Spanish Flavours to savour at Lola’s sophisticated big sister, Independent

It’s been — er — at least a month since a restaurant opening was as hotly anticipated as La Gordita’s

La Gordita by Steve Humphreys

which had been tantalising its followers with social media updates of its agonisingly slow (courtesy of some surprises' during the building process) progress from conception to birth. Located in what was Gerry's on Montague Street, it's a sibling, a more sophisticated older sister. to the popular Las Tapas de Lola around the corner on Camden Street.

We are three, so we've booked to sit at a table rather than up at the counter, which, for me, works best for solo diners and twos. The welcome from co-owner Vanessa Murphy is effusive; I'm relieved to see everyone - not just the critic - who comes through the door gets the same warm reception. Running the floor is Darren Campbell, whom you may recognise from his time at Chapter One and The Greenhouse. Sitting at one of the seats by the low counter that runs along the wall, which is kept for walk-ins, is a man in a distinctive floral shirt: none other than Ireland's very own celebrity architect. Hugh Wallace. To the back are a few high tables with a view into the kitchen.

First things first, this is a handsome room with a menu offering something a little different, albeit at prices that may elicit a sharp intake of breath. So, much though we'd like to try the caviar with potato chips and crème fraiche (€65) from the pica pica* (nibbles) section of the menu. and the carabinero prawns (€30) from the 'entrantes (small plates), we hold back.

We begin instead with gilds and sublime anchoas de Santona - premium hand-filleted anchovies which Maria Luisa Moraleda's kitchen serves atop cold slivers of Valdeón blue cheese butter on a crisp base, an exquisite combination. Mojama - cured almadraba tuna from Cadiz. sweet and dense - with almonds is simple and delicious, while hunks of glistening toasted sourdough bread come with whole bulbs of slow roasted garlic to be squeezed out, a messy business but a tastvone.

Each of the dishes so far is from the 'pica pica' selection, and doesn't count toward the minimum order requirement of a main course and another dish per person despite, for instance, a price tag of €17 for those anchovies. This is the kind of rule that more restaurants have started to introduce and, while I understand the rationale - no restaurateur can afford to have people lingering for hours over a couple of starters and tap water-  its also annoying for the customer, and explains the increasing popularity of casual wine bars such as the nearby Frank; on Camden Street, now in the hands of Katie Sewell and David Bradshaw, where vou can tailor your experience to suit both appetite and wallet.

One of the big restaurant suppliers must have started to bring in sweetbreads because they are suddenly on every menu, almost as ubiquitous as croquettes, Here, the mollejas are panfried with garlic and have a nice crust: a spritz of lemon brightens the liver like flavour. Our other starter is an open omelette teetering nicelv on the brink between solid and liquid, topped with prawns, garlic and herbs.

A friend who ate here a couple of weeks before regretted not ordering the lamb ribs, and the slender chops, with plenty of fat, on a bed of finely sliced potatoes are. for us, the winner in the main course stakes, though grilled octopus with romesco and potato purée is a well-executed classic.

We push the boat out with the bogavante de Formentera described as a fishermen's dish of fried eggs with more of those finely sliced potatoes, Padrón peppers and fried lobster, the idea being to break the yolks and mix things around, effectively using the eggs as sauce. It's beautifully presented, but the lobster is a €37 disappointment as it turns out to be mainlv shell and very little meat, and what's there is woollv and overcooked.

We finish with an upside down apple tart with rum and raisin ice cream, and torrejas, an almond milk-soaked bread pudding with almond cream, both of which are rather good.

We struggle to find a Spanish red below 14pc ABV andend up with the excellent but definitely not Spanish Pittnauer Zweigelt (12 5pc ABV, €52). 1 understand the challenges of climate change for winemakers, but there are attractive lower-alcohol Spanish wines available and I'd like to see some of those on the list at La Gordita. Our bill for three, with sparkling water and two bottles of wine comes to €304.60 before tip. La Gordita is a friendly, tasty spot and I'll be happy to return.