Yesterday, I went on an outing with friends (and fellow bloggers), La Chica Andaluza and Cecilia. I discussed where to go with La Chica Andaluza a couple of weeks beforehand we decided on a Spanish themed day. That week, Time Out gave rave reviews to a new paella place in Hatton Garden called Oh’Lola. When I was buying my bread at the St. John (late that week), I went to have a look – I could see a paella and an arroz negro cooking inside and the fantastic smell of Spain had me convinced that it was worth a visit.
But, I’m getting ahead of myself. A true Spanish outing should include a visit to a bar for an aperitif of vermut or sherry before lunch. I’d arranged a rendezvous with Cecilia at the Angel, so it seemed like a good idea for us to meet La Chica Andaluza en route to Oh’Lola, at Morito in Exmouth Market. Here we were guaranteed to find a good selection of Spanish drinks.
We all ordered the same – El Bandarra vermut from Alt Penedès in Cataluña. Vermut, more commonly known as vermouth here, is an aromatised, fortified wine, originally used for medicinal purposes, especially stomach disorders. Many of these medicinal liquors contained wormwood and the name vermouth is the French pronunciation of the German word wermut (wormwood). Modern vermouth became popular as an aperitif in mid to late 18th century Turin and later in the 19th century as a key ingredient for many cocktails. While the popularity of cocktails has never waned, the drinking of vermouth as an aperitif fell out of fashion somewhat in the 20th century. However, there has been a vermut revival in Barcelona during the last 20 years, where old family recipes have been dusted off – many bars produce their own unique blend. Sales are booming and some bars have opened that specialise in vermut alone.
Our thirst temporarily slaked, we walked down through Clerkenwell Green and across Farringdon Road into Hatton Garden.
Once inside Oh’Lola we perused the menu on a blackboard above the counter. Oh’Lola doesn’t serve alcohol, but the extremely helpful staff suggested I go to the supermarket round the corner to buy a bottle of wine. I couldn’t find a screw top bottle of Spanish wine, but noticed a bottle of cava in the fridge (also from the Penedés) which solved the corkscrew problem. Back at Oh’Lola they cheerfully handed us some plastic cups at no extra charge.
Oh’Lola does seafood, chicken and vegetable paella on a daily basis with a special black rice (arros negro) Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Fideuà is served on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Take note celebrity chefs and supermarkets – they do not add chorizo to paella here!
In the counter top display they had some excellent looking octopus,
baby squid and calamari
and a selection of croquetas that were going fast.
We ordered: a seafood paella (for £7), which was as expected – delicious! The boxes look much smaller when photographed – the portions are quite generous.
all the croquetas that they had left! These were excellent (and great value at £1 each) – the dark ones on the right are chorizo, the middle are mushroom and on the left are bacalao.
Oh’Lola is not a big place and probably does more takeaway business than eat in. However, the food is excellent and the staff bent over backwards to be accommodating. While we were in there I noticed two giant paellas disappear and two more were on the go before we sat down to eat. This is real Spanish cooking at a reasonable price.
Opening hours, Monday to Friday 8am – 5pm.
Having finished our lunch and cava, conversation continued and we adjourned to Vinoteca in St. John Street (after a brief visit to Smithfield) for a bottle of wine. I’ve never eaten here, but they have a huge selection of wine, some of which is quite inexpensive. We enjoyed a bottle of Tempranillo for £17.50.
Not quite sated, we went to the St. John across the road, for coffee and an Armagnac. It would have been remiss of me not to take Cecilia (a breeder of Hereford pigs) to the St. John (home of nose to tail in Britain) for a brief visit. Fergus Henderson turned up, almost on cue. He’d come down from the office upstairs to grab the last sourdough loaf for his supper.
…and a jolly good day was had by all!