Tapas Delight At La Mancha
Anne Flaherty enjoyed a taste of Spain at new Chiswick eatery
Tapas are small plates of food that are served between meals and often accompanied by alcohol. Tapas originated in Spain, where according to legend, King Alfonso 10th, The Wise King of Spain, had once been stricken with a serious illness which only allowed him to take in small portions of food with small amounts of wine. After recovering from his illness, the king issued a decree that no wine should be served at inns unless it was served with food.
Tapas generally consists of small plates of food, so when I arrived at La Mancha (which has opened on the site of the former Chella) I was not expecting anything other than nibbles of nuts, olives, bits of roast meat or cheese and maybe some meatballs or bits of calamari or prawn. Not so, at La Mancha the portions of food are Large- when you order a portion of Tortilla, two enormous pieces of the potato omelette arrive on the plate. Ditto, the meats and fish dishes. So a word of warning, if you go to La Mancha, don't be too greedy and over-order enthusiastically.
The restaurant was very busy when we arrived- it was a Friday evening. The interior decor is light wood and there are burned orange and red shades of paint giving it a contemporary feel -watch out for the enormous painting of a Spanish horse on the wall see below). There are several tables for two, placed fairly close together, and some larger tables at the front and down at the rear. The positioning of the tables indicates that they are ready to be moved together to cater for groups.
Two of the waiters at La Mancha
La Mancha has a distinctly social atmosphere, which means it attracts gatherings and on the night I visited there were at least two large groups and to be honest this makes it quite noisy. In Spain, ' tapeo', the art of eating tapas, is a social gathering to drink and eat. Tapas bars are lively environments and La Mancha is no different. It is not an ideal environment for a romantic dinner a-deux.
Having said that the food was delicious and the service was switft and attentive. The proprietor Salvatore, who lives in Chiswick, has been operating a La Mancha in Putney for over twenty years. When he decided to open in Chiswick he took the staff with him, and lucky for us he decided that W4 did not need another Italian restaurant.
We ordered some olives and bread to start and they were delicious. The olives were marinated in oil and vinegar and were chunky and robust. The Pan Con Tomate V-Bread, chopped fresh tomatoes, garlic and olive oil was also a generous portion.
Next came our chosen tapas from the TAPAS CLÁSICAS menu, which start at £4.95 and average at around £7.00 each.
Tortilla Espanola -Spanish omelette (potatoes, onions, eggs) consisted of two large slices which were very filling. Then a meat dish- we chose slow-roasted crispy bellied pork, Panceta De Cerdo- two large slices of tender meat with crunchy crackling. The plate also contained pureed apple sauce and a dollop of mashed potato and carrot.
Prawns are a favourite of mine, so I had to try Langostinos A La Parilla. Plump and juicy, they came in a garlic, parsley and olive oil and they were fabulous. I saw my husband eye them greedily and allowed him to have just one! We were also encouraged to try out the Chorizo, which consisted of a plate with a plentiful portion of the sliced sausage, and since I like chorizo so much, I also opted for a stew with spinach, chickpeas, tomatoes and onions. Patatas Bravas Potatoes with a hot tomato sauce, were also ordered. As the food continued to arrive we realised that we had probably chosen too much, but it was all very nicely cooked and difficult to resist.
The restaurant also has a signature Paella, minimum two person order- this is priced at £ 13.00 for either Valenciana ( mixed shellfish and pork), or Vegetariana, or Marinara. I would consider ordering this on my next visit.
We drank a half bottle of white Spanish Rioja ( £16.50 a bottle) and some sparkling water. The wine list has a comprehensive selection of Spanish, Italian and new World wines and many are available either by the glass or half-bottle. There are cocktails and sparkling wines available also.
When the time came for dessert I wanted to forego all further temptation but was pursuaded by the waiter to try some traditional home-made Creme Caramel. There was nothing to be done but to give in gracefully and pretty soon the plate was clean. My only comment is that a little whipped cream would have added even more to the dessert. My husband had chocolate Tartufo Nero, but there are sorbets and ice creams and a very delicious-sounding Santiago de Compostela cake which is made with almonds and amaretto.
The restaurant has a special offer of 25% reduction on the total bill, Mondays all day, and Tuesday to Friday between 12 am and 5 pm. This offer applies on Sunday from 5pm and is also valid for drinks. A 12.5% optional service charge will be added to the total bill before the discount applies.
The offer is valid until the end of November. As we know, Chiswick is a very competitive lunch market. If the portions stay as generous for lunch then it should be possible for two people to have a good value meal (including service) for under £25.
We both agreed that La Mancha is Putney's loss and Chiswick's gain. A welcome addition to Chiswick High Road but hopefully not too much addition to my waistline.
October 18, 2013