Just another little terrace in Lavapies’s Calle Argumosa, but this turned out to be much better than we expected; we opted for the ‘Menú Nirvana’ (22€ total for two people, surprisingly excluding drinks) and got three starters, one of which was a sizzling chicken tikka. The prawn pakoras were smooth and mellow, the vegetable rolls soft and crispy, and the main course curries passable. Dishes were made spicier by the inclusion of finely chopped fresh green chillies – just the way they should be. The highlight was the homemade chilli sauce – a peppy masala base that warmed the bones in the unseasonable cold breeze of Madrid in late May. But the interior is the shabbiest, most depressing space I’ve sat in for a long time; so there was no choice but to sit on the pavement, and we wouldn’t have had it any other way.
We were excited about the prospect of mango kulfi for dessert, but instead got some over-frozen fragments from the freezer; their gulab jamun was also disappointing. And we had to pay extra for those drinks.
Didn’t really think too much of this one. It certainly is bustly, quick, efficient, and with a continuous history of serving Madrileños for many years, trailblazing and such, but it may have lost some of its charm in recent years. The unagi on rice is light and tasty, but all other dishes were bland and lifeless. On the practical side, it’s not pricey, nor is it particularly good value either.
One vegan choice on a menu does not a vegan restaurant make, though many places in Spain like to market themselves as such, or ‘vegetarian’ when a few of the choices are non-meaty; the fact is that not offering meat on your menu in Spain is a recipe for financial disaster, and only a few brave establishments in the very big cities have dared to do so, such as Biotika in Madrid (see review). Bicoca is as regular an arty restaurant as the next young trendy place in Santiago and I even wondered where I heard the label ‘vegan’ about it when I saw its menu.
The kitchen needs a helping hand, and having a single barman/waiter for 25 covers is stretching it a bit, but this was probably due to it being a public holiday when we went. The tagliatelle was fresh and tasty, but extremely simple and inexcusably long to prepare – it actually arrived nearly ten minutes after the other main course, a dense goats cheese burger in wholewheat artisanal bread with exactly eight thick fries. The chocolate fondant dessert was good, and service, when the waiter wasn’t running from pillar to post, extremely friendly.
Santiago old city centre
Tinta Fina knows exactly how to do upscale meals at great value: exceptionally professional service, highest-quality ingredients and a wonderful range of dishes, all beautifully presented in a buzzy ambience with slick, shiny decor.
We tried some seafood, some strips of steak, soups and arroz de bogavante. We even came back about twelve hours later for lunch on the terrace. Desserts are great, and the choice of wine is extensive. It’s a little less than semi-formal at night in the upstairs dining area, but otherwise it wears its class very lightly.
Granada, next to El Corte Ingles
So good we came here three times within 15 hours! We ate a late dinner, a brunch and a set lunch and the service, decor and high standards of the food make it one of the best places we’ve ever eaten in Spain. The platter of Galician cheeses comes with a quincey sauce, the potato wedges with a robust ali-oli, and the superb tortilla with a balsamic reduction that complements the caramelised onion filling perfectly. The burger filled with goats cheese, the large salads and the fresh fish were the highlights; even the coffee – fairtrade Medalla de Oro – is delicious.
The fresh carrot cake with perfectly balanced icing, studded with spiky orange rind, was exceptional, and the cheesecake was surprisingly good too. Almost everything is homemade.
There are three spaces: the hip’n’homely large room with leather sofas and exposed brick’n’stone, the long bar area with a selection of small tables, and a tiny terrace set in from the pedestrian street; you’ll get uber-friendly service and great wines, hearty meals and all-round wholesome heart-warming goodness.
Santiago de Compostela old city, Galicia.