La Gordita review: New Spanish restaurant has great food and a great vibe, Irish Times
At Las Tapas de Lola owners’ new restaurant, eating with your hands is actively encouraged. That’s my sort of place.
I’m clocked soon after I sit down in La Gordita. I thought I was in the clear, tucked away at the table inside the door, but the owners, Vanessa Murphy and Anna Cabrera, are like the living embodiments of Google. They know everyone in the room – politicians, high flyers and randomers like me, most of them seasoned diners in their sister restaurant, Las Tapas de Lola.
La Gordita is less about tapas and more about a leisurely bodega-style meal. Yes, you will find gildas, jamon and bombitas, but there’s quite the line-up if you fancy splashing out, with caviar for €65; a Carabinero prawn for €30 (which is more than you’ll pay in London’s Barrafina); and a lobster dish for €37. Main courses also include two sharing plates – rib eye on the bone (€78) and farmed seabass baked in salt (€60).
The wine list has plenty by the glass, including seven sherries. A few bottles hit in below €40 but, realistically, you’re looking at something above that, which seems to be the norm these days. It’s quite classic, with a heavy emphasis on Spain and includes cool producers such as Raúl Pérez, Bodegas Guimaro and Comando G. We go for a crisp Verdejo, Finca La Colina (€44).
It’s a long slender room, dominated by a smart bar with comfortable high stools, plus a few standard tables where we’re seated, and a high table at the back. From there you can peer through the large glass kitchen window, where head chef María Luisa Morelada and her team are at work.
A restaurant where eating with your hands is actively encouraged is my sort of place, and it is the only way to attack the pan con ajo asado (€6.95), a slice of robustly grilled sourdough and a bulb of garlic that has been roasted to sweet tenderness. It is destined to be spread on the crunchy slice, every clove popping out as the pressure is applied, leaving sticky fingers and a papery head that is begging to be sucked dry.
I adore salted anchovies and would not be one to suggest that they need any gilding, until I taste Sanfilippo anchovies on a wafer thin cracker dressed with Valdeón blue cheese butter (€17). It’s an absolute hammering of umami that lingers deliciously. The only thing that could have improved the experience is a glass of sherry, which indeed would have been good with the small plate that follows. The berenjenas fritas con miel de caña (€10) are aubergine crisps laced with sugar cane honey. They’re good, but more of a snack for sharing than a starter.
A more substantial dish from the small plates section is the tortilla vaga del día (€15). It’s an open omelette topped with chunks of Argentinian prawn which have a good crustacean flavour, served on a hot cast-iron frying pan. It’s barely set so you can let it cook further, or just tuck into it while it’s still creamy.
Pan-fried lamb sweetbreads (€12, mollejas for the Duolingo students among you) in garlic and lemon is the sort of dish you’d expect to get in La Boqueria food market in Barcelona, and here, they are tender and tasty, lifted with garlic and lemon.
I had been looking forward to the bogavante de Formentera €37, a fisherman’s special of fried lobster, with potatoes, Padrón peppers and fried eggs, but as soon as I start digging in, I realise that I have a bigger problem than the price. There is hardly any meat to speak of; it’s mostly shell and the gills are still lurking there, like an unwanted guest. At that price, at least half a lobster is the expectation.
We finish with the tarta de manzana (€12), a Spanish tarte Tatin (apologies if this is an irreverent way to describe it) which comes with a scoop of rum and raisin ice-cream.
You can’t help but compare La Gordita with its sister restaurant, Las Tapas de Lola, and indeed with Uno Mas, which has a similar menu structure. For the most part, the dishes are quite different, although prices are on a par with Uno Mas, so this is getting into special night out territory. To compete at this level, it needs a few tweaks, particularly to that €37 lobster dish which no doubt is the result of teething problems. But in terms of atmosphere, it has it all. La Gordita has a buzzy, clubby vibe and clearly, there’s a lot of love for the place.