It doesn’t take a genius to notice tapas has become more and more popular over the past couple of years. Not only are gourmet ranges readily available in supermarkets, there are restaurants popping up all over London, from Polpo and its ever-expanding family (Polpetto, Spuntino, Da Polpo and the newly opened Mishkins), to El Pirata in Westbourne Grove and Dehesa, sister to the acclaimed Salt Yard.
A couple of weeks ago I had my second visit to Dehesa, a charcuterie and tapas bar in Soho inspired by the cuisine of Spain and Italy. One of my favourite things about the restaurant is the layout, as the mixture of people sitting at tables and at the bar gives it a relaxed atmosphere that still feels special due to the smart decor.
Tapas is small and made to be shared, so N and I decided to choose two courses each from the fish, meat and vegetable selection. Starting with the fish, we went for Salt Cod Croquetas with Romesco Sauce…
and Grilled Hake with Chorizo Mash, Clams and Cider Sauce.
Although the Hake looked more interesting, my favourite of the two dishes was the Salt Cod Croquetas as the sweet sauce made a delightful contrast to the saltiness of the fish, surrounded in a lightly crisp crumb. As for the meat, we chose Confit Old Spot Pork Belly with Rosemary Scented Cannellini Beans…
and Braised Haunch of Venison with Jamon Iberico Trinxat and Brussel Tops.
Just in case you haven’t come across Trinxat before, it’s a food from Catalunya made with potatoes, cabbage and pork meat. This may sounds very fancy and flavoursome, but I have to say I was slightly disappointed by the Venison dish, as it seemed to lack the punch I expected, perhaps due to under seasoning. Luckily, my disappointment was quickly brushed aside when I tried the pork belly. Not only was I pleased to see that it was made with rare breed pork, which produces far better crackling than the commercial pork sold in supermarkets, but it sat on a heavenly bed of lightly scented cannellini beans that brought the whole dish together so it rivalled a full blown roast.
Our final dishes from the vegetable section of the menu consisted of Courgette Flowers with Monte Enebro and Honey…
and a Cauliflower Risotto with Free Range Egg and Black Truffle Dressing.
Much like the meat dishes, I couldn’t get enough of the intense cauliflower flavour of the risotto, but had more of a ‘take it or leave it’ attitude when it came to the courgette flowers. Ever since I first saw Jamie Oliver stuff courgette flowers in one of his early TV programmes, I have always been a fan and ordered them when they pop up on menus. Sadly, in Dehesa’s case they weren’t to be desired as the overly large amount of Monte Enebro goat’s cheese not only overpowered the taste of the flower and light batter, but even managed to strangle the honey, which should have been the balancing act.
I don’t want to finish on a bad note as I clearly like Dehesa, having been back twice in relatively quick succession. It’s a romantic restaurant that produces good, satisfying food that isn’t horribly overpriced – our meal came in at around £70, including wine. Sadly time prevented us from having pudding, so I’ll have to make sure I have longer next time as I’m dying to try the Chocolate Cheesecake with Pistachio Ice Cream.
Dehesa, 25 Ganton Street, London W1F 9BP