Flying The Flag For Spanish Food At La Mancha
Penny Flood enjoyed the tapas and flamenco music
It’s a strange thing about Spanish cooking that although the concept of tapas has been adopted by restaurants of all nationalities to the point of ubiquity, everybody does tapas (except perhaps the Greeks and Turks as they already had their own small plates in the form of mezze), you don’t see many Spanish restaurants.
It’s a cuisine that has never hit the giddy heights of popularity of other cuisines. Nowhere more so than in Chiswick, where we have three Persian restaurants, two Vietnamese, and any number of Italians, there’s only one flying the flag for Spain, so hola La Mancha!
As a bonus, in a High Road that is being colonised by the chains, La Mancha is an independent. It relocated to Chiswick from Putney about two years ago and it’s proving popular. It says a lot that even on the worst night of the month people were prepared to come out to eat there.
That was the night we chose to go, which was lucky because that night there was live music with the guest appearance of Mario Basilisco, a classical flamenco guitarist.
La Mancha is first and foremost a tapas restaurant serving the unpretentious regional dishes that have sustained Andalucía for centuries. There’s a big menu but don’t be fooled by the name, tapas means small dishes and there’s nothing small about the portions. They are generous and it’s easy to over order.
We started with rebanada de pan con tomate, four slices of white bread soaked in garlicky tomato juices. It was warm and very tasty, something to nibble on while we browsed the menu, I haven’t described it well as it was much better than it sounds.
This was followed by sautéed and salty hot peppers from Galicia, which I absolutely loved; tortilla (naturally); spinach croquettes with pine nuts, another dish that was more delicious than it sounds; skewers of char-grilled chicken in a sweet piquant sauce; patatas bravas and mixed vegetables. I actually meant to get mixed salad but I didn’t read the menu properly, my Spanish is rusty and I forgot that verduras are vegetables. It didn’t matter, the veg were lightly steamed, and I like them that way. They were accompanied by yummy slices of baby potatoes fried in olive oil, which acted as a counterbalance to the low calories in the vegetables.
When eating Spanish, the touchstone for me is the tortilla, it’s the classic tapas dish and has to be right, happily this passed with flying colours, good and eggy. I have to say though that our eyes were bigger than our tummies and we couldn’t finish it so we got a doggy bag.
The chicken skewers were polished off and declared succulent.
The only disappointment was the patatas bravas. They were perfectly fried cubes of potato with a spicy sauce but it wasn’t spicy enough for us. We like our patatas seriously bravas, hot enough to make our eyes water and these didn’t hack it, which was a pity because everything else was right.
Meat and fish eaters do well here with a plethora of ham and chorizo and sausages and even pork spare ribs, alongside prawns, sardines, mussels octopus, squid and more cooked every which Spanish way. Not such a big choice for vegetarians (something we’re used to) but enough so that I didn’t feel deprived but dishes of chickpeas and aubergine without any meat or fish would have been welcome.
As well as tapas there’s a selection of paellas, but be warned, if you want the full Monty signature dish with fish, shellfish, pork and chicken there’s a 30 to 40 minute cooking time, as it’s freshly cooked.
There’s a short dessert menu, with the three Spanish classics: flan, the custard tart thing they do; tarta de Santiago de Compostela, almond cake served with Amaretto sauce and ice cream; and churros with chocolate sauce. Churros are delicious but after all we’d eaten they were out of the question, so we shared a portion of almond cake. It was light and almondy and lovely.
Other choices on the dessert menu were Spanish cheesecake, banoffee pie and a selection of posh ice creams, the poshest of which was tartufo nero which comes with zabaglione, crushed hazel nuts and chocolate sauce.
Prices are very reasonable and our meal, which included two glasses of Cava and a St Miguel beer, came to just over £59 which included a 12.5 % service charge. It’s good value for money in a restaurant with a choice to please even the fussiest eater
May 21, 2015