Thursday, 15 June 2017

Viva La Revolution

By: Mr Robot

No better welcome

A couple of weeks ago we were lucky enough to get into a pre-opening night for the Bath branch of Omar Allibhoy's Tapas Revolution (the only time an email subscription has ever proved worthwhile, I might add).

Effectively a dress rehearsal for the staff, we were warned it may not be entirely perfect and in exchange given a frankly ludicrous discount, but of course given our love of all things Spanish we'd happily have paid full whack. They should have had no concerns, because it all went swimmingly and the staff couldn't have been more welcoming.

As we always do, we piled straight into the Jamon - promised genuine Bellota, I was expecting this to be excluded from the discount, but no, even that was included.

It was pretty much everything you could hope for. I've seen the odd negative comment since but honestly can't see why. Maybe it's not quite the stuff you find in the back streets of Extremadura, but that's only to be expected - they keep the best stuff to themselves. But it was clearly hand-cut (if I had to be critical, some slices were a little thick and so a touch chewy), deep, sweet and rich, and most importantly had that whiff of acorn that marks The Really Good Stuff.

Really, really good stuff

We went through a whole range of dishes with great happiness: croquettas were fat and crisp with a good ham level; a lovely salad of braised lettuce, peas and asparagus with runny egg; squid like armadillos (crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside); meatballs in a proper sauce done properly...

Through all of it the overriding sense was the absolute authenticity of the food - it took us straight back to our favourite experiences in Spain.

Not Armadillos

The meatballs in particular were exactly as our first encounter on honeymoon in Seville. That was a real moment of misty-eyed nostalgia.

Never mind the meatballs, here's the croquettas

Probably the highlight for me was bacalao (salt cod) with braised peas and sobrasada (chorizo goop) which was utterly lovely. When handled properly there's something almost magical about the way salty bacalao reacts with the other elements on the plate, and this was perfectly done.

The magic of Bacalao

The only real negative was the building. Like so many of these places (it's in the newish Southgate development), the units are multifunctional retail jobs modelled on - and with all the charm of - a warehouse.

While it's been managed well visually (I particularly liked the half-sherry-barrel lightshades) the atmosphere suffers: you don't get the cozy buzz of a busy bar, but instead it's just a bit loud and shouty.

Could be cozier

For drinks we opted to go Full Crass and have a jug of Sangria, which I'm sorry to say was more fruity than boozy (had an odd strawberry note) but I did manage some small hilarity in trying to order a bottle of Er Bocqueron beer and instead ending up with anchovies (boquerones). The waiter chastised me gently, as is only right, and it's the kind of linguistic snafu that marks every good  Spanish evening. I was very pleased to have achieved it.

Got there in the end

Being kind of snobby about these things, we're a bit suspicious of chains, expecting fakey plasticity and bland homogeneity over interesting excitement. Bath is the seventh iteration of Tapas Revolution which puts in that troubling genre: not a corporate monstrosity to be sure, but neither the romantically tiny, unique operation. That said, the similarly-sized Bistro Pierre is a favourite and even Wahaca has become a chain for goodness' sake.

Can't help suspecting that's plastic ham: 1. no little cups to catch ooze, and 2. health & safety would go MENTAL

In the same vein I'm happy to say that on our experience Tapas Revolution is not letting brand or consistency compromise quality, and long may that continue.

As a final thought, with Tapas Revolution alongside the truly outstanding Ole Tapas (shamefully yet to be written up) and as-yet-untried Pintxo, Bath now offers the prospect of a genuine tapas crawl. I sincerely hope they all find the space to accommodate casual walk-ups to make it possible.

All images (c) PP Gettins