Monday, November 23, 2009

Good old fashioned Spanish fare in Soho

London is hardly a food lovers paradise and after paying too much for everything in Dubai I'm not keen on a Conran cliché. So my friend Kim suggests tapas and in an attempt not to disappoint, her fiancé asks around at work for some recommendations.

When we pass by James' office Kim makes sure to cross question his colleague. He stands by Café Espana in Soho, "I've been going there for years and if you're in it for the food and the atmosphere and not the salmon coloured table cloths you will love it. The house wine is not bad either. "

There's already a small queue by the time we arrive at the tapas bar in Old Compton Street, around the corner from Picadilly Circus. We decide to squeeze inside and share a bottle of Spanish rosé while we wait. The tables are arranged cosily and plates of simple sardines, calamari, patatas bravas and bread are abundant. It's loud with laughter and typically Spanish waiters.

Soon our table is ready and we give in to what arrives at our table plentifully including the communal favourites of spanish omelette with chorizo, garlic calamari and, of course, wine. Everything is very informal and homely. Suddenly it feels like we're not in a big world city at all but somewhere at a small, even backwards town - where the waiters still laugh at everyone's drunken jokes and nobody is trying to be fanciful about the food.

I didn't know it was possible to have such a hearty budget meal right in the centre of London. How refreshing to find real old fashioned value.

Of course, if you're into perfect hygiene, up-to-the-minute service and the space to push your chair back then rather don't bother with Café Espana. The rest of us will be happy to take your seat.

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