Margo and Paul love the South and have been living in the Algarve for decades. However they also love Spanish cuisine and share a weakness for tapas – the tapas they are served in the bodegas of Barcelona or the Barrio Santa Cruz in Seville. And because the two Brits didn’t want to have to travel to neighbouring Spain to devour the delicate “lids” (Spanish = tapa), they decided to open a tapas bar here in spring 2012. The idea has proved to be a stroke of genius, because since its opening in June the place has been “buzzing”. The concept of wine, sherry and beer combined with a multitude of hot and cold appetisers appears to be crisis-proof. You dine in a rustic feel-good atmosphere, surrounded by good wines and spicy legs of ham, dangling from the ceiling.
The walls are decorated with bottle labels and old wooden boxes in which expensive red wines were once packaged. As an appetizer Picos – Spanish bread sticks – and olives are on the table. A serving of Jamón Ibérico de Bellota is simply impossible to resist as a starter. The ham from acorn-fed pigs in Huelva’s hinterland is so tender and aromatic that it practically dissolves on the tongue. The companion to match comes from the Ribera del Duero, a Finca Villacreces Pruno 2010, boasting an intense crimson-red not dissimilar to the gourmet ham, while convincing with a wonderful fragrance, strong tannins and intense smoked and woody notes. Wine guru Robert Parker awarded this likeable red wine 94 points. For the main course you can put your faith in the good taste of Chef Paul Wheatley and choose the chef's tapas selection, nicely and clearly arranged on a rotating stand. The bacon-wrapped scallops, mushrooms in Greek vinaigrette, smoked salmon parcels with herb cream, meatballs with sweet chilli sauce, puntillitas, fried baby octopus, calamari with aioli, and pork cheeks braised in red wine make for a convincing line-up. Our tip: Finca Elez Crianza 2005 from the La Mancha region with the tapas selection; a fine a partner as Sancho Panza was to Don Quixote. As in the old saying ‘the best was saved for last’: Atteca Armas Old Vines 2000, a fine wine, dark velvet red in colour, bursting with aromas of wild berries, blackcurrant, pepper, silky tannins and a lasting finish that is compatible with both Stilton and with some slices of fine German goose breast, cooked at a low temperature for eight hours, with fruit compote or a homemade meringue tart with raspberries. Followed by a Brandy Infante Gran Reserva and a toast to hedonism.