Tapas can be found on many corners of the city centre these days, but I’d wanted to try independent Spanish joint La Rambla for more than a year after a recommendation.
On a midweek evening its long dining hall – with pictures of the homeland, a mix of old and new music, and warm staff – is near-empty but worlds cosier than its bustling Barcelona namesake.
As we’re seated a waitress lets us know without having to be asked that the “croquettes of the day” include sausage and that if we want paella, it’s an hour wait. Thankfully, we’d already decided on tapas.
As if embracing a future of gout hell, I order Chorizo al vino – spicy Spanish sausage cooked in a red wine reduction and onions (£5.50); Rollos de pollo – chicken breast rolls with bacon and cheese in a tomato, onion, raisin and brandy sauce (£5.95); and Calamares a la Andaluza - deep fried squid rings with citrus alioli (£5.25).
My more sensible partner has Champion relleno – mushrooms stuffed with seasonal veg topped with cheese and dry black olive powder (4.25); Brocheta de vegetales – char-grilled veg skewers with spicy oil (£4.25); and Spanish omelette with alioli (£3.95).We share Patatas bravas (£3.95), because it’s tapas.
Barcelona lager Estrella Damm (£4.40) and Diet Coke (£2.75) hit the spot before and during the meal.
The waiter says that each tapas dish will come as and when its ready and it’s nice to see that a place which prides itself on authentic Spanish cuisine doesn’t feel above the reassuring tendency restaurants have now of telling you how things work.
I’m later presented with a deep purple mound of chorizo, and squid spread over a stone slate. Big portions and, really, maybe the best chorizo I’ve ever had. Whoever concocted that sweet and smokey red wine reduction should bottle it up and go on Dragons’ Den.
Some people can’t stand to mix sweet and savoury. But if this doesn’t convert them, they should be fed crackers and tepid water for the rest of their days.
The squid is good and citrus alioli surprisingly creamy.
Vegetarian dishes seem to go down well apart from the mushroom. The size is a bit daunting when tummies are getting full, and was the only food to go wasted. My friend assures me it was an “exception to the rule”.
The chicken sauce’s flavours were combined beautifully.
And obviously we finish we have a cracking plate of churros (£6.25) – fried dough pastries with dark chocolate sauce.
A nice touch: on the back of the receipt the waitress wrote “gracias” and drew a smiley face. De nada!