January 24th, 2011
Café España is a small, Spanish restaurant in the heart of Soho. I read a good review in Time Out, about ten years ago and have been going there regularly ever since. I met Oli and Tony there for tapas and we were warmly greeted with handshakes and complimentary glasses of cava. There are a quite a few Spanish restaurants in London which serve tapas, but most are nearly twice the price and nowhere near as friendly.
According to Keith Floyd, the tapa originated as a piece of dry bread, used to cover your wine glass in order to stop flies getting into your drink. Over the centuries tapas have evolved and become little snacks to have as pre-supper appetisers with a drink in a bar. Traditionally tapas were free, many of them being salty in order to promote thirst and encourage bar customers to buy more drinks. One doesn’t normally have a range of tapas for dinner in Spain, but there are so many delicious things to choose from that they do make a very good meal.
For me, the best tapa of the evening, was boquerones fritos (tiny deep fried anchovies), but we also, thoroughly enjoyed, chorizo al vino (slices of chorizo cooked in wine), pan con tomate (slices of bread rubbed with tomato, garlic and olive oil), pollo al ajillo (chicken cooked with garlic), pulpitos a la plancha (gridled baby octopus with lemon), pulpo á Galega (octopus boiled, then sliced and sprinkled with paprika), Queso Manchego (sheep’s cheese from la Mancha), riñones al Jerez (kidneys cooked in sherry) and tortilla Español (Spanish omelette). We had side orders of Allioli (similar to mayonnaise, but made with crushed garlic and beaten olive oil) and salsa brava (a chilli enhanced, tomato sauce) to accompany the tapas.
We are really spoiled in Café España, they usually give us brandy to go with out coffee, sometimes an almond liquor and last time they left the brandy bottle on the table for us to help ourselves! We weren’t spoiled like that the very first time we went there, but they definitely look after their regular customers.
Café España is at 63 Old Compton Street, W1D 6HT (the Wardour Street end). It can get very busy and doesn’t do telephone bookings, however, you can pop in an hour or so before you want to eat and they will save a table for you. We had two bottles of rosado (Spanish for rosé), with our food and paid about £25 each, including a tip, so I’d describe the price as quite reasonable.