BY PALOMA LACY
I had thought that London’s love affair with Spanish food had died decades ago.
Long gone are the days when you could easily pop out locally for tapas. In fact, certainly in South London, near neighbour Portugal largely seems to have replaced the local appetite for Iberian fodder.
With this in mind, I popped along to Brindisa London Bridge to remind myself what I’d been missing.
Not to be confused with the Brindisa shop inside Borough Market, the restaurant just outside was a hive of activity.
Lots of small, tightly-packed-in tables, I guess designed for quick turnaround, enabling the restaurant to satisfy a greater number of hungry stomachs.
I met a friend on crutches for lunch so a corner spot, with enough room for her to eat one-handed, suited us perfectly.
The crowd is mixed, office workers dominate but Borough Market tourists, no doubt pleased to have found seated dining away from the crowds are also out in force.
Tapas is high-quality fast food, cooked from scratch and served in starter size portions so delicious that the contents of the plates disappear almost as fast as they’re served. What’s not to love?
It’s fast and furious in style and always exciting to see so many plates tumbling out the kitchen. The recommendation is normally three tapas per person but ordering more to arrive in a timely fashion with the rest is not an issue.
I wouldn’t usually think of Spanish food as particularly veggie friendly but the menu is full of dishes to satisfy those avoiding meat, such as roasted pumpkin and carrots, cavolo nero, goats’ cheese, seeds and chestnut dressing (£6.50).
My friend wanted to go light and order a salad, so escalivada (£5.50) fit the bill rather nicely. Roast aubergines, peppers, onions and black olive dressing, was both fresh and zesty.
We went on to share a few bites, including Iberico ham croquettes, always an absolute pleasure, with a wickedly decadent melt-in-the-middle centre, encased in a crisp breadcrumb casing.
Raphael Báez’s fried goats’ cheese, orange blossom honey and beetroot crisps (£7.95) was a complete surprise in its presentation and taste, elevating it completely beyond a piece of cheese, with sweet and faintly sour notes that meld together to create a taste sensation.
Next up was chargrilled chorizo sourdough toast, piquillo pepper and rocket (£8.50), a wondrous mix of sweet and spicy flavours, that sit brilliantly on bread simply made to soak up all the deliciously rich oil.
Every dish was worth ordering but my favourite was prawns, chilli, garlic and olive oil, which could be eaten just with a few slices of bread as an ideal lunch (£9.75).
First, start with juicy and sweet prawns and then polish off the chilli-infused oil with the accompanying bread.
Best of all at Brindisa is that menu goes so much further beyond the expected tapas dishes we all remember. Tortilla, patatas bravas and the likes are there but with so many more interesting options to choose from, we overlooked them.
Who knows, next time might be a moment for a whiff of nostalgia.
Paloma was a guest of Brindisa, Borough Market, 18-20 Southwark St, London SE1 1TJ.