. The duck egg was cooked well. Lovely ingredients let down by insufficient seasoning.
Gilda (traditional basque skewer with olive, white anchovy & pickled chili). Now these were great. Classic bar snack. Kicking myself for not drinking. The pickled chilies were fantastic. Crunchy and just a bit spicy.
Sauteed Chicken Liver & Pork Belly Salad. Another standout dish. Livers cooked to a juicy medium. Cubes of crunchy, fatty pork belly (you can see one in the lower right). Would order again.
Crispy Octopus & Chorizo. Mis-printed as “crispy” on the menu, this is actually “grilled”. Too much potato, not enough chorizo. The octopus had a disappointing mushy texture. I was probably looking forward to this dish the most because it’s been ages since I had a good grilled octopus. A dud. Like Zorro wielding a rubber sword.
Patatas Bravas. Probably one of the most famous Spanish tapas dishes around. This was my first time having patatas bravas, but I was expecting something more…crispy? Fried potatoes doused in sauce, so all the crispiness is lost. Saving grace was the aioli, but then it just reminded me of sour cream and potatoes. Fellow blogger liked these a lot though, so ymmv.
Second special feature of the night: Beef Heart on fingerling potatoes and carmelized onions (thanks Moyenchow!). By this point of the evening we were getting potatoed-out. The beef heart was cooked well, but like the duck egg dish, tasted indistinct and was unmemorable.
Crispy Pork Belly with white beans and romesco sauce on top. Really difficult dish to portion out and share. Pork was cooked well enough, with crunchy crackling, but I got more than a few forkfuls of hard, chalky beans. We’ve had much much better roast pork belly at their sister restaurant, The Fat Badger.
Churros with “rich, thick hot chocolate” and “housemade yoghurt & dulce de leche”.
Dulce de leche underneath the yogurt, so you had to dip deep.
Really disappointing stale, dried-out churro. Gag.
The flan had that jiggly, wobbly texture. Smooth and delicious. Wicca was happy with this one.
If we could’ve gone back and edited out the disappointing dishes, this would’ve been quite a good meal. But this is real life, and you can’t un-order something. It kinda hurts even more, having to pay tapas-level prices for a crapshoot. España may have been a great restaurant at one point, but things seem to have slipped.