Spanish steps, Sunday Independent

With the two ladies behind the fab Las Tapas de Lola at the helm. our critic couldn't wait to try new spot La Gordita.

Spanish steps

This could become Dublin's Spanish quarter." said my fashionista friend to owners Anna Cabrera and Vanessa Murphy as we arrived at their new Spanish bodega. La Gordita (the little fat one). Ten years ago. the duo, who are partners in business and in life, opened Las Tapas de Lola on Wexford Street. which went on to be one of Dublin's busiest and buzziest spots.

With all the dramas and traumas of the lockdowns, staff shortages and price increases, anyone would think twice before plunging in with a new restaurant. But. with the closure of the legendary Gerry's café on
Montague Street. a narrow alleyway with colourful arty graffiti, just around the corner from Las Tapas, the temptation to take the next steps was too much for them to resist.

With a couple of tables just inside the door, and high tops at the end of the room in front of an open kitchen, the long stretch in between is an imposing marble-topped bar with comfortable leather bar stools. On their menu they request that in order to survive. diners have a minimum of two courses (excluding pica-pica nibbles), to include one from the segundos (mains), so this is not somewhere you can linger for hours over a couple of tapas and a whack of Cava. With  limited space, they state their case upfront and that's fair enough. The chef, María-Luisa Moraleda, was at one stage head chef in the two-Michelin star Amelia in San Sebastian. Here, her pica-pica selection offers a wide range for all pockets. Splurge on Riofrio organic caviar (€65) from Granada, propped up with potato crisps and crème fraiche, or be somewhat more modest with boquerones (€10),
those delicious white anchovies soused in vinegar, garlic and parsley.

Entrantes (small plates) run the price gamut from bombitas de morcilla (Spanish black pudding and goats cheese) with tomato marmalade (€9.75) to Carabinero (one whopping great pan-fired prawn, split down the middle) with olive oil, garlic and parsley (€30).

These were but a few of the temptations facing us as the fashionista clutched a glass of Cornelio Dinastia Crianza and me a glass of Gran Barquero 25-year-old Oloroso.

It was difficult to decide but winning the toss were two things we seldom see here nowadays - mollejas. which are seared. silky nuggets of lamb sweetbreads, pan-fried with garlic and lemon (€12) and the contrasting flavours and texture of verduras fritas con huevo y gulas (€15) - crisps of fried beetroot, candied beet, sweet potato, and potato, topped with a soft fried egg and a scattering of thread-like baby eels glistening on top.

Mains were equally desirable and included galtas (€29), which are pork cheeks on the bone; costilittas de cordero or lamb ribs (€29); plus two sharing dishes, chuletón - McLoughlin's rib-eye on the bone (€78); or lubina a la sal (€60) - seabass baked in salt. Both served with potatoes and piquillo peppers.

We had our eyes firmly fixed on two fishy dishes, both of which proved to be stunning. Pata de pulpo (€33), a perfectly grilled, tender, octopus tentacle with romesco sauce and potatoes, and a skillet of bogavante de Formentera (€37) - a finger-licking half lobster fried, chunked in the shell, served with crispy potatoes, Padrón peppers and fried eggs.

Temptation arose yet again with desserts (€7-€12), Eschewing torrijas - almond milk-soaked bread with almond cream - the fashionista had tarta de manzana (€12), a Spanish apple tart with rum and raisin ice cream, while I had a crema de queso de cabra (€8.50) - no wisecracks please, cabra is the Spanish for goat - a goat's cheese crema with caramelised walnuts and quince puree, that was absolutely sublime.

So, with two glasses of Cornelio Dinastia Crianza, Tempranillo (€12.50 each), the Oloroko (€9). and a lot of water (€15.80). our bill with service came to €185.

Olé olé is all I can say! When can I have that corner table for two again please, ladies?
Lucinda O'Sullivan