For a truly authentic Spanish tapas bar experience this is an absolute must.
Despite being located in the heart of a very British town and plonked right near a very busy one-way system, the dark wood and patterned tiled exterior immediately transport you to a cobbled street of Mijas. This is, of course, thanks to the characterful Spanish owner, Gio, who 20 years ago, brought a taste of the Mediterranean to Croydon along with his culinary know-how and passion for excellence.
Like the outside, the large airy restaurant is rustically tiled, exuding a real sense of tradition. The walls are stocked with wine bottles and in true Castilian style, the central bar is full of diners perched on stools washing down their tapas with a cana of beer, a copa of wine or perhaps a cold fino. With helpful and jovial Spanish staff who really know their business, an owner who watches over his restaurant with pride and the smell of wonderful food emanating from the kitchen, you feel like you’ve gone back to basics and indeed, to the way it should be.
The menu is loaded with all the classics that you can’t get enough of on holiday and then crave the moment you leave to come home: gazpacho, fried calamari, patatas bravas, Spanish tortilla, Serrano ham, huge grilled prawns, meatballs, a seafood salad, baked eggs with chorizo, stuffed peppers, croquetas of cod or ham and skewers of grilled meats. But then there’s the prawns in garlic chilli and white wine (£5.50), the ubiquitous bacalao which is salted cod served in a home-made tomato sauce (£7.50), the delicate pulpo a la Gallega which consists of octopus simply boiled, sliced and sprinkled with paprika, salt and a dash of olive oil (£7.50).
Other highlights include the chargrilled lamb cutlets served pink (£2.20 each), the moreish and comforting baked aubergines with tomato and cheese (£6), the chorizo cooked in Rioja (£5.50), the simple and fresh boquerones en vinagre (£4.50), the grilled sardines with a spritz of lemon reminiscent of scorching hot summers and beach barbecues (£4.80) and then of course the mixed fried fish platter which, with a green salad, chips and a dollop of aioli, really does epitomise the greatness of this place (£6.50). A specials blackboard is a nice touch featuring whatever’s fresh and takes their fancy.
The bar is marvellously well stocked with a plethora of aperitifs, spirits, wines, beers and finos. The wine list touches on many regions of Spain and a bottle of the house wine is a steal at £13. For a particularly special bottle though, try the robust and smooth Marques de Riscal Reserva at £30.
The Last Word
It’s rather hard to fault this place; there are no pretences, no formalities, just good food accompanied by a nostalgic ambience that warms your heart.